ANALYSIS: What Trump’s Decision About Syrian Kurds Means for Israel
US president’s latest move has Israelis worried about whether or not they can rely on him in the long-term
US President Donald J. Trump just created another war-zone in Syria when he, after a phone call with Turkish autocratic leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, gave his blessing to a new Turkish incursion in Syria.
Erdogan waited with the new invasion in Syria until Trump finally gave in and ordered the immediate withdrawal of US Special Forces who had been advising the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) during the war against ISIS.
Erdogan claims the Kurdish YPG militia, which forms the backbone of the SDF, is a branch of the outlawed Turkish PKK, the Kurdish Workers Party and brands the militia a “terrorist organization”.
Trump apparently believes Erdogan and falsely claimed in a Tweet that the Syrian Kurds had been terrorizing Turkey for decades.
The President later claimed that the US had done more than enough for the Kurds and even accused them of failing to help the US Army during the invasion in Normandy in 1944 when the allied forces landed in France to finish off Hitler’s army.
Over the past two days more than 100 Syrians died after Turkish warplanes and artillery shelled more than 180 targets in what the Kurds call Rojava, the autonomous region along the Syrian-Turkish border.
The Turkish offensive against the Syrian Kurds was labeled ‘Operation Peace Spring’ and has already driven 60.000 people from their homes according to Syrian human rights organizations.
On Thursday, the Israeli government finally reacted to the Turkish aggression against the Kurds, a people of 40 million that has been seeking independence for more than 100 years.
Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu was careful not to criticize his friend in the White House in Washington DC but nevertheless condemned the Turkish invasion and warned against “ethnic cleansing” the Kurdish people which he called “gallant”.
Netanyahu also offered humanitarian assistance to the Kurds but stopped short of announcing punitive measures against Turkey which is one of Israel’s biggest trade partners despite bad diplomatic relations and repeated rants against the Jewish state by Erdogan who uses to compare the IDF to Hitler’s Nazi army.
Dozens of IDF reservists earlier called upon the Israeli government to provide military and humanitarian aid to the Syrian Kurds and not to leave them defenseless in light of the Turkish aggression.
“We, as Israelis and Jews, must not stand by when we see another nation abandoned by its allies and left defenseless,” Maj. (res) Yair Fink stated in an online petition which was signed by dozens of other IDF reservists.
The petition, furthermore, stated that the IDF reservists “remember very well the blood of our people, what happens when the nations of the world abandon the fate of a people.”
“Israel is a country that has the means to help the Kurdish people, and now is the time to do so,” the petition stated.
“We know that there are broad strategic implications here, and of course we are not fully aware of the overall picture, we, who have been educated on the values of personal examples and the sanctity of life, cannot help but feel it at this time and would be happy to assist in any action,”the group of reservists added.
Israeli experts familiar with the strategic situation in the Middle East and Israel’s many security challenges expressed their dismay with Trump’s decision and said that Israel has no one to rely on in light of the threats it is facing.
Major General (Res) Amos Gilad, the former director of the IDF’s military intelligence branch said the Kurds “were abandoned in the most ruthless way” and that this should trouble Israel seriously.
Gilad claimed that Trump’s Middle East policies have been negatively affecting Israel and harshly criticized Trump’s inactivity in light of Iran’s recent aggressive actions against Saudi Arabia which vital oil installations were bombed by Iranian drones and cruise missiles in September.
“His no reaction policy when Iran attacks Saudi Arabian oil facilities or when Iran shoots down an American drone projects weakness. That is bad for Israel since American deterrence is Israeli deterrence as well,” Gilad told Israel radio.
Major General (Res) Amiram Levin, the former commander of the IDF’s Northern Command, concurred and even claimed that Trump is no friend of Israel.
“For two years now I have been warning that Israeli policy is based on the false assumption that Trump is the great friend. It is about time Israel understands that as long as Trump is in power, Israel has no one to rely on,” Levin told The Middle East Eye claiming that the threat Iran is posing to Israel is not the greatest danger to the Jewish state.
Netanyahu, meanwhile, seemed to have internalized that Israel cannot rely on the US President when it comes to matters of overall security situation.
During a speech at the memorial service for the soldiers killed in the Yom Kippur War, at the Herzl Memorial Hall in Jerusalem the Israeli caretaker PM kept mum on the situation in Syria but also conveyed the same message as Levin and Gilad.
“We always remember and apply the basic rule that guides us: Israel will defend itself, on its own, in the face of every threat,” the longest serving Israeli Prime Minister stated.