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

 

The Military Perils of Ceding Israeli Control of the West Bank

April 24 2019

In the years since the second intifada ended, no small number of retired high-ranking IDF officers and intelligence officials have argued that complete separation from the Palestinians is a strategic necessity for Israel. Gershon Hacohen, analyzing the geography, the changes in warfare—and Middle Eastern warfare in particular—since the 1990s, and recent history, argues that they are wrong:

The withdrawal of IDF forces from the West Bank and the establishment of a Palestinian state in these territories will constitute an existential threat to Israel. The absence of an Israeli military presence in the West Bank, especially along the Jordan River, will enable the creation of a terrorist entity, à la the Gaza Strip, a stone’s throw from the Israeli hinterland. This withdrawal will box Israel into indefensible borders, especially in light of the major changes in the nature of war in recent decades that have made the astounding achievements of 1967 impossible to replicate, not to mention the stark international response [that would follow Israel’s] takeover of a sovereign state.

The deployment of international forces in the West Bank will not, [contrary to what some have argued], ensure the demilitarization of the prospective Palestinian state, let alone prevent the entry of Arab forces into its territory (with or without its consent) and/or its transformation into a springboard for terrorist attacks against Israel. . . .

Israel [now] maintains control of some 60 percent of the West Bank’s territory, . . . which is mostly empty of Palestinian population but includes all of the West Bank’s Jewish communities and IDF bases, as well as main highways, vital topographic areas, and open spaces descending eastward to the Jordan Valley. The retention of this territory constitutes the absolute minimum required for the preservation of defensible borders and meets two conditions necessary for Israel’s security: the Jordan Valley buffer zone, without which it will be impossible to prevent the rapid arming of Palestinian terrorist groups throughout the West Bank; and control of intersecting transportation arteries, which, together with control of strategic topographical sites, enables rapid deployment of IDF forces deep inside Palestinian areas.

It is the surrender of such conditions in Gaza that has transformed the Strip into an ineradicable terrorist entity. Uprooting the West Bank’s Jewish communities will also make it difficult for the IDF to operate in the depth of the Palestinian state, especially if it is forced to fight simultaneously on a number of fronts, [since] simultaneous fighting in Gaza, which will be an integral part of the future Palestinian state, is a foregone conclusion.

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: Israeli grand strategy, Israeli Security, Palestinian statehood, West Bank