من الهآرتس 3 تحاليل سياسية تقرأ في عواقب قرار تخلي ترامب عن أكراد سوريا وفي مفاعيله على إسرائيل وداعش والربيع العربي/Allison Kaplan Sommer: Why Netanyahu Has to Stay Silent About Trump’s Abandonment of the Kurds/Amos Harel: The Mideast Trump Leaves Behind: A Resurgent ISIS, an Arab Spring/ Comeback/Daniel B. Shapiro/Five Ways Trump’s Unnerving Decision on Syria Has Seriously Harmed Israel
من الهآرتس 3 تحاليل سياسية تقرأ في عواقب قرار تخلي ترامب عن أكراد سوريا وفي مفاعيله على إسرائيل وداعش والربيع العربي
Allison Kaplan Sommer/Haaretz: Why Netanyahu Has to Stay Silent About Trump’s Abandonment of the Kurds أليسون كابلان سومر/هآرتس: لماذا يتعين على نتنياهو الصمت إزاء تخلي ترامب للأكراد
Amos Harel/Haaretz: The Mideast Trump Leaves Behind: A Resurgent ISIS, an Arab Spring Comeback عاموس هاريل/هآرتس:قرار ترامب التخلي عن أكراد سوريا يعيد انطلاق داعش وأيضاً ربيع عربي
Daniel B. Shapiro/Haaretz: Five Ways Trump’s Unnerving Decision on Syria Has Seriously Harmed Israel دانيال ب. شابيرو/هآرتس/ قرار ترامب الضعيف بالتخلي عن الأكراد في سوريا قد أضر بشدة إسرائيل من خمسة جوانب
Analysis/Why Netanyahu Has to Stay Silent About Trump’s Abandonment of the Kurds أليسون كابلان سومر/هآرتس: لماذا يتعين على نتنياهو الصمت إزاء تخلي ترامب للأكراد Allison Kaplan Sommer/Haaretz/October 12/2019
Israeli premier has more in common than ever with Republican senators who have blindly supported Trump in the name of political self-preservation.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has frequently been referred to as the “Republican senator from the State of Israel.” The nickname is only partly a joke.
There has never been another Israeli leader with as clear an affinity for one particular American political party. While he may pay lip service to pro-Israel Democrats, to placate American Jews committed to their mantra of promoting bipartisan support for Israel, he has done more to tie Israel’s fortunes to one party than any of his predecessors.
At first, it was quietly: The ties linking Netanyahu to Republicans were clear mainly to those who took a close look at their donors. But there was no way to hide the events of March 2015, when Netanyahu strategized with then-House Speaker John Boehner so he could address Congress — against the White House’s express wishes — in his unsuccessful campaign to lobby against the Iran nuclear deal.
It grew exponentially during the Trump era when the divisive U.S. president made it clear that Israel would benefit from absolute loyalty, and delivered on that promise. Netanyahu indicated time and again that he would stick to the bargain. Refusing to allow Democratic congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar into Israel at Trump’s tweeted behest this summer was the most recent example of his willingness to put all of Israel’s eggs in the GOP basket.
As the prospect of Trump’s impeachment looms under the fast-moving Ukraine scandal and worries mount over his decision to green light Turkey’s invasion of Syria, these are dark and challenging days for Republicans.
In response to recent events, Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick observed Tuesday, most Republican congressional leaders are either “doing their best to keep their heads down on the merits, or pretend it’s all hilarious, or resort to full Alex Jones deep state talk,” pushing out outlandish conspiracy theories. But the tide could turn at any moment.
The cracks are already showing within the party. There is growing evidence that Trump used the powers of his office and the U.S. foreign policy infrastructure in a quest to force Ukraine and China to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden. And now there are increasing accusations of obstruction of congressional investigation into the case.
Sen. Mitt Romney dared to tweet out that “by all appearances, the President’s brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling.”
Unlike Netanyahu’s transactional buddy performances with Trump, Romney has been an actual close personal friend and conservative ideological comrade with Bibi in the past. The two men worked together at the Boston Consulting Group as corporate advisers in 1976 and stayed connected as they scaled the political heights — including during Romney’s 2012 presidential election campaign, when he traveled to Jerusalem to hold a fundraiser.
