Israel Was Surprised by Trump's Decision to Withdraw From Syria, Allow Turkey to Start Operation

It is unclear if Israel was given any time to prepare for the White House's announcement, and sources tell Haaretz that the decision may have not been discussed by the security cabinet

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at a White House event on Friday, October 4, 2019.
T.J. KIRKPATRICK / NYT

Israel was surprised by U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw American forces from Syria and allow Turkey to begin a military operation in the area.

The decision, which was announced by the White House on Sunday night, caught senior officials in Israel's security and diplomatic ranks by complete surprise.

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Several sources also said that the American decision was also not seriously discussed, and possibly even wasn't discussed at all, during Sunday's security cabinet meeting, which focused on Iran and the Palestinian arena.   

As of Monday evening, no official response was offered from Israel to the American decision. Several Republican senators mentioned potential harm to Israel in their denunciations of the withdrawal decision. 

This is the second time in less than a year that an American decision on Syria captures Israel by surprise. In December, when Trump first announced his intention to withdraw forces from Syria, Israel was only informed about it 24 hours in advance. This time, it's not clear if Israel was provided even that time frame to prepare to the administration's announcement.

The White House on Monday did not respond to a question from Haaretz on the subject.

The Kurdish-Syrian forces have been leading in recent years the fight against Islamic State in northern Syria, a battle for which they received aid from Washington. Following a telephone conversation held on Sunday between Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it was decided that Turkey will enter the area and that ISIS prisoners will be handed over to Ankara's forces there. 

The White House's announcement is the most recent in a series of unpredictable steps by Trump, who is currently facing an impeachment inquiry against him led by the U.S. House of Representatives. It is likely that this decision was reached without consulting or even without informing American diplomats who are dealing with developments in Syria.