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Israelis don’t trust Trump because he doesn’t phone Netanyahu, Democratic lobbyists warn

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Israelis don’t feel they can count on the Trump administration to take up the battle against Iran, say Israel lobbyists inside the Democratic Party. Some Israelis even worry that Trump will “abandon” them.

Israelis are unnerved by the fact that the bromance between Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu has cooled off, and Trump decided to withdraw forces from Syria after a call to Turkey’s president but without any consultation with Israeli officials, says Daniel Shapiro, a former US ambassador to Israel who now works at an Israeli security thinktank.

“Turkey is certainly considered a nemesis to Israel by most Israelis. Trump on a dime made this very dramatic decision. No US officials could explain it,” Shapiro said. “So there were many days and weeks of chaos of trying to understand it… I think it was very unnerving for Israelis to understand… that Trump’s very impulsive, very chaotic, non-consultative style… very much on whims and on personal feelings… really could work against Israeli interests.”

It is worrisome to Israel that Trump acts without checking in with Israeli officials. The president’s affection for Netanyahu “seems to have cooled” in light of Netanyahu’s electoral losses, Shapiro said, and there have been “no phone calls anyone can identify” between the two leaders in recent weeks.

Iran can now send weapons threatening Israel to “multiple venues,” in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon, Shapiro said. Add to that “the lack of any U.S. response, certainly a kinetic response” to recent Iranian provocations in the Gulf, including alleged attacks on oil tankers, the downing of a US drone, the attack by an Iranian proxy on a Saudi oil facility, and “also cheating on the JCPOA” — the Iran deal of 2015 the U.S. withdrew from, Shapiro said, and Israelis are worried.

The fact that there has been “no real U.S. response” and “really no US leadership or presence or willingness to react, was quite unnerving for the first time for Israelis in the Trump presidency,” Shapiro said.

His comments were echoed by Ron Klein of the Jewish Democratic Council of America and Michael Koplow of the Israel Policy Forum during a conference call last Friday set up by Klein’s organization.

So Donald Trump told American Jews that they are being disloyal to Israel, but these consultants are fighting back, saying Israel can’t count on Trump.

Klein, a former congressman, said that Trump’s decision-making has been “very destabilizing and uncomfortable for elected officials” in Israel. It may be good for Trump politically to bring troops home, but to Israelis it felt like an abandonment. Mostly because Trump did not check in with them first.

“Israelis are used to high levels of consultation between our governments,” he said. “When that doesn’t happen it’s not something they’re used to and it definitely struck a nerve.”

Koplow said the lack of American assertiveness has caused Israelis to be more restrained in its military actions. Last week Hezbollah claimed to shoot down an Israeli drone in Lebanon. In the past Israeli military doctrine has been to hit back immediately. “This week Israel decided not to respond at all,” Koplow said. Israeli officials don’t know that they can count on the U.S., he said. In the past Israel had the sense that there was a “larger US umbrella that will prevent things from getting too far out of hand” but Israelis have lost this sense.

“There are mixed signals about how far they can trust the White House and to what extent the U.S. is actually going to be involved if there is an Israeli-Iranian fight in Syria,” Koplow said.

Shapiro said that Israelis got their first “shock” from Trump last December when he tweeted that he was going to remove troops from Syria, a decision he later walked back under pressure.

The “hyperbolic” response of some Israelis is that the U.S. will abandon Israel as it abandoned the Kurds in Syria, Shapiro said. He tries to reassure Israelis that the U.S. will be there for Israel if there’s a real need, though he is concerned by the lack of consultation between the two leaders.

All the experts on the call said that Democrats are still firmly in support of Israel. They largely dismissed the talk by three Democratic presidential candidates of conditioning aid over Israeli actions in the West Bank as unlikely to have any effect on American military assistance.

Though Shapiro and Koplow both emphasized that Israeli annexation of portions of the West Bank is not in America’s interest, and no U.S. aid should go to such a project. It is not consistent with America’s “moral” values for Israel to cease to be a Jewish democratic state, Shapiro said; and annexation would be a “giant step” in that direction.

