This week President Donald Trump announced that he was no longer going to protect the Kurdish people in Syria. Now, some in Israel are wondering if he might flip on them next.
It was revealed Tuesday that Trump’s decision to allow Turkey to kill the Kurds came from a call where Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was screaming at him over the phone. According to NBC News, the Turkish leader was furious he wasn’t getting a sit-down with Trump and the U.S. leader wanted to get Erdoğan off the phone.
“So the reporting NBC News has is that basically Donald Trump was trying to get Erdoğan off the phone, because he was mad that he didn’t get to have the one-on-one with him here in New York a couple of weeks ago and said, ‘Okay, go into Syria,’” said MSNBC’s Willie Geist.
The New York Times reported later Tuesday that Trump’s abrupt withdraw of troops in Syria “set off alarm bells among Israeli officials who fear the United States might stop standing up for Israel.”
Israel’s biggest mainstream paper flashed the headline, “A knife in our back,” about the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
“The conclusion we draw needs to be unequivocal: Trump has become unreliable for Israel. He can no longer be trusted,” wrote columnist Shimon Shiffer in Yediot Ahronot.
“I feel like a Kurd today,” said former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Dore Gold. Gold now serves as a top foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“There’s a growing sense that Trump is backing away from his commitments to allies,” said arms control expert Emily Landau, who works at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. “I’m not sure Israel’s in the same category as Saudi Arabia and the Kurds. At least I’m hoping that we’re not in the same category. But expectations were forged through Trump’s rhetoric and his behavior, and some of his policy decisions. And the question is, to what degree will he follow through with it, if Israel really needs the United States?”
Dependence on America’s allegiance to its allies has been unfailing in previous administrations but could be changing under the Trump administration.
“We are already in a highly volatile period, with Iran attacking U.S. allies,” like Saudi Arabia, said Israeli analyst Ofer Zalzberg at the International Crisis Group. “The Israelis are bracing against an Iranian attack. The defense establishment believes Iran will strike within two months. The Israeli reaction would be very different from the Saudi nonreaction, and Iran knows that. But it’s very dangerous to encourage Iran to feel safer and to give Iran more courage in its decisions.”