Beyond the Terrorist Attack

Beyond the Terrorist Attack

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

The tragic shooting on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem today of two Israeli policemen by Israeli Arab terrorists was only another example of the pointlessness of all the random killings which persist while Israeli, Palestinian, and international leaders are unwilling or unable to move any semblance of a peace process forward. For Israel, tragic though these recent killings are, they do represent a truly existential problem.  There is looming, however, a significant regional issue which may well present Israel with a more significant challenge. 

It is still unclear as to what kind of understanding—if any—Putin and Trump reached in Hamburg concerning close liaison and cooperation in Syria. Aside from the atmospherics, and an understanding about a cease-fire along the Jordanian border, there was little indication of increased cooperation in the continuing tense war in Syria. Whatever Trump said about Syria is not credible without the Pentagon’s explanation or one from H.W. McMaster. They, however, were not in the room and rely on the President and Tillerson for their interpretation.  

This meeting points to the nub of the problem concerning America’s national security policy.  It appears that in the Putin meeting Secretary Tillerson was probably only a note taker. It is generally understood that Trump controls meetings in which he participates with no questioning or modifications from staff. Trump is his own deal maker, yet he has limited comprehension or even interest in all the various details.  So much of foreign policy is colored with nuance and subtlety. This is the work done by specialists at State, Defense, and Intelligence. Putin can make his offer and Trump is unlikely to expand the discussion because he probably is not conversant in all the details.

The cease-fire in south Syria is considered by most to be a rather minor matter in the war. The issues of CBW, the future of the Assad Government, pursuit of ISIS, no-fly zones, etc., all remain with no comment to date. Trump believes he came away with a success but left having achieved nothing significant.

The Assad Government, Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah appear to be satisfied at the moment. Trump ought to consider whether ISIS has been permanently degraded in Syria? What happens next and what about the anti-Assad rebel opposition?  What will now be the role of the U.S., with or without Russia? 

These are the questions which Israel, among others, requires answers. The united group now apparently in control in Syria poses a serious potential threat to Israel in the Golan Heights. In addition, this coalition would not impede a more aggressive posture by Hezbollah—now with a much expanded missile arsenal—to operate in Lebanon without constraints.

While continuing to try to control violence, it is this situation on which Bibi should focus. He ought not be so confident that Trump will sort out these issues effectively for Israel’s security.  

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