One of the constant themes of the “Resistance” — most recently restated in the New York Times’ anonymous op-ed Wednesday — is that President Donald Trump is “amoral” because he is interested in cultivating good relations with dictators.
In the words of the anonymous op-ed author: “In public and in private, President Trump shows a preference for autocrats and dictators, such as President Vladimir Putin of Russia and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and displays little genuine appreciation for the ties that bind us to allied, like-minded nations.”
There are two aspects of this criticism that are worth pointing out.
First, the criticisms are utterly hypocritical.
The same “Resistance” howling about Trump’s desire to forge a détente with Russia based on a shared interest in fighting Islamic terrorists and preventing Iran from becoming the nuclear hegemon of the Middle East once bent over backwards to empower Iran. They gave the ayatollahs a clear path to a nuclear weapon, as well as $150 billion to finance their wars in Syria and Yemen, and their global terror attacks.
The same Never Trump Republicans attacking Trump for his efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula without war happily supported then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Riceas she cut a deal that only empowered Pyonyang.
The Obama administration alumni who now insist that Putin is America’s number-one enemy did everything they could to appease him – in exchange for nothing — for years.
As for Israel, the Israeli Left, and its American and European supporters, they have been attacking Netanyahu relentlessly for fostering close ties with the leaders of Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Rwanda, Kenya, and the Philippines. At the same time, they insist that Israel must cough up its capital city and its heartland to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and its terrorist regime.
Just last week, a delegation of leftist lawmakers and political activists made a pilgrimage to Ramallah, where they met with PLO chief and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. They cooed and purred about his great visionary leadership, and insisted forcefully that Israel and the Trump administration must recognize his greatness.
This would be the same Abbas who spends hundreds of millions of donor-transferred dollars every year to pay the salaries of terrorists. This is the same Abbas that continues to reject Israel’s right to exist, who wrote a dissertation arguing that the Holocaust is a Zionist fabrication; who has spent the past fifty years waging a political war to delegitimize Israel’s very existence.
Beyond the rank hypocrisy of these critics and their criticism, their “morality” card ignores the key fact that Trump’s policies, like Netanyahu’s policies, are succeeding in making the U.S. and Israel stronger, and making the world safer. In contrast, the “moral” policies of their opponents made the world more threatening and dangerous to the U.S. and to Israel.
Consider the Philippines. For the past week or so, Netanyahu’s domestic opponents, and their ready echo chamber in the U.S. media, have been attacking him for welcoming Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to Israel. Duterte arrived in Israel – the first Philippine leader to ever do so – on Sunday and spent four days in the country.
But at the same time, Duterte has an overriding, permanent shared interest with Israel and the U.S. This shared interest is what caused Duterte to travel 6,000 miles from home, with a huge delegation of military personnel and businessmen in tow, to sit down with Netanyahu this week.
Like Israel and the U.S., Philippines has a permanent interest in defeating global jihadists.
Despite the distance between the Philippines and the Middle East, the tentacles of global jihad have spread to the archipelago nation. First, beginning in the 1990s, Al Qaedatrained Islamic terrorists from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), based on the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines, in its camps in Afghanistan. It funded their insurgency against the Filipino armed forces, (AFP).
Over the years, the leaders of the MILF took steps to cut their ties with Al Qaeda and other global jihadist groups, and instead pushed for autonomy in Mindanao. The peace treaty between the government and the MILF was signed in 2014, and in late July, Duterte signed a basic law, passed by the Philippines Congress, which granted autonomy to the area.
While the MILF seems willing to accept a compromise with the government, many other Islamic terror groups in the Philippines are adamant in their goal of rejecting the legitimacy of a non-Islamic state. A number of these Islamic jihadists traveled to Syria and joined Islamic State in recent years. Together with local groups, returning Filipino ISIS terrorist have established an active presence in Mindanao since 2014.
In May 2017, they took over the city of Marawi in Mindanao and declared a caliphate. It took the AFP until October 2017 to defeat ISIS and restore government control of the city. The U.S. and Australia actively assisted in those efforts.
Despite its territorial defeat in Marawi, ISIS continues to pose the the Philippines’ most acute security threat. Last month, the group carried out two attacks in the southern Philippines in which 12 people were killed and scores were wounded.
In his public remarks in Israel, Duterte repeatedly thanked Israel for its assistance in fighting and defeating ISIS in Marawi. His remarks – like his visit – revealed an Israeli policy of which few were aware.
