Trump’s Syrian message: Israel is on its own


If there’s one good thing about President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw American forces from Syria, it’s this: The move makes it clear to all those promoting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that Israel and its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, do not, in fact, run the White House.

Yes, this is the most pro-Israel U.S. administration in history. Yes, Trump has taken unprecedented steps for Israel’s benefit. Trump loves Israel, but he will always put America first. Like any businessman, he is interested in making a profit, and in declaring victory before it is too late.

There is a real concern that Syria will be left to the ayatollahs in Iran, the dictator in Moscow and the killer in Damascus. In its decision, the Trump administration has sent Israel the message that it will need to deal with the worst players in the region on its own.

While this message is a disturbing one, it is how Israel has conducted itself until now. The number of U.S. forces stationed in Syria was fairly small to begin with, and Israel has been operating inside its northern neighbor’s territory as it saw fit, without American assistance.

But the timing of the U.S move is not ideal, from Israel’s standpoint.

Netanyahu and the diplomatic system have been focused on efforts to enlist international condemnation of Hezbollah and its cross-border terror tunnels. And precisely when these efforts are at their height, the president takes a step that could play into the hands of Hezbollah’s patrons: the Iranian-Syrian axis. And in a disappointing move, Washington announced this step without demanding anything in return.

One way or another, this move by the Americans teaches Israel that even if the man in the Oval Office is the most pro-Israel in history, his guiding principle will always be to act in what he believes is America’s best interest, even if doing so damages America’s image in the short-term.

Israel’s takeaway from all this must be that when it comes to foreign affairs and security, no one will do their work, not even Trump.

Trump believes that even if the move is chided by various experts in the field, the average U.S. citizen is with him. The announcement of the withdrawal, then, can be seen as Trump’s Christmas gift to the soldiers, and also to his voters.