Will Trump Back Israel in the Next War?
Analysts on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean — and of the political spectrum — have been scrutinizing every syllable uttered by members of the new administration in Washington to determine whether US President Donald Trump is as good a friend to the Jewish state as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hopes.
So far, four issues have been discussed and debated ad nauseam: US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley’s pronouncement that her government would not abandon Israel at the world body, as the Obama administration did when it enabled the passage of Security Council Resolution 2234, which deemed all Jewish presence beyond the 1949 Armistice Lines illegal; the nomination of David Friedman — a settlements sympathizer who supports relocating the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — as US ambassador to Israel; a recent Trump administration warning that Israeli settlement construction could be potentially harmful to peace negotiations toward Palestinian statehood (the “two-state solution”); and the omission of any mention of Jews in the statement issued by the administration on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Where the bigger picture is concerned, Israel is observing Team Trump’s behavior toward Iran, telling Tehran that its saber-rattling and ballistic missile tests will incur serious consequences; imposing new sanctions on the mullah-led regime; and openly weighing the designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization.
But the one question that has not been raised is how the Trump administration will respond when Israel is forced to go to war, yet again, with Hamas in Gaza and/or with Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Middle East experts have been predicting, albeit cautiously, that neither scenario is likely in the near future, due to the internal difficulties each terrorist group is currently experiencing. Hezbollah is deeply entrenched in the Syrian civil war, and has already lost many of its men in the fighting. Hamas is suffering from a loss of income, as a number of European countries begin to reconsider the process of transferring cash earmarked for the rehabilitation of Gaza, which ends up paying for the rebuilding and enhancement of tunnel and rocket infrastructure.
Recent developments indicate, however, that more serious military action — in addition to retaliatory IDF moves following errant or aimed fire on Israel from just beyond its southern and northern borders — may be unavoidable.
This week, a Haifa court ordered the temporary closure of the city’s 12,000-ton ammonia tank, pending further discussion on Sunday. This was after the municipality requested that it be shut down completely, following a report indicating that in any explosion, tens of thousands of people in the area would be killed. And since Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah threatened in February to attack it, residents of the region have been living in fear.
Meanwhile, over the past few days, Hezbollah has been engaging in a crowd-funding campaign on social media hashtagged “Money for jihad is a must,” with a video appeal featuring fighters and clerics asking people to donate to the “resistance.”
Though this is clearly a result of the organization’s dwindling resources, caused by its extended stint in Syria, Nasrallah’s deputy, Naim Qassem, said in an interview with the Lebanese newspaper Al-Binaa that the group’s message to Israel remains the same: “We are willing to pay the price of the conflict. Are you?”
Hamas, too, has been busy threatening Israel online. In a new music video — titled “Zionist, You Will Die in Gaza” — the terrorist organization that reigns supreme in the enclave lodged between Israel and Egypt warns, “A rocket will come to you, Zionist, wherever you live. You will die sleeping, awake or on the mountain. I will make you drink from the glass of death; what a bitter taste.”
It would appear, then, that war is on the horizon.
During Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s battle against Hamas in Gaza in the summer of 2014, then-President Barack Obama said that though the Jewish state had a right to defend itself, it should exercise “restraint.”
In a meeting at his New York office with Jewish journalists during the US presidential primaries, Trump was asked whether he agreed with the statement — made by Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders to the editorial board of the Daily News — that Israel had used “disproportionate force” in Gaza.
“When missiles are being shot into your country, I don’t know what ‘disproportionate force’ is supposed to mean,” he replied.
It is a matter of when — not if — this attitude in relation to Israel and its enemies is put to the test. So far, Netanyahu, who will be convening with Trump on Wednesday in the White House, has good reason to believe that Obama’s successor will pass it with flying colors.
Ruthie Blum is the managing editor of The Algemeiner.