President Donald Trump (AP/Andrew Harnik) (AP/Andrew Harnik)
Donald Trump

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“They’re doing very well defending themselves, if you take a look,” Trump said of Israel’s defense. 

By: United with Israel Staff and AP

President Donald Trump on Wednesday arrived in Iraq at night to greet US service members for the holidays.

Addressing troops at the al-Asad Air Base in western Iraq, Trump defended his decision to pull 2,000 US troops from neighboring Syria, declaring of the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group: “We’ve knocked them out. We’ve knocked them silly.”

“I made it clear from the beginning that our mission in Syria was to strip ISIS of its military strongholds,” said Trump, who wore an olive green bomber-style jacket as chants of “USA! USA!” greeted him and speakers blared Lee Greenwood’s song “God Bless the USA.”

“We’ll be watching ISIS very closely,” said Trump, who was joined by first lady Melania Trump. “We’ll be watching them very, very closely, the remnants of ISIS.”

When asked by reporters how the move would affect Israel’s security, Trump said “well, I don’t see it. I spoke with Bibi,” he said, referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “I told Bibi. And, you know, we give Israel $4.5 billion a year. And they’re doing very well defending themselves, if you take a look.”

“So that’s the way it is,” Trump said, according to a White House transcript.

“We’re going to take good care of Israel. Israel is going to be good. But we give Israel $4.5 billion a year. And we give them, frankly, a lot more money than that, if you look at the books — a lot more money than that. And they’ve been doing a very good job for themselves,” he added.

The president also used his decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as an example of his commitment to Israel.

“We’ll always be there for Israel,” he said. “I’m the one that moved the embassy to Jerusalem. You know, nobody was willing to do that. All these presidents came and went. They all said they will do it. They never did it.”

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

“For decades we have been dealing with this front alone, and the IDF has acted independently in this area,” Eizenkot said. “We are working in the interests of the State of Israel, and the decision was made when the relationship between the IDF and the US army is at its height.”

On Thursday, Netanyahu’s office said that the prime minister had spoken to 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 US.”

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