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.