Following the death of the Iranian General Soleimani, on Jan. 3, political conversation within the United States immediately sparked. Many decided to either defend the President’s military action or speak out against it, deeming it unnecessary. People on both sides, however, can agree on one thing: one of the main reasons for the continued U.S.’ presence in the Middle East is to protect and defend Israel.
As a Democrat and proud Zionist, it is unnerving to recognize the importance of Israel in the ongoing tension with Iran. All politically aware Americans understand that Israel is a longtime ally of the U.S. The issue, however, arises when people begin to question the value of our relationship with Israel and whether we should maintain that strong bond. Therefore, the killing of General Soleimani reinvigorates the questioning of Israel’s legitimacy.
Soon after his death, on Jan. 8, Iran retaliated with their largely ineffective missile attack on a U.S. military base. After their attack, the government stated that if the U.S. were to respond with any military action, they would fire missiles at Haifa and Dubai. The pressure and scrutiny on the American-Israel relationship was magnified in this moment. President Trump has been very pro-Israel during his time in office, though his aggressive use of the military and desire to protect America’s image made me fearful that he may take action at the risk of ruining his relationship with Israel. Furthermore, I was worried that Trump supporters would value maintaining America’s image as a militarily dominant country over America’s ties with Israel. To my surprise, the President stood down and did not take any more military action.
Since then, the conflict has deescalated considerably and many reflections on the actions of Trump’s presidency have been brought to light. For example, the Iran Deal imposed under the Obama era was intended to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Since then, President Trump has dismantled the agreement and Iran is free to enrich uranium. Recent word is that they are getting close to developing nuclear capabilities, marking great danger for Israel and other foes in the region. A nuclear armed Iran would be a nightmare for the U.S. as it could signal the beginning of a cold war or nuclear war.
Though it may seem as if the situation appears bleak right now, there is a lot happening to combat this tension. Israel recently started to pump its own natural gas offshore, meaning that its longtime dependence on its hostile neighbors for fuel is coming to an end. An energy independent Israel would have a much stronger presence in the Middle East and would give the nation a lot more leverage in terms of its relations with nearby countries. Additionally, Israel has begun to export some of its natural gas to Egypt, which could do all of the aforementioned things at a greater magnitude. Even though the recent events in Iran were alarming, we know now that the U.S. Israel relationship is a top priority under the current administration.