Romney isn’t alone among Republicans. Ohio Sen. Rob Portman told the Columbus Dispatch, “It’s not appropriate for a president to engage a foreign government in an investigation of a political opponent.” And other senators, including Iowa’s Joni Ernst, Nebraska’s Ben Sasse and Maine’s Susan Collins have expressed displeasure. Alaska’s Sen. Lisa Murkowski, meanwhile, called Trump’s behavior “very concerning.”
Criticism is likely to build as the White House digs into a strategy of obstruction — refusing to allow key officials involved in the matter to testify in front of Congress, thus alienating Republicans who are strict on following constitutional procedure.
An even greater number of Senate Republicans, including those considered close to Trump, have been even bolder in their condemnation of his move to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria without adequate coordination with the Pentagon. That decision has been attacked by his base: Evangelicals and their advocates in Congress have distanced themselves, costing Trump Republican support when he needs it most. One of his most reliable defenders, Sen. Lindsey Graham, slammed him for “shamelessly” abandoning Kurdish forces who had been fighting ISIS alongside American forces, saying it will be “the biggest mistake of his presidency” unless he reverses course.
If Netanyahu was an actual Republican senator, he would no doubt be counted among the majority of GOP lawmakers who have remained quiet on both matters, keeping their heads down to avoid Trump’s Twitter wrath. While understandably refusing to comment on the matter of Ukraine and impeachment, which is an internal U.S. political matter, the Israeli prime minister’s silence on Trump’s abandonment of the Kurds is deafening.
For four long days last week, Netanyahu said nothing on the matter. Finally, as the week drew to a close, he finally tweeted: “Israel strongly condemns the Turkish invasion of the Kurdish areas in Syria and warns against the ethnic cleansing of the Kurds by Turkey and its proxies,” and that “Israel is prepared to extend humanitarian assistance to the gallant Kurdish people.”
Utterly absent from his declaration: Any mention that it was the American president who set these events in motion.
Netanyahu is too trapped in a Trump bear hug to do so. He centered both of this year’s election campaigns around the benefits of his close relationship with the U.S. president, and a third campaign may be looming — the old election billboards of the two leaders smiling and shaking hands continue to hover over Israeli highways. He is less capable of taking the step of openly criticizing Trump than Graham or his old friend Romney. In response, Trump has lashed out at Romney, calling him a “pompous ass” and suggesting that Romney himself should be impeached.
In Netanyahu’s current precarious political position, he can’t afford the slightest negative word from the US president, let alone an angry tweetstorm. And so he keeps his mouth shut, unable to express the strong misgivings he surely feels at seeing Trump casually abandon a Middle East ally and increase Turkish, Russian and Iranian influence in the region.
As my colleague Chemi Shalev wrote Thursday: “Even when Trump is being viewed by both allies and enemies of Israel as a paper tiger, Netanyahu has no choice but to continue riding it, because, as the original Chinese saying goes, the alternative of getting off is far more daunting. It would mean confessing to his own abysmal failure,” after Netanyahu “bet the house on Trump, lauded him as Israel’s lord and savior.”
Now one wonders whether that was a safe bet, with a Washington Post-Schar School survey released Tuesday showing that 58 percent of Americans are supportive of the House decision to open an inquiry, and with 49 percent saying it should also take the next step of recommending that Trump be removed from office.
And the next day, a Fox News poll found that 51 percent of Americans say Trump should be impeached and removed from office — up from 42 percent in July.
Nobody has polled the Israeli public as to how it feels about Trump and impeachment, but the country clearly has the jitters as it watches what is playing out in Syria, and identifying more closely than ever with the Kurds.
Local pundits are calling it a “strategic disaster,” a “knife in the back” and a warning that Trump’s warm words at the White House may mean nothing when the chips are down for Israel. As Dan Shapiro, Obama’s former ambassador to Israel and a fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, wrote Friday: “Trump’s total reversal of the U.S. position in Syria is unnerving Israelis.”
Former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren, no fan of former President Barack Obama, indicated to the New York Times that he had less faith in Trump’s willingness to step in if Israel were to be involved in a “serious war” than his predecessor. One can presume that if Oren were still Netanyahu’s deputy minister, he would be under orders to follow his boss’ lead and keep his feelings to himself.
