Former prime minister Ehud Barak (Labor) expressed the desire for the United States to maintain a presence in Syria Saturday after US-backed forces struck Assad regime positions overnight. But US President Donald Trump wants out of the Syrian civil war, and Israel doesn't have the clout to persuade the Americans to act differently, he said.
Barak, who served as defense minister under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from 2009 to 2013, praised the American, British and French strikes on Syrian chemical weapons facilities, dinging former US president Barack Obama for his less interventionist approach to Syria. The attack met the goal of delivering a message of resolve to Bashar Assad and his allies, but it will not necessarily prevent future use of chemical weapons. Ultimately, the responsibility for handling the civil war rests with regional powers, and not with the US or Russia, he said.
"Trump sees the American citizens' desire not to remain entrenched in the Middle East," Barak said at a cultural event at the Holon Theater. "Trump is not the most consistent person in the White House, but the Syrian issue did not start with him. Those who left Syria before, missed the opportunity to act on chemical weapons. Obama left the door open for Putin. Putin knows how to act and he does so quickly."
"Putin does not work for us. He works based on Russia's interests," He continued. "It would have been better for Israel if the US remained a presence in Syria, but we don't have any real cause to criticize the Americans or force them to act differently."
Former Israeli Ambassador to Washington Michael Oren (Kulanu) more directly lauded Trump.
"The US-led strike is vital to the security of Israel, the Middle East and the entire world," he said. "It proves that Trump is ready to stand firm on his red lines regarding the use of chemical weapons by the tyrant Assad. It is a sharp and clear message — the US will not let him continue doing so."
The strikes sent an "important signal" to Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, according to senior cabinet minister Yoav Gallant (Kulanu).
"The use of chemical weapons crosses a red line that humanity can no longer tolerate," Gallant wrote on Twitter.