Kafe Knesset for April 7
Israel loves The Donald: If a popularity contest of world leaders were be held in Israel this morning, Donald Trump would be the big winner. Waking up to news of the dramatic US attack in Syria pushed every other topic off the agenda, making it one of those mornings in which the freshly printed weekend newspapers instantly became totally out-of-date. Warm and supportive reactions have been flowing in all day, starting with the Prime Minister, who released a statement early in the morning praising the “strong and clear message President Trump has sent in speech and action. Israel fully supports President Trump’s decision and hopes that this determined message against the horrific actions of the Assad regime will resonate not only in Damascus but also in Tehran, Pyongyang and elsewhere.” President Rivlin echoed the same compliments stating that the US “set an example to the entire free world who should support any step needed in order to end the atrocities in Syria.”
Most of the opposition was united with the coalition in praising Trump, with a Twitter parade of compliments. Isaac Herzog tweeted that the Tomahawk missile attack sends “an important message against the Butcher from Damascus, at a perfect time and perfect place.” Yair Lapid went with: “Better late than never. There are times when use of force is the moral act.” Still, some warned against rejoicing so vocally, such as Zionist Union’s always contrarian leadership candidate Erel Margalit, who said the public celebrations are “unnecessary and dangerous to Israel, and can push us into a complicated military confrontation. Israel can support a justified attack even without public statements.”
A new sheriff is in town: But for many in Israel, as well as other countries around the region, the Syria retaliation is a real reason to celebrate, the ultimate proof that the Obama era is over. In recent weeks, as the administration has been speeding up efforts to launch a diplomatic process and reach a “great deal” for the Israel-Palestinian conflict, there have been doubts about that notion. Right-wing expectations that Trump will revolutionize US policy towards Israel have been countered with a very different reality, as it appears that he is not rushing to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem and is basically abiding by traditional US approaches on these topics. Naftali Bennett was dreaming of annexing the West Bank and killing the idea of the Palestinian state and the concept of the two state solution, but it turns out, so far, that the new President has similar demands to those that the Obama administration imposed on BB – a settlement freeze and similar plans to convene a regional peace summit to kick off the process.
Still, Trump gave his Israeli supporters a grand display of the fact that there is a new sheriff in town last night, reversing one of the most traumatic moments of the Obama legacy in this region, his famous 2012 backtrack from the redline he set for Syria’s use of chemical weapons. The new president has proven to Israelis that there is a new boss, whose words are followed with actions, and who is sending a strong and decisive message to the hostile Iran-Assad-Hezbollah axis that the new sheriff’s redlines are not to be crossed.
Or, as former Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren tweeted: “US attack in Syria sends message to the entire world that America is back. Our common enemies need to fear.”
Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) told Kafe Knesset: “The American attack sends a clear message to Assad and Khamenei that if they cross red lines, they will pay a heavy price. It’s also a signal to Russia of a new American policy and new rules for conducting a dialogue with the superpower over Syria and the Middle East. The Trump policy of reacting and initiating is going to replace the Obama policy of leading from behind, which failed and led to a significant strengthening of Iran and its regional proxies.”
According to Katz, the US operation brought back the Arab confidence and trust in the US leadership, and increases the potential for creating and strengthening a “regional security axis, which includes Israel, to stop Iran and push it out of the region. The most important thing for Israel,” Katz added, “is US support for preventing a territorial connection between Iran and Lebanon, through Iraq and Syria, which could create an increased missile threat to Israel and reestablish the northern front that will threaten Israel and require constant alertness.”