I have often heard Trumpians say that they support him because of his conduct concerning Israel. Now that Trump, by moving troops out of Syria, is not acting in Israel’s best interest, what will they do? If they explicitly defend Trump it will be clear that it is not about Israel, but it is about Trump. They will support him no matter what he does.
Or will they remain silent? Remaining silent has consequences. If President Obama had removed the troops, the pro-Trumpians correctly would have severely criticized him. Therefore, the failure to make any comment will be interpreted as agreement of Trump’s plan. As said in the Talmud Kesubos 14b, silence in the situation when it would be expected that a person would speak up is acquiescence.
The third approach is to speak up and say, “Mr. President, I support you; but on this issue, you are wrong.”
All three approaches were seen in the local papers. Dr. Frager wrote a column supportive of the move. The 5TJT did not mention it at all, and except for Dr. Frager it was not discussed in the Queens Jewish Link.
The Jewish Home had the most coverage and it was negative about the withdrawal.
There was an article, “US Withdraws Troops from Syria.” They first quoted from Trump’s video that “We have won against ISIS” and noted that this was disputed by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who criticized Trump for withdrawing the troops. Moreover, “Allies such as Israel have long pressured the U.S. not to remove the troops from the region… Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he regretted Trump’s decision.” (I am not sure whether he actually said it, but it is important not for the truth of the matter asserted but for the intent of the paper writing it.)
Additionally, The Jewish Home included two opinions critical of the move. The first is “US Withdrawal Is a Risky Mistake but Trump Did It Anyway,” by David Ignatius. The second is “Trump Is About to Repeat Obama’s Mistake in the Middle East,” by Marc A. Thiessen.
He states: “Trump was right to denounce Obama for declaring victory against the Islamic State and withdrawing US forces [withdrawal of US forces from Iraq in 2011]. So why is he doing now exactly what he criticized Obama for doing? … The defense department estimates that the Islamic State retains about 30,000 fights in Iraq and Syria and is more capable than its predecessor group al-Queda in Iraq was at its peak in 2006-2007. … Iran and its terrorist proxy, Hezbollah, will establish forward operating bases in southwestern Syria to threaten Israel.”
Another reason for Israel to be concerned is that the departure of U.S. forces from the Syrian-Iraqi border “will open the way to Iran, to the transferring equipment by way of land through Iraq to Syria and Lebanon.” World Israel News, “Israel’s ‘unofficial’ reaction to US pullout from Syria: Disappointment,” December 20, 2018.
On the other hand, Dr. Joseph Frager wrote an article in the Queens Jewish Link that implicitly praised the move. Joseph Frager did not address the effect on Israel. However, he gave accolades concerning the Trump foreign policy, including saying that Trump belongs in the “Foreign Policy Hall of Fame.” Also, according to Dr. Frager, Trump has “realistically re-aligned some very tough and outright rogue countries into a more controllable situation.” He does not identify the countries. On the other hand, he criticized Defense Secretary James Mattis who resigned because of the Syrian troop withdrawal.
Dr. Frager claimed that Trump fulfilled a campaign promise by getting rid of ISIS. “Time For a Kurdish State,” 12/27/2018. This is parroting the line first made by the president on December 19 to justify the withdrawal. This claim has been debunked. As a result, the president the next day had to walk back the claim. “… now they [Russia, Iran, Syria] will have to fight ISIS and others…” Trump tweeted December 20.
The Jewish Trump supporters’ positive response or non-response to the president’s removing troops from Syria has consequences. This is the first time that the president has engaged in conduct that most people agree is contrary to Israel’s interest. A supportive or muted response is telling the president that he does not have to worry about his Jewish base of supporters even when he acts against Israel’s interests
There are further issues that will come up, such as the U.S. peace plan for the Palestinians and funding for Israel. Besides the Syrian withdrawal, on December 24, 2018, the president tweeted something that should concern Israel’s supporters. He talked about cutting back aid to foreign countries for military expenditures and mentioned that the countries have successful economies. For 2017, Israel received $3.175 billion in military aid from the United States Will he try to cut funding for Israel, which would appeal to his broad base of America First? It is more likely that he will do so if he knows that his Jewish base will support him no matter what he does.
That is why it is so important for the Jewish Trumpians to speak out on Syria and send a message to the president that we will support you, but when it comes to Israel, we will criticize you for conduct not in her best interest.
Warren S. Hecht is a local attorney. He can be reached at email@example.com