JERUSALEM, Israel – In the 50 years since the Six-Day War, the world has seen the Iron Curtain fall and global terrorism rise. It has also witnessed the emergence of rogue nuclear states such as Iran and North Korea. Through it all, one alliance stands the test of time: the United States and Israel. And although the bond has been tested, it has grown stronger.
After the tension of the Obama years, Donald Trump's election opened a new chapter in U.S. relations with Israel.
As the 45th president prepares for his first official Middle East visit, indications are that he will choose to build on a foundation that took off after the Six-Day War.
From the campaign through the inauguration, Trump sounded a clarion call to restore U.S. support for Israel. Although he's made many supporters in the U.S. and Israel nervous with his recent backing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the foundation of the U.S.-Israel alliance began in the Six-Day War.
After Israel took back its biblical heartland in 1967, including Jerusalem, the whole world took notice. Israel's friends, millions of Americans among them, rejoiced. But Israel's enemies began to call the United States the "great Satan" and Israel the "little Satan."
Dore Gold, former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations and a long-time senior advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told CBN News the dramatic turnaround in Israel's situation from the war's beginning to its end changed opinions, especially in Washington, D.C.
From Impending Disaster to 'Incredible Victory'
"When Israel won the Six-Day War, it was huge," Gold said. "Because you went from anticipating disaster – and it wasn't that long after the Holocaust and perhaps another massacre of the Jewish people – to an incredible victory."
For America and the administration of President Lyndon Johnson, Israel demonstrated that support for the Jewish state was warranted in the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the West, even when nearly all the western nations had turned their backs on Israel at the outset of the war.
"I remind you in global terms, the U.S. was bogged down in Vietnam, trying to contain the spread of Soviet power in the Far East; and here, all of a sudden, Israel stands firm, and not only defeats its Arab neighbors, but defeats clients of the Soviet Union who were using Soviet weaponry," Gold explained. "So it's a victory for Israel, it was survival of the Jewish people and it was an enormous victory for the West," Gold explained.
Best-selling author and Middle East expert Joel Rosenberg agrees that Israel's defeat of Russian proxies woke up the Johnson White House.
20th Century's Most Important Alliance
"This little scrappy Israel was seen as an outpost, a frontal forward position of western democracy that had the capacity to defeat Soviet MIGs, Soviet tanks, Soviet tactics, Soviet-trained people, soldiers," Rosenberg said. "So suddenly, the United States thought, maybe Israel is more important than we thought, geopolitically. It was quite galvanizing to what became the most important alliance of the 20th century: the alliance between the United States and Israel."
Shortly after the Six-Day War, Russian Premier Alexei Kosygin demanded that Israel return all the territory it had won from the Arab states. President Johnson called the Kremlin on the hotline and rejected the Soviets' demand. He made clear that Israel would have secure and recognized boundaries, a policy expanded by Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush.
"And that became the basis of American diplomacy for decades," Gold said. "And only recently have some talked about a full Israeli withdrawal. That would be contrary to Israel's national policy today, and it was certainly contrary to Israel's national security back then."
In the half-century since the war, Israel has become a military power as threats around it have also grown. Iran pursues nuclear ambitions while calling for Israel's destruction. Its terror arm in Lebanon, Hezbollah, has more than 100,000 missiles poised on Israel's north. And the old bear, Russia, is back in the region, looking for a foothold.
Threats on America's Doorstep
Gold cites Iran's ties to nuclear North Korea and the Mexican drug cartels as evidence the threat extends to the doorstep of the United States. "The entire Iranian ballistic missile program, to a large extent, is connected with North Korea's ballistic missile program. Both of us have an interest in making sure that the proliferation of ballistic missilies to rogue states be stopped," Gold warned.
As Europe becomes more Muslim, the whole idea of Western civilization is shifting. Rosenberg believes the changes could mean more fulfillment of Bible prophecy in the Middle East.
"One of the worst-case scenarios for Israel is if Russia or Iran end up controlling what's left of Syria as it continues to implode," Rosenberg said.
"If it's Iran, you'll have an apocalyptic, genocidal Shia theocracy just over the border. If the Russians ask the Iranians to leave, you still have Russia – a nuclear-armed power – right on Israel's border," he said. "And according to Bible prophecy, particularly Ezekiel 38 and 39, we know Russia and Iran will form an alliance together against Israel and will come against Israel from the north in the end times. I'm not saying we're there yet, but the trend lines continue to be consistent with the preparation for those God and Magog prophecies."