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Israel concerned over American exit of Syria

US withdrawal from Syria leaves Israel alone in the campaign against Iranian entrenchment there.
Israeli soldiers chat as they stand near the Quneitra crossing in the Golan Heights on the border line between Israel and Syria, October 15, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen - RC1DE3AFB000

If it were possible, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would have given one of his sharpest and most fiery speeches against President Donald Trump. It was the first time Netanyahu felt a hint of missing Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama. “Imagine to yourself what he would have done to Obama,” a minister in Netanyahu’s government told Al-Monitor Dec. 19 on condition of anonymity, “if he had announced an exit from Syria without prior warning and in outrageous opposition to the interests of the United States, its allies and the whole world. Netanyahu would have gone to speak before both houses of Congress; he would have sicced [pro-Israel lobby] AIPAC [the American Israel Public Affairs Committee], [American billionaire Sheldon] Adelson, the Conference of Presidents [of Major American Jewish Organizations] and everyone else on the president. He would have said that the president directly harms Israel’s security. The problem is that it’s not Obama, it’s Trump. Thus, all that Netanyahu could do is have a polite phone conversation with the president and announce that Israel will continue to act to ensure its security in Syria with American backing."

The prime minister was warned in the past year more than once that an American exit from Syria is in the cards and could happen at any given moment. Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot, like the heads of Israeli intelligence, knew that Trump was seeking an excuse to enact his campaign promise and spare himself the punishment of the Middle East. Netanyahu put all sorts of pressures on the White House in the course of the year and hoped that the evil decree would be canceled or at least postponed. This week, he understood that he was wrong in hoping so.

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