Netanyahu attempts to calm fears over US exit from Syria

At Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Netanyahu reiterated that Israel will continue to act against Iran’s efforts in Syria and that cooperation with the U.S. will continue in many areas.

By World Israel News Staff

Israel’s efforts against Iran in Syria will continue notwithstanding the anticipated American pullout from that country, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday morning.

“The decision to take out the 2,000 American soldiers from Syria will not change our consistent policy,” he stated . “We will continue to act to prevent Iran’s effort to militarily entrench itself in Syria, and if needed we will even increase our activities there.”

Furthermore, “I would like to reassure those who are concerned. Our cooperation with the U.S. will continue in full and finds expression in many areas: operations, intelligence and many other security spheres.”

U.S. President Donald Trump reportedly made the snap decision to withdraw last Wednesday during a call with Turkish leader Recep Erdogan against the advice of his top aides and without consulting his national security team or allies. Trump said that the only reason the troops were there was to fight ISIS and that the victory over the terrorist group enabled him to bring the troops home within three months.

Most experts – and several allies, including France – have rejected Trump’s declaration of victory, saying that ISIS still presents a clear and present danger in Syria even though it only retains one one percent of the country’s territory.

As a result of the surprise move, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Brett McGurk, Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, have resigned, with Mattis saying that it would be better for the president to appoint someone who agrees with him on policy.

Unnamed Israeli officials have criticized the hasty decision, with one senior minister calling it a “horrifying moral and a bad diplomatic step.”

Earlier on Sunday, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, in conversation with IDF Radio, acknowledged that a U.S. pullout “does not help Israel” and in fact “strengthens Erdogan, an anti-Semitic war criminal who carries out massacres of the Kurdish people, and does so with a wink from the international community.” She stressed, however, that Israel “will still know how to defend ourselves after this withdrawal, if it takes place.”

“It’s true this opens more avenues for passage between Iran and Syria, but just as we know how to defend ourselves now, we’ll know how to deal with the new situation,” she stated.

“It’s certainly not a good thing,” she said, noting that “the president of the United States, Donald Trump, is a great friend of Israel, and this administration is, I think, the friendliest administration there’s ever been.”

Similarly, IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, in an address at the IDC Herzliya conference on Sunday, said the withdrawal ” is a significant event, but it should not be overstated.”

On Thursday, Netanyahu’s office said that the prime minister had spoken to President Trump about Syria and “discussed ways to continue cooperation between Israel and the United States against the Iranian aggression” even after the pullout, adding that Israeli efforts will have “the full support and backing of the U.S.”