The U.S. Isn’t Involved in the Middle East in Order to Support Israel. It Supports Israel because It’s Involved in the Middle East

In a public speech last week, as well as in his previous official statement on the American reaction to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, President Trump cited the defense of Israel as a major reason for continued U.S. involvement in the Middle East. Eyal Zisser objects:

Israel has a true friend in the White House who is deeply committed to its security. But although this was certainly not the president’s intention, these statements should be a warning sign for Jerusalem. . . . [T]he winds of political division are now blowing through Washington. Democratic legislators attack longtime U.S. ally Saudi Arabia in an attempt to lay into Trump. Meanwhile, [some] on the Republican side continue to insist the U.S. adopt a policy more focused on internal affairs. Against the background of these attacks, the president chose to . . . explain that his foreign policy was aimed at protecting Israel. . . .

[But] the U.S. maintains a military presence in the Middle East not because of Israel but in order to protect its own national security. It was when the U.S. ignored the fact that al-Qaeda was establishing itself in Afghanistan that it found itself under attack by the organization in September 2001. A retreat to U.S. borders, then, does not guarantee immunity from the threat of terrorism and radical Islam. And if the United States considers itself to be a leading world power, it must necessarily intervene in overseas affairs.

It would be appropriate for Trump to emphasize that, unlike other U.S. allies such as Europe, Japan, and South Korea, Israel does not require the protection of American soldiers. It is capable of defending itself and even assisting in the promotion of U.S. interests in the region and throughout the world. That has always been Israel’s unique advantage, and it should be noted in the heated internal debate now under way in Washington over U.S. foreign policy and America’s role in the world.

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Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Donald Trump, Israel & Zionism, U.S. Foreign policy, U.S. Politics, US-Israel relations

Israel Should Try to Defang Hamas without Toppling It

Feb. 22 2019

For the time being, Hamas has chosen to avoid outright war with the Jewish state, but instead to apply sustained, low-intensity pressure through its weekly border riots and organizing terrorist cells in the West Bank. Yet it is simultaneously engaged in a major military build-up, which suggests that it has not entirely been deterred by the previous three Gaza wars. Yaakov Lappin considers Jerusalem’s options:

In recent years, the Israel Defense Force’s southern command, which is responsible for much of the war planning for Gaza, identified a long-term truce as the best of bad options for Israel. This is based on the understanding that an Israeli invasion of Gaza and subsequent destruction of the Hamas regime would leave Israel in the unenviable position of being directly in charge of some two-million mostly hostile Gazans. This could lead to an open-ended and draining military occupation. . . .

Alternatively, Israel could demolish the Hamas regime and leave Gaza, putting it on a fast track to a “Somalia model” of anarchy and violence. In that scenario, . . . multiple jihadist armed gangs lacking a central ruling structure would appear, and Israel would be unable to project its military might to any single “return address” in Gaza. This would result in a loss of Israel’s deterrent force on Gaza to keep the region calm. This scenario would be considerably worse than the current status quo.

But a third option, in between the options of leaving Gaza as it is and toppling Hamas in a future war, may exist. In this scenario, the IDF would decimate Hamas’s military wing in any future conflict but leave its political wing and police force in place. This would enable a rapid Israeli exit after a war, but avoid a Somalia-like fate for Gaza with its destructive implications for both Israelis and Gazans. . . .

On the one hand, Hamas’s police force is an intrinsic support system for Gaza’s terrorist-guerrilla forces. On the other hand, the police and domestic-security units play a genuine role in keeping order. Such forces have been used to repress Islamic State-affiliated cells that challenge Hamas’s rule. . . . Compared to the alternative scenarios of indefinite occupation or the “Somalia scenario,” a weakened Hamas might be the best and most realistic option.

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security