Israeli Officials Are ‘Alarmed’ by US Withdrawal From Afghanistan
Quitting forever occupations? Unthinkable
Israeli officials have reacted with “alarm” to the images of the United States leaving Afghanistan, arguing that the U.S. has empowered Israel’s enemies, according to an expert observer. Some say the withdrawal shows why Israel can never leave the occupied Palestinian territories.
Bottom line– The American “Forever war” is still getting raves in Israel.
Israeli government leaders have been careful not to be very vocal about that view. Though Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said two days ago that the U.S. withdrawal could “hugely” impact the battle with al-Qaeda.
Officials speaking privately are more forthcoming. Neri Zilber, an Israeli journalist associated with the Israel lobby group the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told the Israel Policy Forum yesterday that he had heard “surprise, shock, and alarm” from ordinary Israelis.
“Israelis don’t like to regard their closest ally, the United States, as being defeated, as being almost humiliated. So that was the general vibe. You had Israelis texting me… quite shocked to see what happened– as I think all of us were.”
“Israeli officials also viewed it with a bit of alarm but not hysteria,” Zilber said. “There is concern in Israeli quarters about what it might mean for Israel’s enemies and America’s enemies.” Israelis worry that the withdrawal will embolden Iran and Hezbollah, he said.
“The whole notion of deterrence and what lessons Iran and ISIS and other bad actors in the Middle East closer to Israel draw from the US Afghanistan story and the 20 year campaign that just ended .. it will be interesting to see if that’s the lesson that bad actors actually draw from Afghanistan.”
The same notion of “bad actors” and enemies was voiced today on the Israeli channel, i24 News. Retired Colonel Kobi Maron said the American withdrawal “projects weakness” and that Iranian officials “sense a lack of determination” on America’s part.
“Those tough pictures [from the Kabul airport] affect Israeli deterrence and American deterrence across the Middle East.”
These claims about the effectiveness of military prowess also touch on Israel’s 54-year-long occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and Gaza.
Zilber said that the U.S. withdrawal and the restoration of Taliban control of the country has become a “talking point of the Israeli right…We can’t agree for such an arrangement with the West Bank… Withdrawal from the West Bank should never be countenanced, considered seriously.”
Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu made this point last month.
An extremist Islamic regime has conquered Afghanistan and will transform it into a terrorist state which will endanger world peace.
“We would achieve the same result if, God forbid, we handed over control of the homeland to the Palestinians. They would establish a terrorist state in Judea and Samaria.”
Netanyahu isn’t be the only one. The Bennett government is committed to opposing a Palestinian state. And Israeli president Isaac Herzog, a darling of liberal Zionists, lately toured West Bank Jewish outposts and praised them as representing the essence of Jewish history.
Zilber rejects the Afghanistan analogy, in part because the Palestinian Authority shares the Israeli government’s objective of fighting Islamic Jihad and Hamas in the West Bank.
The Bennett government has adopted a policy different from the Netanyahu government, of trying to make life better economically for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, he said. That includes 15,000 work permits for Palestinians to work in Israel and family reunification permits for Palestinian families divided by the occupation between the West Bank and Gaza.
The American government is pushing this agenda with the hope that such “confidence building measures might be a stepping stone to renewed and actual peace talks,” Zilber said. Not any time soon, of course…