President Trump complained about how much the U.S. gives Israel, during a briefing with reporters in Iraq last night:
Q. About the criticism that, by leaving Syria, you might increase jeopardy for Israel, how do you respond?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don’t see it. And I spoke with Bibi. I told Bibi. And, you know, we give Israel $4.5 billion a year. And they’re doing very well defending themselves, if you take a look.
But we’ll be there for Israel. We’ll always be there for Israel. I’m the one that moved the embassy to Jerusalem. You know, nobody was willing to do that. All these Presidents came and went. They all said they will do it. They never did it. Many, many Presidents said they were going to move the embassy to Jerusalem. They never did it; I did it. Big difference.
So that’s the way it is. We’re going to take good care of Israel. Israel is going to be good. But we give Israel $4.5 billion a year. And we give them, frankly, a lot more money than that, if you look at the books — a lot more money than that. And they’ve been doing a very good job for themselves.
It appears Trump is confused about the number. The U.S. gives Israel $3.8 billion a year in military aid. Though Israel had sought $4.5 billion a year, per the Times.
This is not the first time Trump has complained about all the money we give Israel. During the 2016 campaign, he said that Israel should pay for American defense, just as he had called on South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia to do. “I think Israel will do that also, yeah, I think Israel do—there are many countries that can pay and they can pay big league.”
Bret Stephens of the New York Times differs with Trump’s assessment. In his column yesterday he wrote that Trump has been very bad for Israel because he’s brought on neo-isolationist policy with his withdrawal of troops from Syria.
If you think the gravest immediate threat to Israel is jihadist Hezbollah backed by fundamentalist Iran backed by cynical Russia, the answer is no [he is not good for Israel]…
if you think that the ultimate long-term threat to Israel is the resurgence of isolationism in the U.S. and a return to the geopolitics of every nation for itself, the answer is more emphatically no.
(Stephens also says it’s an “invidious myth” that neoconservatives put Israel first.)
Stephens treats the tearing up of the Iran deal and the move of the embassy as, What have you done for me lately? This is another example of Israel lobbyists and neocons getting jaded with overindulgence. Last month Ido Aharoni, a former Israeli ambassador, said it was nice that Trump moved the embassy, but that hasn’t changed any Israeli’s quality of life. What Trump really needs to do is waive the visa requirement for Israelis to the U.S. That would make a flight to the U.S. like a “domestic flight.”
P.S. I have heard a number of mainstream reporters characterize the Syria plans as “isolationist.” As if the only way of being engaged globally is to have troops in a Muslim country, for years, and naturally prompting calls to end our occupation.
Thanks to Terry Weber and Yakov Hirsch.