With a Donald Trump victory being declared early Wednesday morning, the American ambassador to Israel called on the incoming administration to adhere to the Iranian nuclear agreement.
The nuclear pact, brokered under American leadership between six world powers and Iran last year, has been “very successful in doing exactly what it was designed to do, and that is to block systematically each pathway Iran had to achieve a nuclear weapon,” Dan Shapiro said. “Obviously we recommend the next administration continue [honoring the agreement], because it does fulfill that function.”
Israel was and remains the world’s leading critic of the deal, calling it a “historic mistake” and arguing that it falls woefully short of preventing Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
Shapiro did not deny that Jerusalem was opposed to the pact, but added, “There is no disagreement between the US and Israeli experts about Iran’s adherence to the terms of the agreement.”
Addressing an election-themed conference at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, Shapiro refused to comment on the election’s outcome and what it might mean for America and for US-Israel relations beyond very general observations.
“The new administration will inherit a great deal of continuity and achievements in the US-Israel partnership,” he said, referring to the military aid Washington provides Jerusalem and bilateral cooperation in various fields. “These are real achievements by the Obama administration in partnership with the Netanyahu government, which can be built upon by the next administration.” Indeed, the diplomat said, he was “confident that the strong partnership will grow even stronger in the many years ahead.”
President Barack Obama remains in office until Inauguration Day on January 20, Shapiro noted. “I think it is important that I take this opportunity to reassure Israelis that during the transition period it’s business as usual in our alliance.” During that time, bilateral visits and cooperation will continue as planned, he said. “We will very much want a new administration to hit the ground running on all the aspects of the bilateral relationship.”
While carefully avoiding any comment that could be interpreted as partisan, Shapiro implied that president-elect Donald Trump will have to adapt some of his campaign rhetoric to political realities.
“Any new administration quickly has to learn that campaigning is very different than governing,” he said. “How one talks during a campaign often is about representing the hopes and dreams of those who you are seeking to attract support from.”
Before an election, candidates are tempted to present issues in black and white, Shapiro added. “A president-elect will have to think in a very different way on how to deliver on those promises, and who they will need to work with to get things done; what are the compromises needed for governing, who the relevant players are.”
Shapiro went on to quote a well-known Israeli political truism, saying, in Hebrew, that “what you see from here is not what you see from there” to imply that politicians often act very differently once elected. “This is true probably for any political leader coming out of a political campaign.”
Asked whether Israelis can expect Trump to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — a promise the president-elect made during the campaign — Shapiro replied: “Every US administration that has looked at the question has determined that the embassy is where it should be. I can’t speculate beyond that.”
Shapiro also did not say whether Trump’s victory increased the likelihood of the outgoing administration backing a Palestine-related resolution at the United Nations Security Council.
“The president will, as he has been for many months, look for any way he and we as an administration might be able to advance our goal of making progress toward a two-state solution,” he said. Currently, “some disturbing trends on the ground” are pulling both Israelis and Palestinians in the opposite direction. “And so, any initiative that [Obama] might consider in these final months in office would be based on that motivation.”