22:42 GMT21 February 2020
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    The US is readying itself for the impeachment hearings, which are set to start later today in the Senate, with his legal team demanding that President Donald Trump, who denies any wrong-doing, be immediately acquitted by the Republican-dominated upper house of the US legislature.

    President Trump has been accused of abusing his presidential power by asking Ukraine to investigate Democratic political rival Joe Biden.

    Although the impeachment is likely to be blocked by the Republicans who dominate the Senate, reports suggest that the hearings might still hurt Trump's re-election chances.

    Israel is watching the developments closely. For Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump has been more than an ally; he helped to bolster the head of state's image as a seasoned politician who was able to get concessions from the US government. For him, Trump has been a "true friend of Israel" and as such, his departure could spell trouble for the Jewish state.

    Nothing's personal, it's only business

    Zalman Shoval, Israel's former ambassador to the US, says the "personal relations between Trump and Netanyahu can influence up to a certain limit" but Tel Aviv has nothing to worry about, as at the end of the day Israel and the US have shared goals.

    Israel, with its extensive US diaspora, has been an American ally for years but relations kicked off with a rocky start. Although Washington voted in favour of the UN resolution that divided Palestine between Jews and Arabs in 1947, thus paving the way for the creation of a Jewish state, it didn't support Israel in its first wars.

    In 1956, for example, when Israel along with Britain and France invaded Egypt in order to seize the Suez Canal from then-President Gamal Abdel Nasser, Washington - it was heavily reliant on the Middle Eastern oil and feared the disruption of the crude supply, and therefore sided against Israel, pushing for the invaders to leave.

    The turning point only occurred in 1967, during the Six Day War, when the US realised Israel could be a useful tool in containing Soviet influence in the Middle East.

    To gain Israel under its wing, Tel Aviv was promised diplomatic and military support, an offer that it found hard to resist.

    Since then and up until 2019, Israel has received $142.3 billion in bilateral assistance and missile defence funding, making it the largest cumulative recipient of US foreign assistance.

    It is because of these interests, believes Shoval, that relations between the two states will continue to blossom, irrespective of who takes office.

    Haunting memories

    Yet, Netanyahu, who has seen several US presidents during his tenure of more than a decade, still remembers the difficulty in handling the US administration under former president Barack Obama.

    Known for his hawkish policies vis-a-vis the Palestinians, the Israeli prime minister could not relate to the left-wing approach of Obama, who pushed Israel to sit down for talks with the Palestinians, a move that has failed due to disagreements over the issue of Jerusalem and the release of Palestinian prisoners.

    For Netanyahu, the arrival of Trump has been a refreshing change. This is not only because he recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the legitimacy of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, despite them being considered occupied Palestinian land under international law, but also because of his handling of the Iranian issue. Trump cited intelligence provided by Israel as justification for leaving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in 2018, a move that pleased Israel while meeting with reproach from the other signatory nations. Trump also demonstrated support for Israeli foreign policy with his more recent decision to kill one of Iran's top commanders - Qassem Suleimani.

    That's why, if Trump is defeated in the upcoming elections and the Republicans are replaced with Democrats, Israel's interests could be damaged.

    However, Shoval dismisses these allegations. "The majority of the Democrats are pro-Israel in spite of the presence of the so-called 'progressive squad' (congresswomen known for harbouring anti-Israel sentiment). A lot will depend on the primaries within the Democratic party. It is then that we will know who the dominant factor will be. But I still think that the moderate wing will win". 

    The special US-Israel bond

    Although the Democrats, if they do end up coming to power, might want to change some of the policies implemented by Trump, Shoval believes Israel has no other option but to cooperate with the US.

    "Israel doesn't have any alternative to America. Not only because of the tight security, military and economic cooperation but also because the US is home to the world's second-largest Jewish community, and Israel, which deems itself a state for all Jewish people, cares deeply about their fate."

    That, however, doesn't mean that Israel cannot work with other superpowers.

    "This is one of Netanyahu's prime achievements. Being an ally of the US doesn't preclude us from working with Russia or China, for example. But both of these countries understand that Israel's ties with Washington are special and they came to honour and respect that bond."

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    president, Donald Trump, United States, Israel
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