The U.S. Isn’t Involved in the Middle East in Order to Defend Israel, Nor Should It Be

Nov. 30 2018

Speaking to the Washington Post on Tuesday about the importance of maintaining the U.S.-Saudi alliance, President Trump named Israel as “one reason” for an American presence in the Middle East. This is not the first time the administration has made such an assertion. To Herb Keinon, it is a dangerous one:

The last thing Israel wants the average American to think is that U.S. troops in the Middle East are risking their lives—and at times losing them—to protect Israel. Israel has been careful never to ask for U.S. troops to be deployed in the region. It has lobbied Washington long and hard for weapons and funds to buy arms, saying “Give us the wherewithal to defend ourselves.” But it has never asked America to do the actual defending. . . .

Israel’s position is that the U.S. is engaged in the Middle East because it is a U.S. interest to be engaged in the Middle East, since it is vital for U.S, security and for Washington’s strategic position in the world to be involved in this region and keep it from falling into the hands of Islamic radicals—be they Sunni or Shiite. Those radical forces would like nothing more than to see a Mideast without any American presence or influence. . . .

Jerusalem wants to see the U.S. engaged, influential, and active in the region. . . . This sentiment is in no way unique to Israel. Saudi Arabia, the rest of the Persian Gulf countries, Egypt, and Jordan are all fearful of a situation where the U.S. would withdraw within itself. Were that to happen, other actors would fill the vacuum, as was the case in Syria, where in 2015 Russia moved in as the U.S. waffled during the Syrian civil war. And two things are certain if other actors fill the vacuum left by the U.S.: first, those actors will be much less benign; second, they will be much less concerned about Israel’s interests.

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Donald Trump, Israel & Zionism, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy, US-Israel relations

Maintaining Security Cooperation with the PA Shouldn’t Require Ignoring Its Support for Terror

In accordance with legislation passed last year, the Israeli government has begun to deduct from the tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA) an amount proportional to what the PA pays to terrorists and their families. Last year, a similar law went into effect in the U.S., suspending all payments to the PA so long as it continues its “pay-for-slay” policy. The PA president, Mahmoud Abbas, has retaliated by refusing to accept any tax revenue collected by Israel—raising concerns that the PA will become insolvent and collapse—while insisting that payments to terrorists and their families are sacrosanct. To Yossi Kuperwasser, Abbas’s behavior amounts to mere extortion—which has already worked on the Europeans to the tune of 35 million euros. He urges Israel and the U.S. not to submit:

Abbas [believes] that influential Israeli and European circles, including the security establishment, view strengthening the Palestinian Authority, and certainly preventing its collapse, as being in Israel and Europe’s best interests. They will therefore give in to the pressure he exerts through the creation of an artificial economic crisis. . . .

[T]he PA leadership’s insistence on continuing wage payments to terrorists and their families, even at the price of an artificial economic crisis, shows once again that . . . the Oslo Accords did not reflect a substantive change in Palestinian national aspirations or in the methods employed to achieve them. . . . If paying wages to terrorists (including the many terrorists whose attacks took place after the Oslo Accords were in force) is the raison d’être for the PA’s establishment, as Abbas seems to be saying, . . . one cannot help asking whether Israel has to insist on maintaining the PA’s existence at any price.

True, Israel cooperates on security issues with the PA, but that serves the interests of both sides. . . . The short-term benefits Israel gains from this security cooperation, [however], are of less value than the benefits enjoyed by the Palestinians, and worth even less when measured against the long-term strategic damage resulting from Israel’s resigning itself to the constant incitement, the promotion of terror, and the political struggle against Israel carried out by the PA. Israel should not do anything to hasten the PA’s breakdown, because it has no desire to rule over the Palestinians and run their day to day lives, but it also should not feel more obligated to the PA’s continued existence than do the Palestinians themselves, thereby leaving itself open to continuous extortion.

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Israel Institute for Strategic Studies

More about: Israeli Security, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror