By Jake Baum
For the Mitzpeh
As a Jewish state, Israel is already vulnerable to attacks from its neighbors. The country has a long history of conflict with the surrounding states – many of which seek its destruction. Israel is of cultural and religious importance to many different religions, a fact which has instigated and perpetuated many conflicts that have plagued the country since its establishment in 1948. The last thing Israel needs is another reason for conflict.
Yet, since January, Israel has been faced with a brand new source of conflict – not from an enemy, but from a longstanding friend – the United States government. In just the past few months, President Donald Trump has managed to stir up controversy with many in the Middle East – both allies and enemies – and this presents a unique problem for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
As the sole democracy with favorable relations with the U.S., Israel is uniquely vulnerable to attacks from leaders in its area that Trump has angered since he took up the presidency.
Take Syria, for example. During former President Barack Obama’s time in office, the U.S. had somewhat of an agreement with Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian leader; defeating ISIS was their shared goal, and political differences were an afterthought. It might not have been the best strategy if the U.S. hoped to be a “protector of democracy,” but, for a little while, it worked.
Then President Donald Trump took a seat in the Oval Office and ruined the thin layer of stability the Obama administration worked so hard to establish. Through his angry tweets, his spontaneous assertions of U.S. policy and, more recently, his usage of military force behind which there is no solid line of reasoning, it is fairly easy to establish his record of one of action, not deliberation.
In a labor-intensive job such as construction, manufacturing, or coal mining (which also happen to be the industries he loves most), this would be fine. But international relations and, more importantly, military strategy, requires a level of deliberation and consideration that most of his actions lack.
Despite surrounding himself with more than competent military advisors – such as Secretary of Defense James Mattis and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster – he never seems to have a concrete strategy behind any of his decisions on the international playing field.
The president isn’t in a position in which he can just “wing it” – but he hasn’t quite figured that out. And that poses a huge problem for Israel.
For example, Trump’s most recent bombings against assets of the Syrian regime essentially sidelined the fight against ISIS. His attack on the Assad regime places a huge obstacle in the way of his original plan to fight ISIS in the region. Without our main temporary “ally” in Syria, how can the U.S. focus on its original goal? Even his attempts to continue the fight against ISIS only presents further problems. We’re hitting more civilians – causing more collateral damage than ever before.
So where will the Assad regime direct its anger? Right at the only U.S. ally left in the region – Israel. And while Israeli leaders don’t seem to be concerned about Syrian retaliation, the Syrian Civil War is already spilling over into Israeli territory and, with the Netanyahu administration’s tendency towards hawkish responses, Israel has already fired back.
The combined affinity for war and reactionary politics of the Trump, Netanyahu and Assad regimes is sure to present real problems for all three countries. With tensions already heating up, it won’t be long before all three countries get caught in a triangle of bombings that, only a year ago, no one could have predicted.
The Trump administration still has no definitive strategy for its apparent impending war with the Syrian regime. And while the effort of retaliation for the use of chemical weapons is admirable, Trump is opening both the U.S. and Israel up to major blowbacks in the region.
With today’s unstable international political climate, the last thing anyone needs is more blowback.
Jake is a senior international business major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.