The only indication that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recognizes the enormity of his strategic failure is his renewed emphasis in recent days on the traditional motto that “Israel will defend itself by itself.” In a speech at Thursday’s annual ceremony commemorating the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Netanyahu continued to pay lip service to “staunch” U.S. support but refrained from boasting of Washington’s ability to curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Instead, he said, the onus will fall on Israel and its army.
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Netanyahu has known since June that U.S. President Donald Trump’s last-minute decision to cancel a planned U.S. retaliation against Iran for the downing of its intelligence drone diluted America’s ability to deter Tehran from pursuing its nuclear ambitions. In terms of its reverberations across the Middle East, Trump’s nixing of the operation was the equivalent of Barack Obama’s ill-fated 2013 decision to refrain from retaliating against Syria for killing hundreds of its own civilians in a chemical weapons attack near Damascus.
– Haaretz Weekly Ep. 43
Haaretz Weekly Ep. 43Haaretz
Whatever doubts lingered, however, evaporated this week in the wake of Trump’s unconscionable announcement of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria’s northern border, which amounted to a green light for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to launch his long-awaited offensive against the Kurds. Trump not only abandoned a loyal ally, which paid for the U.S. campaign against Islamic State with the blood of its valiant soldiers, to a gruesome fate; he also proclaimed his desire to abandon the Middle East as a whole to the sinister designs of the forces that are in it and surrounding it.
But even when Trump is being viewed by both allies and enemies of Israel as a paper tiger, Netanyahu has no choice but to continue riding it, because, as the original Chinese saying goes, the alternative of getting off is far more daunting. It would mean confessing to his own abysmal failure.
Netanyahu bet the house on Trump, lauded him as Israel’s lord and savior and even used him as a central prop in two election campaigns this year. If, as many expect, Israelis are doomed to go to the ballot for the third time, it is unlikely that Netanyahu and his Likud Party will put up the same gigantic posters that featured a smiling Trump as Netanyahu’s best friend forever.