Today, Netanyahu has more in common than ever with his “fellow” Republican senators who must weigh whether they can continue to stand steadfastly by Trump in the name of political self-preservation as growing numbers of their constituents are losing faith in him.
Analysis/The Mideast Trump Leaves Behind: A Resurgent ISIS, an Arab Spring Comeback عاموس هاريل/هآرتس:قرار ترامب التخلي عن أكراد سوريا يعيد انطلاق داعش وأيضاً ربيع عربي Amos Harel/Haaretz/October 12/2019
Trump’s abandonment of Kurds will have far-ranging regional repercussions
There’s something over the top, even artificial, about the moral outrage that has descended on politicians and journalists – in the United States, in Europe and in Israel – in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to abandon the Kurds and remove the American troops from northeast Syria, thereby enabling a Turkish invasion.
To begin with, it’s ridiculous to apply moral standards to Trump. He has never had any such considerations, and a cursory glance at his biography should have been enough to tell us that this is a person who will not hesitate to stab his allies in the back and then lie about it without batting an eye. And second, when it comes to the Middle East, Trump is following in the footsteps of his predecessor in office, Barack Obama, and shares the gut feeling of many American voters from both major parties. He wants to reduce U.S. involvement in the region and certainly to diminish the scope of its military commitment.
Some of Trump’s recent comments are appallingly dumb, possibly even breaking his own records in that department. On Wednesday, he explained in response to condemnation of his decision to abandon the Kurds to their fate, that “They didn’t help us in the Second World War, they didn’t help us with Normandy.” But in terms of American politics, Trump is far from being dumb. With his eye on the 2020 election, now a little more than a year away, he has detected the strong isolationist sentiment among both Republicans and Democrats, and calculates that, beyond the fury in Washington, the move could well bring him more political gains than losses.
The Democrats will not be able to turn the Kurdish story into a new version of China’s fall to the Communists at the end of the 1940s (a strategic blunder of which the Republicans accused the Democratic administration of President Truman for decades). The average American voter has a hard time distinguishing between Kurds and Turks and between Sunnis and Shi’ites. For them, the Turkish offensive is being played out beyond the dark hills. It has no immediate effect on their lives, and if young Americans were pulled out to keep them out of harm’s way, so much the better.
The reports about how Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan outmaneuvered his American counterpart in a phone call between them on Sunday also attest to Trump’s superficial grasp of foreign policy issues. The complete surprise with which his decision was received by the levels below him illustrates the deep disconnect between the president and the administration’s experts. Trump has no patience with intelligence experts, prefers updates from Fox News and is utterly capricious in his decision-making. Even so, it’s hard to see his blundering performance in the latest crisis having political implications in November 2020.
In contrast, the Americans’ dumping of the Kurds will likely have repercussions for the Middle East in general and for Israel in particular. Regionally, the development reflects the continued decline of American interest and, consequently, of its influence. From the moment the United States broke free of dependence on Arab oil as an energy source, it has been increasingly less willing to get involved in the Middle East. The ongoing American withdrawal, which began under Obama, is clearing the way for the rise of other forces, notably Russia and Iran. Neither country has Israel’s best interests at heart. In the background, the Sunni alliance that tried to push Washington into taking more aggressive moves against Iran is weakening.
Amid all this, a vacuum is about to be created in Syria that could enable the revival of the Islamic State. According to the Washington Post, the Kurds are holding about 11,000 ISIS militants in some 20 makeshift detention facilities in areas under their control. The departure of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the Kurdish-dominated coalition, is liable to allow ISIS detainees to escape. It’s doubtful the Turks have any interest in supervising either these facilities or the Al-Hawl displaced persons camp, where about 70,000 civilians, including the ISIS terrorists’ relatives, are huddling.
So far, Turkey has focused on preparatory steps for a ground invasion. On Wednesday, Turkey began shelling artillery at Kurdish positions along the Syria-Turkey border, and Syria reportedly captured two border villages on Thursday. Erdogan claimed that over 100 armed Kurds were killed. meanwhile tens of thousands of civilians have fled the area.
