U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday in reply to a question on how the U.S. withdrawal from Syria will impact Israel that “we give Israel $4.5 billion” security every year, and so “Israel will be very good.”
Speaking to reporters on the way back from a trip to American troops stationed in Iraq, Trump said: “I spoke with Bibi,” he saidm, referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “I told Bibi, you know we give Israel $4.5 billion a year. And they are doing very well at defending themselves.”
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.”
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In an abrupt policy shift, Trump announced on December 19 that Washington would withdraw the roughly 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria, upending a pillar of American policy in the Middle East and alarming U.S. allies.
In an unannounced trip to Iraq, Trump on Wednesday defended his decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria, where they have been helping battle Islamic State militants.
“I think that a lot of people are going to come around to my way of thinking. It’s time for us to start using our head,” Trump told reporters at the Al Asad Air Base in western Iraq.
Speaking at a weekly cabinet meeting, 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.”
Netanyahu alluded Wednesday to Israel’s activity in the north, saying, ‘We are not prepared to accept the Iranian military entrenchment in Syria.” A day after an airstrike in Syria attributed to Israel, Netanyahu said at an Israel Air Force graduation ceremony: “We will act against it vigorously and continuously, including during the current period.”
The prime minister added that “no other country in the world has” some of the special capabilities developed by Israel Aerospace Industries. “In the history of the Middle East, there has never been aerial activity such as this. Aircraft ascend and descend, take off and land, and reach arenas both near and far, very far.”
Syrian state media reported Tuesday that Israeli aircraft struck an arms depot west of Syria’s capital city of Damascus from Lebanese airspace. According to reports, three Syrian soldiers were wounded in the attack that targeted Hezbollah depots.
A report in the American weekly Newsweek said several senior Hezbollah officials were wounded in the alleged attack.
Russia criticized the airstrikes on Wednesday, saying they had endangered civilian flights. An Israeli official said, however, that Israel alerted Russia about the airstrikes ahead of time.