Donald Trump, the business tycoon, declared bankruptcy six times; in each case, his creditors paid the bill. As president, Trump has now gone bankrupt in his Middle East policy. Sadly, it is America’s staunch allies, the Kurds, who are now paying in blood for his egregious caving-in to the demands of Turkish President Erdogan. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Israel, another US ally in the Middle East, would take a deep breath and a somber look at what has befallen the Kurds.
There is no question that Trump’s highly controversial decision has sparked criticism even from his own staunch supporters in his Republican party. And so, Trump dispatched foreign minister Mike Pompeo to Jerusalem, where he informed Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israeli officials that there is no comparison between America’s loyalty to the Jewish state and what has transpired with the Kurds. In short, Trump has Israel’s back, and there should be no Israeli concern about that; it’s a different ballgame all together than the ongoing Kurdish episode. Naturally, Israel is relieved to receive these assurances.
At this point, it should be noted that with the rebirth of the Jewish state, in the wake of the Holocaust, successors of Israeli governments and the Israeli people have always adopted the policy of never depending on a foreign power to defend us. On this, there is a national consensus, and Israel has never called on the US or anyone else to fight for us. Even in the darkest hours of the War of Independence and the Yom Kippur War, and when it is now confronted by a fanatical Iran that threatens daily to wipe Israel off the map as it strives by hook and by crook to acquire nuclear weapons to do it. No American troops or military bases exist in Israel.
American withdrawal from the Middle East
At present, the Trump administration appears to be altering its presence in the region with the US President declaring his determination to get out of the “endless wars” raging in the region. The signs are apparent, and not just with the Kurdish fiasco. After the devasting Iranian attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil installations last month, Trump did next to nothing aside from sending some more American military personal to the Arab kingdom. Shortly after, he evacuated a symbolic US contingent from Syria, a step that precipitated the Turkish onslaught.
These are signs of the changing Middle East landscape, and Israel is prepared to go-it-alone. On the other hand, the Jewish state is dependant on America’s highly-expensive aircraft and other weaponry to maintain its strategic edge. On this score, it is also worth noting a fact that is often ignored by critics and out-right antisemites who grumble about the 3.8 million dollars that Israel receives in military aid each year. The truth is that most NATO countries, starting with Germany, as well as Japan and South Korea in the far east, receive far more financial aid when the cost of maintaining American military bases in these countries is considered.
Against this backdrop, Israel is faced with Iran’s expanding tentacles approaching its borders. Moving around the map, this extends from Hezbollah’s domination of Lebanon, its Revolutionary Forces in Syria and Iraq, as well as its new proxies, the Hutu rebels in Yemen at war with Saudi Arabia. Last but not least are Iran’s allies in Gaza – Jihad and Hamas.
It can be assumed that Israel’s military and political leadership presented this current map to Pompeo when they met in Jerusalem There is also the evidence of the successful Iranian missile and drone attack on Saudi Arabia that sent alarm bells ringing in the IDF. Iran may now have acquired a more accurate and deadly missile capability than previously thought by Israel. Another red light is the recent speech by the top Iranian General, who boasted that the Iranian military is close to acquiring military power necessary to destroy Israel. This was a new twist to Iran’s longtime goal of wiping Israel off the map. In any case, IDF Chief of Staff, Gen. Aviv Kochavi, is now pushing for a bigger defense budget to cope with this growing Iranian threat at a time when America is moving out of the region. Only one problem – at present, there is actually no Israeli cabinet in place to approve additional defense spending. This after the ongoing failure of PM Netanyahu to form a coalition government after an unprecedented two successful general elections.
And speaking of Israel’s internal political crisis, consider this: everyone agrees that the most urgent need today is the forming of a national unity government between Likud and the Blue & White parties. This not only could increase the defense budget but also to restart the government’s operations in general. On this, there is no dispute between Bibi and Gantz (leader of the Blue & White opposition party that actually won more seats than the Likud in the last election. So, obviously, the two main parties should get together and form a national unity government. However, Netanyahu ha raised an unacceptable condition – he insists that his political allies, the two ultraorthodox religious parties, must also participate in the coalition negotiations, a demand that is justifiably rejected by Gantz. In effect, it is fair and accurate to say that Netanyahu is putting his political ties with the religious parties before Israel’s national interest in forming a government as soon as possible. The saga continues.