Because Trump is sending contradictory signals (a White House statement on Wednesday termed the Turkish invasion a “bad idea”), the Turks might decide to proceed with caution. There’s a difference between taking over positions near the border, five kilometers inside Syria, and capturing a larger strip 30 kilometers deep. A more comprehensive move will trigger a mass flight of civilians and probably intensify friction with Kurdish troops.
The regime of President Bashar Assad declared victory in his country’s civil war lst year, after completing the takeover of the country’s south with massive Russian aid. The events in Syria’s northeast, and also to the west of that area in the Idlib enclave, where tens of thousands of armed rebels are entrenched, indicates that the war has not ended, even if the winner’s identity is painfully clear. The fact is that the instability in the Arab world remains. The events of the past few months show that the shock waves released a decade ago are still reverberatomg, and that the Arab regimes cannot feel safe about their rule.
More than a hundred people have been killed in Iraq this month in demonstrations focusing on governmental corruption. In Egypt, a new wave of demonstrations against the authorities began about a month ago. And in Jordan, a lengthy teachers strike ended only after King Abdullah yielded to most of the demands put forward by the demonstrators – who, the royal court fears, are in coordination with the Muslim Brotherhood. The Arab Spring is returning, under new management.
Opinion/Five Ways Trump’s Unnerving Decision on Syria Has Seriously Harmed Israel دانيال ب. شابيرو/هآرتس/ قرار ترامب الضعيف بالتخلي عن الأكراد في سوريا قد أضر بشدة إسرائيل من خمسة جوانب Daniel B. Shapiro/Haaretz/October 12/2019
Now facing the cold repercussions of Trump’s isolationism and chaos, Israel is reeling. But it has few plausible ways left to lobby an unraveling president
It was probably inevitable. Even Donald Trump’s most ardent admirers in Israel understood that it was always a package deal.
Strong support for Israel’s position on issues with political resonance in the United States – Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, the Iran deal – was bestowed by a president with a well-documented history, in his long business and entertainment career and his short political rise, of a Me First-America First ethos and a total disregard for the concerns of others, even those in his own camp.
But that foreknowledge does not lessen the sting.
With Trump’s decision this week to withdraw U.S. forces from northern Syria and give a green light to a Turkish invasion of areas controlled by the Kurdish fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces, Israel came face to face with the cold, hard reality of the damage caused by Trump’s isolationist instincts, and chaotic, impulsive decision-making.
Still, no one can honestly claim to be surprised.
Policy differences between Israel and the United States on how best to support the Kurds of Syria and Iraq are not new. Both countries have seen value in building partnerships with members of this long-suffering stateless minority, many of whose leaders – although not all – have adopted moderate, pro-Western policies, and have struggled to defend themselves from oppressive regimes in Damascus and Baghdad, while assisting their brethren in Iran and Turkey.
In 2014, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went so far as to express public support for Kurdish independence in northern Iraq. It was easy to understand the Israeli view.
On a strategic level, Israel would welcome the emergence of a moderate, pro-Western Muslim state in the Middle East. On an emotional level, who can argue that the long-suffering Kurds, caught in a vice between regional powers, do not deserve a chance at self-determination?
But the United States understood that backing Kurdish independence, beyond the significant measure of autonomy they had achieved in Northern Iraq, would deeply strain relations with the central government in Baghdad, a key strategic partner.
It fell to me, as President Obama’s U.S. ambassador, to inform the Israeli government that U.S. policy could not support this call, and that Israeli expressions of support highlighted the gap between us. They were not repeated.
The story replayed itself in 2017 when Israel, nearly alone among the nations of the world, voiced its support for a Kurdish referendum for independence in Northern Iraq and the establishment of a State of Kurdistan.
But the United States, now under President Trump, again calculated its interests differently from Israel.
It opposed the referendum, and advised the Kurds against it. The vote, which went forward and was far short of a declaration of independence, caused much of the blowback from Baghdad the United States was concerned about, and left the Iraqi Kurds worse off.
The United States and Israel have learned to manage our different perspectives on this question, even as U.S. support for Kurdish autonomy in northern Iraq and its partnership with Syrian Kurds in the fight against ISIS has deepened.
