May 23, 2018
“The president is reciting the prime minister’s speech,” was the oft-heard reaction in Jerusalem following President Donald Trump’s May 8 announcement that he was pulling the United States out of the nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers. It is hard to describe the euphoria in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s circles and among members of the right-wing coalition government after Trump, in his own voice, presented the main points of the policy that Netanyahu had advocated for years in endless speeches and appearances in the international arena. The US withdrawal was perceived as a tremendous Israeli victory, the very realization of a longed-for dream made possible by a supportive American president who perceives the Middle East the same way as Netanyahu does and is deeply influenced by Netanyahu.
A similar reaction was heard this week, too, after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered his landmark May 21 speech laying out US demands of Iran on nuclear and other policy issues. They included demands that the Israeli leadership has long been articulating, among them the unambiguous call for Iran to pull its forces out of Syria. Iran’s military involvement in Syria is at the crux of the recent escalation on this front, which went as far as the first direct military clash between Israel and Iran on the ground in Syria and in its airspace.
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