Commentary: Cruz understands dangers, realities of Mideast –

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Elliott Abrams

served on the staffs of Sens. Henry Jackson and Daniel Patrick Moynihan and in the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations


Since my days working for Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson (D., Wash.),events in the Middle East and especially concerning the security of Israel have been at the center of my attention. And if Israel’s security and its relationship with the United States are a key concern, Ted Cruz should get your vote. More broadly, if your concern is America’s position in the Middle East, your vote should go to Cruz.

I first met Cruz a few years ago, when he became a senator from Texas and wanted to talk with me about Israel and the Mideast. This was when Americans were fiercely debating the Iran nuclear deal and its impact on Israel, the chaos in Syria, and the growing hostility between President Obama’s administration and the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Two things were immediately clear in my meetings with Cruz. First, the reputation he has for sheer intelligence was obviously well-deserved. His grasp of the dangers facing American interests in the Middle East and facing Israel was broad and deep. He had the facts and he got the nuances. That’s not to say we agreed all the time. We sometimes disagreed and debated, and I came to appreciate that he wanted to be challenged by someone else who knew the region and also had strong views. He wanted to think it all through.

Second, his commitment to Israel’s security was readily apparent and deeply felt. That was one reason he so strongly opposed the nuclear agreement with Iran: because it would legitimize its nuclear program and lead it in only 10 years to a possible nuclear weapon. While Donald Trump is talking about extracting more from Israel for its defense, Cruz wants to beef up the missile defense programs like Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and Arrow that are crucial for Israel – and immensely valuable for the United States, with our bases all over the globe.

Cruz also understood fully the history of the “peace process” between Israel and the Palestinians, with generous Israeli offers (in 2000 and 2008) being rejected by the Palestinian leadership. He understands fully how deeply Israelis seek peace – but how dangerous a bad deal would be to their security, with Hamas in Gaza, ISIS in Syria, and violence throughout the region. Unlike Trump, the concept of American “neutrality” regarding Israel never crossed his mind.

Cruz also understands that the United States is at the center of a global alliance system that is critical for world peace. In the Mideast, Jordan and Egypt are at peace with Israel. Moreover, Israel’s relations with Arab states have improved greatly – because these countries all share the sense that the United States under the Obama administration is abandoning them to cozy up to Iran. There are enormous opportunities for the next president to build on this new, and mostly hidden, rapprochement between Arab states and Israel. Similarly, our allies in Europe understand that chaos in the Middle East directly affects their security – as they can see with vast refugee flows and acts of terror in their cities.

So there is a new hope for American leadership among our friends and allies, after an administration that has run after opponents like Iran and Russia while treating our closest friends badly. In Israel, there is hope that the venom directed from the White House at Netanyahu and the treatment of Israel as a burden will come to an end.

To turn opportunity into improved security we need a president who is smart enough and well-informed enough to understand the intricacies of Mideast politics, and who understands – as Trump and Obama do not – that alliances must constantly be rebuilt and maintained if they are to remain strong.

Working in the National Security Council in the George W. Bush White House, I dealt constantly with Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert and their top staffs. They understood that Bush was committed to Israel’s security, and that fact changed their world. It meant they could be sure we would always block assaults on Israel in the United Nations – and would do so willingly, happily, not as some kind of terrible burden to American diplomacy. They could be sure that if the president gave his word, he would keep it; there were no red lines drawn and then withdrawn. We could discuss every option for peace and for the use of military power openly and in full confidence, because they understood that the United States viewed Israel as a valuable ally whose security mattered to us.

That’s the view of Israel that Ted Cruz has: a valuable ally in a chaotic and dangerous region. And that’s one reason I have endorsed him and serve in his National Security Coalition.

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Commentary: Cruz understands dangers, realities of Mideast –}