It is time for the White House to realize that the only thing in common between the Israelis and the Palestinians is that both sides will wholly reject the soon-to-be-revealed peace deal.
For the Palestinians, it is never a good time to lay down arms, institute reforms, recognize reality, and shelve the bloody past.
For the Israelis, time and resilience have shown that it can survive and thrive without a peace deal with the undemocratic, corrupt, and barbaric Palestinians. Moreover, the very recent dissolution of the Knesset shows that peace with the Palestinians is no longer the hot potato that matters in an election. Not even in a snap election.
Currently, the priority for Israel focuses on improved international relations, especially in Africa and the Arab Gulf region, as well as in Eastern Europe and Latin America, often by wielding its know-how in security and technology as a diplomatic tool. The tech industry has fueled Israel’s economic growth, and unemployment has steadily declined, despite the absence of a peace deal with the Palestinian Authority. Curiously, a topic of greater concern for many secular citizens in Israel is drafting the “ultra-Orthodox” into the Army. Thus far, every deadline set by Israel’s Supreme Court to legislate this subject has lapsed, due to strong opposition from parties needed to form a government.
In addition to the above, Israel’s perspective and priorities will certainly take a different dimension in light of the recent US decision to retreat from Syria. Israel faces the prospect of an emboldened Tehran, which PM Netanyahu has said might lead Israel to intensify its military campaign in Syria. It appears that now Israel has a real dog in that fight, and one that will matter in the next elections when Israeli citizens need to choose the best “security” candidate to contain this threat.
Moreover, Donald Trump’s claim that the Islamic State (IS) has been defeated in Syria is only half true and will erode America’s credibility. This might prove to be especially the case vis-à-vis Israel when it comes to asking it to take the risks of making difficult compromises to reach a peace deal with a formidable foe like the Palestinians. The withdrawal from Syria will in turn further accentuate that Israel can only rely on itself for its defense and survival. IS still has currently a stronghold in Syria of approximately 2,000 fighters. There is no shortage of anti-Assad and anti-Iran Syrians who might join IS for lack of a better choice. Desperate people do desperate things. Recruiting them will certainly become easier after the departure of all US troops. Make no mistake, the IS stronghold will not stop the joint Iranian and Russian takeover of Syria, now made possible by the US withdrawal; however, it will motivate them enough to re-surge.
Shortly after Trump’s announcement, Turkish President Erdogan wasted no time to send reinforcements to Turkey’s southern province of Kilis to harass the Kurds. The Kurds have been abandoned and betrayed by America, and Turkey is more than happy to repress their national aspirations.
Looking at history, one wonders if perhaps Syria is becoming the Yugoslavia of the Middle East. The Yugoslav Wars set ethnic and religious groups against one another; Russia supported the Slavic and Orthodox Serbs, the Arab world sided with the Muslim Bosnians, and Catholic Croatia had the sympathy of the Vatican. The first war was religious, the second ideological, and the third civil. The problem with Syria is that it is located in a much rougher neighborhood.
Currently, Syria’s airspace has become an international battlefield in which Russia bombards anti-Assad rebels, America bombards (together with Britain and France) Islamic State targets, and Israel bombards Iranian bases. What lesson will Putin learn from seeing two US Presidents pull out of Syria? After Obama backed down, in the summer of 2013, from the “red line” he had drawn in the sand (the use of chemical weapons by Assad), Putin understood that he became the chief in town. His hand has only gotten freer now.
While Obama, no friend of Israel, abandoned an ally – Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, for shooting Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators – it came as no surprise since it was guided by ideological reasons. Donald Trump, however, has abandoned reliable allies such as the Kurds due to narrow-minded considerations. It is both a strategic and a moral mistake to abandon America’s allies to warmongers with no regard for human rights and the Geneva Convention, such as Assad, Putin, the Mullahs in Iran, the monster ruler of Turkey, and to what is left of the Islamic State, because its only “crime” is to cost money to the US Armed Forces. It is disheartening to see the leader of the free world viewing money as a goal in itself instead of a means. Knowing how much Trump values loyalty, it is appropriate to use his parlance and simply say, “It’s not fair.”
This decision will affect not only America’s credibility and honor, but also its interests. As Defense Secretary Jim Mattis wrote in his resignation letter: “Our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships. While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies.”
Jacques R. Rothschild was born in Belgium and served as a unit commander in the IDF paratroopers. He graduated in Mathematics, Statistics, and International Affairs from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and lives currently with his family in New York City, where he works as an advisor to the Sovereign Wealth Fund of Kuwait. He also writes and speaks publicly about current affairs and causes for which he cares deeply.