Donald Trump has ordered the US military to include Israel in its Central Command (CENTCOM), which oversees the Middle East, the Wall Street Journal has reported. The move comes in the final few days of the US President's term of office.
This could be critical given the deep differences between Israel and President-elect Joe Biden, who plans to return to the Iranian nuclear deal as well as adopt a more balanced approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is not clear if the incoming Biden administration will uphold the change in military responsibility.
"It is the crowning piece of Trump's efforts to stitch together disparate nations with a common enemy, following the signing of the Abraham Accords, in which Israel normalised relations with the UAE and Bahrain [last year]," noted the Military Times.
US military responsibility for Israel has long been allocated to its European command in Germany because Israel was largely rejected by most countries in the Middle East, where it would be difficult for the US to host Israeli generals and their counterparts, explained the Jerusalem Post.
However, there have been indications in recent years that the military was moving towards having CENTCOM play a bigger role in Israel. In 2018, now-retired General Joseph Votel was the first CENTCOM chief to make an official visit to Israel. In 2019, the current chief, General Kenneth McKenzie did the same.
Israel will become the 21st country under CENTCOM. It is joining because it is cooperating increasingly with the Gulf States in an alliance of convenience against Iran.