14:58 GMT25 November 2020
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    US-Israel ties go well beyond the billions of dollars in annual injections, thinks a former Israeli diplomat. And this is why a change in who occupies the White House is unlikely to alter America’s commitment to the security of the Jewish state.

    The race for the White House is slated to culminate on Tuesday and many in Israel are their biting nails in anticipation of the outcome.

    In Israel, where President Donald Trump is considered a hero and a "true friend", the majority would like to see him re-elected and his supporters organise rallies and mass prayers for his success.

    Similar voices of support are also being heard from the Gulf, with reports suggesting that top Emirati and Bahraini officials prefer to see Trump stay in office.

    FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participate in their first 2020 presidential campaign debate in Cleveland
    © REUTERS / Brian Snyder
    FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participate in their first 2020 presidential campaign debate in Cleveland

    Yoram Ettinger, a former Israeli diplomat and an expert on Israel-US ties, says he definitely understands the reason behind the support from the Jewish state and the Gulf for Trump.

    "They trust Trump because he has applied military and financial pressure on the Islamic Republic, simultaneously boosting cooperation with moderate Arab states. Democrats, on the other hand, have courted the Ayatollahs and disappointed many in the Gulf".

    Now, as polls predict a victory for Trump's challenger, Joe Biden, Ettinger says history might repeat itself and the new boss in Washington might return to the policies implemented by the Obama administration.

    Past Mistakes

    And the problem is, says the expert, those policies were a mistake that should not be repeated.

    "First of all, with the eruption of the upheavals in the Middle East in 2011, the Democrats referred to that turbulence as an Arab Spring and a march of democracy without realising that that was a devastating tsunami. And, secondly, they refrained from admitting that Islamic terror was a threat and tackle it as such".

    Quite the opposite was true. In 2009, for example, loyal to its policy of political correctness, the Obama administration reportedly ordered to erase intelligence on individuals linked to a number of terror groups. And in 2015, when an Islamist extremist opened fire on two military installations in Chattanooga killing five people, Obama called it "workplace violence".

    "Biden is likely to continue that policy, simply because of the nature of his political advisers and he is also likely to shrink the US defence budget", predicts Ettinger.

    With Trump in office, the US defence budget has gone up. In 2020 it reached $738 billion, an increase of $21 billion from the previous year. Ettinger says that decision "enhanced the US posture of deterrence in the region and the entire world", whereas a move in the opposite direction would "whet the appetites of rogue regimes".

    Enemies Won't Rest

    Although the concept of a boosted budget as a tool of deterrence is still debatable, for a country that faces multiple security threats the importance of a big military budget can hardly be underestimated.

    In recent years, the US has managed to infuriate a number of regional players. First, in 2018, together with France and the UK, it launched a series of airstrikes in Syria, angering the authorities in Damascus.

    U.S. forces conducted a precision airstrike near Sarmada in northwest Syria
    © Photo : 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson
    U.S. forces conducted a precision airstrike near Sarmada in northwest Syria

    Then, it escalated tensions with the Palestinians by making a number of unilateral actions that harmed their standing and by scrapping the centrality of that conflict from the international agenda.

    Washington also sent relations with Tehran into a tailspin, not only by imposing sanctions on the Islamic Republic and its proxy Hezbollah but also by assassinating one of Iran's top commanders, Qasem Soleimani, prompting promises that his spilt blood would be avenged.

    Biden Won't Be a Disaster 

    If Biden wins, he will need to address these and other security issues and this is also the reason why the former VP, who's expected to take an Obama-like approach, is still unlikely to damage Washington's relationship with one of its main regional allies, Israel.

    "It will not be a disaster if Biden is elected. All American presidents, maybe except Trump, put pressure on Israel, and Biden will do that too but the Jewish state will survive it", explains Ettinger.

    The reason for this is the strong partnership between the two nations and billions of dollars involved in that cooperation.

    According to official data, Israel occupies the top spot in terms of US financial assistance, getting $3.3 billion per annum. But it doesn't stop there, as the two countries work on a number of joint military projects, share weapons, and intelligence - cooperation that amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars per year.

    "Israel serves as a US military lab, we cooperate with them militarily and house more than 200 American giants. They don't just give money to Israel, they invest it here and I doubt Biden will sacrifice all of this because if he does, he will harm his country's national interests". 

    Biden for his part calls himself a "friend of Israel", who is committed to the Jewish state's security but the question is whether he will go the extra mile to secure Israeli interests.

    (L-R)Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump, and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan hold up documents after participating in the signing of the Abraham Accords where the countries of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates recognize Israel, at the White House in Washington, DC, September 15, 2020.
    © AFP 2020 / SAUL LOEB
    (L-R)Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump, and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan hold up documents after participating in the signing of the Abraham Accords where the countries of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates recognize Israel, at the White House in Washington, DC, September 15, 2020.

    Right now, one of Tel Aviv's top priorities is normalising ties with Muslim and Arab states it previously had no relations with.

    Trump's policy in this regard has succeeded in producing three normalisation agreements, with a number of other states reportedly thinking about following suit.

    How successful will Biden be, with his mild approach to Iran and his belief in the centrality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? 

    Reports suggest that Saudi Arabia, who is considering a normalisation agreement with Israel, will announce its intentions shortly after the US inaugurates its president, regardless of whether it will be Trump or Biden.

    Ettinger doesn't reject that possibility but believes Biden has a lower chance of concluding deals.

    "Before these states take such a decision, they want to make sure they can rely on the US to defend themselves from their regional rivals, especially the Ayatollahs of Iran. Given the fact that the Democrats have always courted the Ayatollahs, they are less trusted in those circles, and that in its turn might harm the chances of the normalisation process".

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

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