Netanyahu realized that just because Duterte is controversial does not mean that Israel should turn its back on the Philippines as its territory is taken by ISIS. As he does whenever such a shared interest in fighting Islamic jihadists becomes apparent in a foreign land, Netanyahu reached out to Duterte and offered Israel’s assistance.
Netanyahu’s foreign policy is based on the recognition that the strongest foundation of a cooperative alliance is not shared ideology but shared interests.
Duterte’s remarks in Israel demonstrated that Netanyahu was exactly right.
Speaking to the Filipino migrant community in Israel on Sunday evening, Duterte revealedthat Israel provided “most of the intelligence gadgets that we used to win the Marawi siege.”
Addressing Netanyahu in their meeting on Monday, Duterte said, “Mr. Prime Minister, I can only thank you so much especially the critical help that you have extended my country in time when we needed it most.
“It was a help to preserve the Republic of the Philippines and I thank you for that.”
Duterte, whose visit to Israel was marked by the signing of a host of agreements for governmental cooperation, as well as arms and oil exploration deals, made clear that Israel’s assistance to the Philippines was the basis for a new and strong alliance between the two countries far broader than one battle.
In Duterte’s words: “We share the same passion for peace. We share the same passion for human beings but we also share the same passion of not allowing our country to be destroyed by those who have the corrupt ideology who [do] nothing but to kill and destroy. In this sense, Israel can expect any help that the Philippines can extend to your country.”
Duterte’s statement is many ways is a public expression of the sentiments now held far more broadly by dozens of nations – including the likes of Saudi Arabia – who depend on Israel for assistance in the fight against both Iran and Sunni jihadist groups like ISIS, Al Qaeda, and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Certainly, no one ever heard a similar sentiment spring from the mouth of Abbas or his predecessor Yasser Arafat, or even from Israel’s supposedly like-minded allies in the European Union, which expands its political war against Israel seemingly on a daily basis while emptily professing friendship with the Jewish state.
Last week, Netanyahu set out his basic understanding of international affairs in a speech at Israel’s Shimon Peres Negev Nuclear Research Center in Dimona. In it, he made clear that Israel’s national survival is entirely dependent on its power, its ability to accumulate power over time, and its ability to judiciously use its power.
Netanyahu said, “The weak crumble, are slaughtered and are erased from history while the strong, for good or ill, survive. The strong are respected, and alliances are made with the strong, and in the end, peace is made with the strong.”
The same cast of characters who condemned him for welcoming Duterte to Israel also attacked his speech. Jacob Siegel, for instance, writing in Tablet magazine, derided the remark as un-Jewish, and referred to the speech as “Bibi’s Bismark speech.”
But as Duterte’s visit shows — and indeed, as Saudi Crowned Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s cooperative policies towards Israel also show — Israel’s power is what attracts new allies. And through its intrinsic morality, Israel also encourages these nations to diminish their prejudice and hatred – because they think doing so will serve their own nations better.
Moreover, just as Israel helps others to fight common foes, it opposes governments that support those foes. So it was that on Wednesday, when Paraguay’s new government announced that it was revoking its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and returning its embassy to Tel Aviv, Netanyahu’s response was swift and brutal. He did not merely recall Israel’s ambassador to Paraguay for consultations. He announced that Israel would be closing it embassy in Asuncion. Certainly, Israel has no reason to allow Paraguay to open an embassy in Tel Aviv.
The same tactics – reaching out to other leaders on the basis of common interests, using common interests as the basis for relations, and striking out at those who harm his country – are the guiding principle of Trump’s “America First” policies.
Like Israel, the U.S. cannot help its allies if it doesn’t help itself. The U.S. cannot advance its interests if they are subjected to automatic vetoes by allies acting selfishly. It cannot advance its interests if it maintains faith with “moral” policies, like the Iran nuclear deal and similarly failed nuclear agreements with North Korea, at the expense of actual counter-proliferation strategies that may involve smiling and waving while standing next to Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin.
The hypocrisy and substantive failure of the “moral” policies of Trump’s and Netanyahu’s critics show that the assaults against these leaders are not about the proper ends of foreign policy, or even about morality.
They are a power play. And given the disastrous failures of the “Resistance’s” foreign policies, it is clear that the outcome of this power struggle is something to which no one can be indifferent.