Koplow said that all Democratic candidates are supportive of an “eventual” two state solution (no time line on that one; Palestinians were promised a state in 1947).

And Ron Klein said that the Democratic Party leaders are all supportive of Israel, Jewish and non-Jewish politicians, from Nancy Pelosi to Ted Deutch to Eliot Engel to Nita Lowey to Steny Hoyer, and Republicans are too. Though he added, “We know we have to be on our guard” about political support for Israel in the U.S. He urged Jewish voters to vote on “Jewish values,” which include support for Israel, gun control, immigration issues, quality health care, and “issues affecting minorities, that we as Jews understand deeply from our DNA and our history.”

None of the three had a word to say about Palestinian human rights under occupation as a source of American concern.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of Mondoweiss.net and founded the site in 2005-06.

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12 Responses

  1. Misterioso on November 11, 2019, 3:27 pm

    “Some Israelis even worry that Trump will ‘abandon’ them.”

    No surprise! As his record makes clear, self-serving Trump cannot be trusted by anyone.

    The bottom line, however, is that “Israel’s” “Special Relationship” with the U.S. will inevitably end.

    “Israel,” the expansionist, racist, illegal/brutal occupier and ethnic cleanser of the indigenous Palestinians has always been an historical anachronism, a huge geopolitical burden for the U.S. (i.e., creating justified enemies) and a leach on its taxpayers. Ever increasing financial aid is now at least $12 million per day for a total of about $134.7 billion since 1948. At the same time, rapidly growing numbers of Americans, young and old, including Jews, are becoming disgusted with and enraged at “Israel’s” well documented and accelerating crimes committed every day against the essentially defenseless Palestinians.

    As history attests, sooner or later, all nations act in their own best interests and the U.S. will not be an exception. Colonialist settler states always become an unmanageable burden. To cite just a few examples, France abandoned Algeria, Britain dumped Rhodesia and Belgium said “good-bye” to the Congo. America will have no option other than to cut its losses and set “Israel” adrift. It’s only a matter of time.

  2. annie on November 11, 2019, 3:32 pm

    “Koplow said the lack of American assertiveness has caused Israelis to be more restrained in its military actions.”

    that’s a relief, they should be more restrained.

  3. brent on November 11, 2019, 6:31 pm

    This may be an opening salvo to characterize Trump as untrustworthy regarding Israel like Obama was. Trump cannot be trusted as a friend even after all those gifts. He will give no warning and betray the Jews like he did the Kurds.

    Trump said he wanted a deal on Jerusalem before a full ME peace, be that one state or two. He ingratiated himself to the Israeli people by moving the embassy, a given in any outcome. He belittled endless war and declared them against the national interest. Woah! He said he’d cut all money to Israel if he found that necessary, which also rattled Netanyahu.

    Shapiro sees Trump’s not calling Netanyahu because he didn’t do well in the election. My theory is that its about annexation. Netanyahu promised to annex a large portion of the WB. Trump likely told him, ” that won’t work. “I want recognition for a deal”. He warned Netanyahu a second time with his conservation with Bolton, Netanyahu’s main man, about how they had differed over time. Trump didn’t accept his offer to resign, saying “let’s talk tomorrow”. When Netanyahu didn’t back up, he fired Bolten the next day to get Netanyahu’s attention. They may not have talked since.

    I won’t be surprised if Bolton, claiming to be forced, returns a FU for Netanyahu and, in coordination with Nikki Haley, distance Trump’s ego project, that deal of the century.

    Of course, Abbas may have blown it up already.

    • Mooser on November 11, 2019, 8:03 pm

      Hey “Brent”, how do you account for Trump not tweeting or talking about the “Mid-East deal” for weeks now?

      He must have a big surprise in store for us.

  4. Misterioso on November 11, 2019, 8:40 pm

    Off topic, but an absolute must listen:

    https://www.cbc.ca/radio/thesundayedition/israel-violates-international-law-with-impunity-says-human-rights-lawyer-1.5352807

    Just received from a Canadian friend – CBC radio (Canada), the Sunday Edition, audio of interview with Professor Noura Erakat, Nov. 10/19.