But Trump’s total reversal of the U.S. position in Syria is unnerving Israelis. As they calculate it, it harms Israel’s interests – and American interests, according to a bipartisan chorus of Trump’s critics – in at least five ways.
First, it abandons and weakens the United States’ Syrian Kurdish partners who have been the main ground troops in the fight against ISIS. These well-trained and committed fighters have sustained some 11,000 casualties in the four-year counter-ISIS campaign, contributing greatly to many of its successes.
Second, it hands a victory to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who, while he leads a NATO ally, has increasingly acted in ways counter to U.S. interests, cozied up to Russia, supported Hamas and other Muslim Brotherhood movements, and generally acted as the regional nemesis to Israel.
Third, it strengthens the Assad regime’s attempts to reconsolidate control over Syrian territory it has lost in the civil war. This is also a victory for Russia, Assad’s patron, and ultimately for Iran, which seeks to operate and insert military forces to harm Israel in Syrian territory under Damascus’ control.
Fourth, it can facilitate the revival of ISIS. While ISIS no longer controls territory, active cells continue to operate, with the motivation and capability to attack regional and Western targets. Camps containing ISIS elements, now controlled by Kurdish fighters, could soon be overrun, abandoned, or left to unreliable Turkish control.
And finally, the decision sends a message throughout the Middle East that the United States will not stand with – indeed, will abandon – its partners and allies at key moments. While Iran is attacking tankers and Saudi oil facilities in the Gulf with no U.S. response, and threatening Israel on many fronts, this impression of U.S. disengagement has all of America’s partners feeling uneasy.
Some compare Trump’s decision with Obama’s reversal in 2013 on striking Syria following its documented use of chemical weapons against civilians. Indeed, that decision, too, was an abrupt shift from what the administration has forecast, and it led some in the region to question the United States’ willingness to use force anywhere.
But there were also differences. At the time, the alternative that emerged – a U.S.-Russian diplomatic agreement forcing Syria to remove and destroy 1,300 tons of its chemical weapons stocks – was cheered by Israelis. Some Israeli leaders even took credit for the idea.
And, while the change of direction did not come without downsides, it offered a plausible strategic trade-off: The elimination of the Syrian chemical weapons threat against Syria’s neighbors. In the wake of the agreement, Israel suspended the distribution of gas masks to its citizens, a program it has never resumed. No one has been able to articulate a similar benefit of Trump’s decision.
Others argue that the Iran nuclear deal itself undercut Israeli and regional confidence in the United States, and there is truth to that assertion. But that deal, the end of a methodical policy process, was transparently discussed with Israel and other regional allies for years. It was anything but a surprise. Rather, it was the predictable result of a well-defined policy – one the United States and Israel disagreed about, but could hardly fail to see coming.
Trump is an impulsive, erratic, tweet-from-the-hip president, who makes far-reaching strategic decisions without consulting or even informing allies. After a phone call with Erdogan last week, he abandoned a policy agreed upon with his advisers, failing to inform them and rolling over their objections.
When he tried something similar last December, two key officials – Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Special Envoy for the Counter-ISIS Campaign Brett McGurk – resigned over it. Other officials, led by then-National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, partially walked it back.
But today, there is no one left in Trump’s orbit with the spine to walk away or the mettle to talk him down.
The impeachment inquiry Trump now faces only deepens the concern. Trump’s raging tweets and unhinged rantings give the impression of a man totally out of control, careening from crisis to crisis in a desperate bid for survival.
America’s allies everywhere – not just in the Middle East – notice and worry: Who and what else will he sell out as he goes into a tailspin?
With Trump on the edge, and having invested so heavily in the personal relationship with him, Israel has few plausible means to try to shape U.S. policy that it finds unhelpful to its interests.
Criticism of Trump or collaboration with alternative centers of power in the United States, such as bipartisan Congressional leaders who oppose his Syria decision (and which Israel has largely ignored for three years) could generate even sharper blowback.
In the end, a U.S. president needs to make decisions based on what is best for American interests, even when allies disagree. But the United States and its partnerships are stronger when allies understand the logic of the decisions, can make their voice heard, and have confidence that the U.S. policy process is working. None of that exists now.
*Daniel B. Shapiro is Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. He served as U.S.