Opinion

Israel Will Have to Give on the Palestinian Front for U.S. Help Against Iran in Syria

“If you give, you’ll get” – that’s the essence of Trump’s policy

U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the nation on the situation in Syria April 13, 2018 at the White House in Washington, DC.
MANDEL NGAN/AFP

The attacks against the chemical weapons facilities in Syria over the weekend demonstrates that France and Great Britain take U.S. President Donald Trump much more seriously that do his domestic critics. This underestimation has already caused the president’s opponents the very high price of his rise to power, and it attests to a far-reaching misunderstanding of his policy. The attack also proves that Trump is capable of forming an international coalition relatively quickly, with the goal of categorically prohibiting the use of weapons of mass destruction.

After Trump cooperated with the expulsion of the Russian diplomats, in response to the poisoning of the Russian spy in Great Britain, the Western democracies’ joining of the bombing in Syria in response to the use of chemical weapons was inevitable. The operation was limited, in order to make it clear to Russia that the West is not interested in a war against it. Already as a candidate for the U.S. presidency, Trump announced that as far as he’s concerned, Russian President Vladimir Putin is all right. This calming, conciliatory message was also transmitted in the tweet he posted last week. He understands that Russia is too weak to endanger the United States, and only has to be warned against too much unruly behavior in the neighborhood. Parallel to the symbolic slap on the hand to Putin and to Syrian President Bashar Assad, Trump is once again promising the Russians that it’s better to be his friend.

As opposed to Russia, Iran is apparently directly in Trump’s sights, just like North Korea. And just as he is informing the Russians that he has no quarrel with them, only with Iran, he is doing the same in regard to China. His goal at the moment is to limit the nuclear danger from North Korea. Because a very large percentage of China’s economy is dependent on exports to and investments in the United States, Trump is hinting that if China wants to de-escalate the trade war with the United States, it will have to try harder to stop North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. As Benjamin Netanyahu used to tell the Palestinians, “If you give, you’ll get” – that’s the essence of Trump’s policy.

Then there’s us. Trump declares he is leaving Syria. And what about Israel’s problems with Iran and Syria? Here the president’s message is repeated: If you give, you’ll get. If Israel wants American intervention, it will have to pay in an uncomfortable coin: an agreement on a Palestinian state. That’s what the Saudis are demanding; they’re ready to cooperate with Israel, but they can’t do so without a solution for the Palestinians.

Trump is interested in the huge acquisitions deals with Saudi Arabia, and he knows that only extortion will work: If Israel wants American assistance in Syria against Iran, including preventing a possible entanglement with Russia (and if it doesn’t want the Saudis to step up their nuclearization), it will have to come to an agreement with the Palestinians.

The deal now depends on the Israeli government. Trump is apparently willing to take the nuclear issue upon himself, which is also the case regarding North Korea. But if Israel refuses to contribute its part to the deal with the Palestinians, it will bear sole responsibility for a serious clash with Iran and Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon.

The government must now decide: Is it more important to continue to expand the settlements in the West Bank (and cause a renewed mobilization of Saudi Arabia and Egypt against Israel), or is it interested in preventing a war in the north and removing the Iranian threat from our borders. Trump is presenting it with a clear-cut choice.