    “Israel violates international law with impunity, says human rights lawyer”

    Noura Erakat is a professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey and the author of Justice for Some: Law and the Question of Palestine. She argues that Israel has repeatedly violated international law without consequence on the world stage.

    • Elizabeth Block on November 12, 2019, 12:53 pm

      Good interview – except that Michael Enright, the host, whom I like very much, interrupted her again and again. He doesn’t usually do that!

      I heard her speak in Ottawa last month, where she was a bit too legal. She was better on the radio, more accessible for a general audience.

      But “Honest Reporting” [sic] (sick) attacked it, which says that it hit home. Accused her of, among other things, using legalisms to criticize Israel. The pot calling the kettle black, eh?

      As for the general thrust of this article: If anyone had any doubt that Israel expects to call the shots on US Middle East policy, that doubt should now be dispelled.

  5. annie on November 12, 2019, 4:00 am

    israel takes it out on gaza

  6. annie on November 12, 2019, 4:34 am

    Trump’s decision-making has been “very destabilizing and uncomfortable for elected officials” in Israel. It may be good for Trump politically to bring troops home, but to Israelis it felt like an abandonment. Mostly because Trump did not check in with them first.

    “Israelis are used to high levels of consultation between our governments,” he said. “When that doesn’t happen it’s not something they’re used to and it definitely struck a nerve.”

    trump announced the syria withdrawal without checking with israel, without “high levels of consultation” and why might that be? because if it comes down to his daughter and son in law in the hot seat he’ll protect his family first.

    https://spectator.us/seven-whistleblowers-jared-kushner-bin-salman/

    Turkish intelligence obtained an intercept of the call between Kushner and MBS. And President Erdogan used it to get Trump to roll over and pull American troops out of northern Syria before the Turks invaded.

    trump first announced the troop withdrawal about a month after khashoggi murder. then kushner went to turkey to meet with erdogan. and now erdogan, much to the chagrin of almost everyone, is coming to the white house. fun! i bet he has the tape of that call implicating kushner in khashoggi’s murder.

    no amount of consultations with israel will fix that.

  7. eljay on November 12, 2019, 8:51 am

    Zionist Israelis and the Israeli government sure are a whiny bunch. You’d never guess that their country is:
    – predicted to last a Thousand Years!;
    – filled with “strong fighting Jews” (according to Boris, IIRC); and
    – backed by “no light between” political, economic, military and financial support from the U.S.

    • Rashers2 on November 12, 2019, 10:07 am

      It may be cold comfort, @eljay, since Israel has lasted for 71 years already, but I recall somewhere else in the last century, in Europe, that was supposed to last a thousand years…..

  8. Rashers2 on November 12, 2019, 9:59 am

    It would be well beyond entertaining were the ghastly and insidious Kushner to be positively implicated in some kind of complicity with Crown Prince MbS over the Khashoggi “affair” – more correctly, the cold-blooded, extra-judicial execution of Khashoggi – as the “Spectator” article suggests COULD be the case (n. b: the author of the “Cockburn” piece in the “Spectator” is at pains to point out that they do not know the report of JK’s sharing of classified intel’ with MbS to be factually correct).
    More shocking, however, would be the wider implication of the report (if true), namely that a POTUS could allow the protection of a family member’s guilt as an accessory to murder and a traitor – if this is still the term for people who illegally pass their countries’ sensitive intelligence to other countries – to alter United States’ foreign policy in a way which foreseeably endangered the lives of thousands of alleged US “allies” and innocent civilians in the North of Syria (or, indeed, anywhere else). If it transpires that this story has substance, it must surely be the terminal proof of Trump’s complete corruption and moral bankruptcy; and that he is fit for nowhere except the inside of a prison cell?

  9. Mooser on November 13, 2019, 5:46 pm

    OT, but something else again. So Stephen Miller had a couple of years worth of racist e-mails ‘exposed’ by the SPLC.
    The White House is characterizing this exposure as “an anti-Semitic attack” on Miller.

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