For Is­rael, there’s lit­tle black or white about Trump’s Syria strike

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS -

WAS ANY­ONE more elated at the Amer­i­can cruise mis­sile strike on a Syr­ian air base last week than Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu? He was en­thu­si­as­ti­cally tweet­ing his sup­port for Don­ald Trump’s uni­lat­eral mil­i­tary ac­tion so early the fol­low­ing morn­ing that most Is­raelis were still sound asleep, un­aware the at­tack had even oc­curred.

It is easy to see why Mr Ne­tanyahu was so over­joyed to wake up to the news. The Pen­tagon’s de­ci­sion to at­tack a Syr­ian regime tar­get, while in­form­ing Rus­sia in ad­vance, could have come straight from the Jewish state’s play­book on how to nav­i­gate the Syr­ian civil war.

In one of the most ex­tra­or­di­nary diplo­matic com­pro­mises in mod­ern mil­i­tary history, since Rus­sia en­tered the con­flict two years ago Is­rael has also been launch­ing air strikes (al­beit on a lesser scale) at both Syr­ian and Hizbol­lah mil­i­tary tar­gets.

De­spite the fact that its sol­diers are fight­ing along­side the two armies be­ing tar­geted by Is­rael, the Krem­lin has turned a blind eye to the IDF strikes, in def­er­ence to its long­stand­ing friend­ship with the Jewish state.

More­over, the US launched its cruise mis­sile bar­rage just as Moscow an­nounced — in a first for a ma­jor world power — that it was recognising West Jerusalem as Is­rael’s cap­i­tal, in an­tic­i­pa­tion of an even­tual twostate so­lu­tion to the con­flict with the Pales­tini­ans.

As­ton­ish­ingly, even bet­ter news came for Mr Ne­tanyahu on Satur­day: The Amer­i­can Am­bas­sador to the UN, Nikki Ha­ley, told CNN that regime change in Da­m­as­cus was now as im­por­tant a pri­or­ity to the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion as de­feat­ing Daesh.

The Is­raeli gov­ern­ment had been fu­ri­ous at Mr Trump’s pre­de­ces­sor, Barack Obama, for fail­ing to en­dorse pre­cisely such a pol­icy.

Tel Aviv fears the al­ter­na­tive — a vic­to­ri­ous Pres­i­dent Bashar Al-As­sad — will re­sult in an even more emboldened Iran and Hizbol­lah, both of whom are com­mit­ted to the Jewish state’s de­struc­tion.

But, as ever, po­ten­tially haz­ardous ob­sta­cles for Is­rael lurk on the hori­zon.

For a start, Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin re­acted fu­ri­ously to the cruise mis­sile strike on Syria and, as a re­sult, he is beef­ing up Rus­sian air de­fences in­side the coun­try.

Since this is hap­pen­ing just weeks after the Rus­sian For­eign Min­istry, for the first time, of­fi­cially relayed its dis­plea­sure at Is­raeli air strikes in­side Syria, one imag­ines Mr Putin will be less likely to ac­com­mo­date them in the fu­ture.

Worse, Mr Ne­tanyahu’s pre­dictably pub­lic re­joic­ing at the Pen­tagon’s air strikes bought straight into the nar­ra­tive of the As­sad regime’s pro­pa­ganda, namely that they were part of a Zion­ist plot to bring about regime change. ProAs­sad demon­stra­tors in Da­m­as­cus yes­ter­day re­peat­edly chanted “Death to Is­rael”.

If a wider con­flict breaks out, that nar­ra­tive may res­onate through­out the Arab world — putting Is­rael’s cru­cial in­tel­li­gence al­liances with Saudi Ara­bia and Egypt at risk.

And none of this is to men­tion the un­known con­se­quences if World War Three erupts in Is­rael’s back­yard.

The US en­voy to the UN said regime change in Da­m­as­cus was as im­por­tant as de­feat­ing Daesh

John R Bradley’s lat­est book is ‘After the Arab Spring: How Is­lamists Hi­jacked the Mid­dle Est Re­volts’


A US navy de­stroyer fires a cruise mis­sile to­wards its tar­get in Syria last week

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