Huffington Post Greece – Apr. 8, 2019
The pro-Israeli ideology of Donald Trump after taking over the leadership of the White House was evident in his movements in the Middle East. The announcement of the transfer of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and its recognition as the legitimate capital of Israel were the first steps to support Israel’s position in the Middle East. As was the next step towards the abolition of the nuclear agreement with Iran and the imposition of financial sanctions on the Iranian regime, Israel’s largest enemy in the region and internationally. The support of the current US government is unlimited, even though it stems from the old American policy, but the speed of the moves and the prizes and Trump’s prizes in Tel Aviv are a unique phenomenon that did not exist with any American leader. This Trump policy did not come from the fact that Tel Aviv is an important strategic ally of Washington in the Middle East, but it is linked to his personal and ideological characteristics. It is well known that the Israeli lobby in Washington is one of the most powerful and has a significant impact on the domestic and international decisions of successive US governments. The peculiarity of the situation in the White House under Trump has made the satisfaction of Israeli lobby to the fullest extent at the top of his priorities.
The tension that prevailed in the White House was apparent from the early days of Trump’s assumption of power. Under the shadow of discussions about direct or indirect Russian support for his victory in the presidential elections in 2016, he had to find allies at home and abroad to support his survival. The start of the investigations led by Mueller on the role played by Russia in Trump’s presence at the White House and on their relations before and after the elections increased his the need to satisfy the strongest US lobby. On the other hand, despite being a Republican, his far-right conservative ideology has even led the Republicans’ hawks to a difficult test: full support for Trump, if he fails, would also be a failure for the party. This equation caused both McCain and Graham to follow the middle road; sometimes to support him and sometimes to stand against him. Thus, when the creation of the research committee under Mueller was announced, Trump selected its international line by announcing the transfer of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and sending clear messages to Israel on the preparation of the century deal to end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This was aimed at gaining the support of Washington’s Israeli lobby in the next presidential election as well as significant ideological coverage. As the announcement of the results of the Mueller survey approached, which Trump had repeatedly attacked and tried to stop it in any possible way, he strengthened his support in Tel Aviv. So they his four gifts to Netanyahu started from the beginning of 2019.
Developing his foreign policy in the run-up to the next presidential election, Trump’s stance on the US military presence in Syria was clear and was based on the fact that the high costs of this presence had to be cut off at the first opportunity. As the ISIS was defeated in Syria, a tweet of Trump at the end of last year announced the withdrawal of US troops from the country. The statement was a shock to Tel Aviv which completely rejected this withdrawal that would pave the way for Tehran and its allies in the region to consolidate their presence in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Israeli fears have pushed the Netanyahu government to intensify its contacts with Washington. Actually, the information coming from Washington confirms that Trump went back on and decided to keep 400 US troops in Syria to satisfy the Israeli ally. Trump made the first gift to Netanyahu by offering regional security protection to the state of Israel.
Given that Moscow supplied the Assad regime with the S-300 anti-missile system and the increasing tensions between Tehran and Moscow over the influence and control of Syria, the leadership of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards moved in a different line. They have increased their readiness and their troops in Syria, a move that has doubled the fears of Tel Aviv. Equally worrying was the escalation of the rhetoric of Iranian leaders who warned that there would be a reaction to any strike by Israel against their presence in Syria. This escalation forced Trump to give orders to the Pentagon to provide the Thaad missile system to Tel Aviv, his second gift.
The economic recession in Israel, which contradicts Netanyahu’s promises at the beginning of his term as prime minister, makes the construction of the Eastmed gas pipeline his unique opportunity in this area. As is well known, despite the repeated meetings between Tel Aviv and the leaders of Greece, Cyprus and Italy for the realization of this project, Cyprus had different opinion. Recent research on field 10 south of the island confirms the presence of large quantities of natural gas that make Cyprus an important source of the European south. The news that reached Tel Aviv on the possibility of Nicosia retreating from the Israeli program was the cause of Pompeo’s visit, instructed by Trump to support Tel Aviv. His presence at the meeting between Netanyahu, Tsipras and Anastasiades aimed to support the Israeli position. Indeed, my information confirms that Pompeo put under great pressure the leaders of Greece and Cyprus to accept Eastmed in return for the transfer from the pipeline of the Cypriot deposits. This was the third very important economic gift of the Trump to Netanyahu.
As the Israeli elections were approaching, and internal polls confirmed that Netanyahu falls short of two and more points of the representative of the Blue and White Coalition, Benny Gantz, former head of the Israeli armed forces, he had to make significant progress to raise his chances. And while the announcement of the results of the Mueller survey was awaited, one day before that, another important gift came from Trump: the American recognition of the Golan Heights as a legitimate part of Israel. This move will essentially not differentiate the legal status of Golan. However, Washington’s view has a significant influence on public opinion. This gift was most important to Netanyahu, who would be considered a national hero by many right-wingers.
In one way or another, over the last three months there has been a significant change in Netanyahu’s chances of victory in the upcoming elections. It can be said explicitly that Trump and his conservative government are behind this victory if it is achieved. But the challenges the next government will face, regardless of the winner, will be the toughest than the founding of the state of Israel. The tense situation with the Gaza Strip can not remain unresolved. The Iranian presence in Syria can not be ended by any political solution or agreement with Moscow. The only option at the table is the military. Hezbollah’s presence in Lebanon is increasing the risk day by day. Therefore, whoever wins the elections, the summer in the Middle East is expected to be particularly warm. Let’s prepare ourselves.