After days of intensive efforts, by high-ranking Israeli officials, aimed at convincing the Trump Administration to withhold an American military withdrawal from Israel’s northern neighbor, Syria; U.S. President Donald Trump announced his decision to end the U.S. military mission in the war-torn-country – despite the growing influence of Russia and Iran in the region. After initially posting a statement alluding to his decision, President Trump released a televised announcement. He said, “We’ve been fighting for a long time in Syria. I’ve been president for almost two years and we’ve really stepped it up and we have won against ISIS. We’ve beaten them, and we’ve beaten them badly. We’ve taken back the land and now It’s time for our troops to come back home.” / “So our boys, our young women, our men, they’re all coming back and they’re coming back now.” President Trump’s decision to immediately withdraw the U.S. military from Syria was reportedly made in contrast to the recommendations of U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Pentagon officials. Some Pentagon officials voiced fear the U.S.-backed SDF forces, which were Washington’s key ally in the battle against the Islamic State, would now be left on their own to face hostilities from the triple threat of the Syrian army and the Islamic Republic’s Revolutionary Guards to the south, Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias to the east and the Turkish army to the north.
Meanwhile in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said following the announcement that President Trump informed him of the decision a couple of days ago, and that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo followed up on the developments pertaining to the decision. While the Israeli leader was clearly unhappy by the American decision, he underscored that Israel will study the consequences of the U.S. withdrawal. Furthermore, he noted, that the Trump Administration assured him that they have alternative ways to preserve Washington’s influence in the area. According the Israeli Prime Minister, “I spoke two days ago with U.S. President Donald Trump and yesterday with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The U.S. administration told me it was the President’s intention to pull their forces from Syria. They made clear that they have other ways to preserve their influence in the area. This is of course an American decision. We will study the timeline, how it will be done and of course the implications for us. In any case, we will make sure to maintain Israel’s security and protect ourselves from the arena.”
While Prime Minister Netanyahu was cautious not to criticize President Trump’s decision, many Israeli officials did not hold-back and warned that the American withdrawal from Syria pertains to a milestone event that threatens to change the regional balance of power and to create a new reality on the ground that is not necessarily good for Israel. Among others, Israeli Construction Minister Yoav Galant, who formerly served as an IDF General, emphasized that the American move will force Israel to “make an increased effort to block the Shi’ite storm in the Middle East.” Another vocal critic of the move is former Prime Minister, Defense Minister and IDF Chief of Staff Ehud Barak, who was quoted as saying: “Trump is abandoning Syria and the Iranians are celebrating… Trump does not work for (Netanyahu), and neither does Putin. It is all a deception. Only Israel is responsible for its future and its fate.”