Donald Trump was pushed on to his back foot yesterday over his commitment to Israel. The US president has come under sharp criticism following last week’s surprise decision to withdraw American troops from Syria, which military officials and analysts have said endangers Israel’s security.
Trump, however has defended the decision, telling reporters yesterday, in reply to a question on how the US withdrawal from Syria will impact Israel, that the US gave Israel $4.5 billion every year and that Israel is “doing well”.
Speaking to reporters on the way back from a Christmas visit to US troops in Iraq, Trump revealed that he had spoken to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about his decision. “I spoke with Bibi,” he said, referring to Netanyahu. “I told Bibi, you know we give Israel $4.5 billion a year. And they are doing very well at defending themselves.”
Insisting on his pro-Israeli credentials he added: “I’m the one that moved the embassy to Jerusalem. I was the one who was willing to do that. So that’s the way it is – we are going to take great care of Israel. Israel is going to be good. We give Israel 4.5 billion a year. And we give frankly a lot more than that if you look at the books. They’ve been doing a good job.”
Trump also defended the decision to withdraw troops from Syria during his brief visit to Iraq. Speaking to American soldiers at the Al Asad Air Base west of Baghdad he said: “America shouldn’t be doing the fighting for every nation on earth, not being reimbursed in many cases at all. “If they want us to do the fighting,” he added, “they also have to pay the price and sometimes that’s also a monetary price so we’re not the suckers of the world.”
“We are no longer the suckers, folks,” he stressed, “we’re respected again as a nation.”
Trump also hinted that US troops in Iraq are positioned to counter any potential Daesh resurgence in Syria.
Netanyahu addressed Trump’s withdrawal from Syria on Sunday, saying that it “will not change our policy. We are standing steadfast on our red lines in Syria and everywhere else.” He added: “We will not be deterred from doing what is necessary,” reported Israeli newspaper Haaretz.