President Trump’s removal of U.S. forces from northern Syria and his failure to respond militarily to Iran’s attack on Saudi infrastructure are two recent examples of an incremental American pivot away from the Middle East, opening up favorable conditions for its strategic competitors, including China and Russia. While President Trump has backtracked somewhat by deploying a residual force near the oil fields of eastern Syria and by sending troops to Saudi Arabia, this has not fully mitigated the damage done. As Trump dithered, Russian President Vladimir Putin brokered a deal with Turkish President Recep Erdogan whereby Turkey will retain exclusive control over areas of the Syrian border captured in its invasion, and Turkish, Russian, and Syria government forces will patrol the remaining border region.

With this deal in place, Russia is now firmly situated as the main powerbroker in Syria as the Syrian Kurds have cut deals with embattled leader Bashar al-Assad – deals also guaranteed by Putin. There aren’t yet any clear signs America would abandon Israel the way it abandoned the Kurds in Syria. However, the United States is withdrawing from the region – it has weaned itself off of Middle Eastern  oil and its population is naturally fatigued from wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, both of which cost much in blood and treasure. Israel needs to consider a new Middle East framework that may emerge from the power vacuum America is creating.

Allies and foes alike will likely interpret American inaction as an opportunity to be less restrained in pursuing their perceived national interests in the region. The once promising united front against Iran – led by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel – has deteriorated. The Gulf states are now open to diplomatic efforts to resolve their myriad disputes with the Iranian government, leaving Israel alone and thus more vulnerable to Iranian aggression. Recently, Putin visited both KSA and UAE, the first such trip in 12 years, in order to cultivate economic and security relations, including to discuss the potential sale of its coveted S-400 air defense system. This last element is particularly significant given the failure of the S-400’s American counterpart to stop the Iranian cruise missile and drone attack on Saudi oil infrastructure.

Even if America does not retreat entirely from the region, President Trump has eroded America’s credibility and predictability, contributing to uncertainty and possible destabilization moving forward. America’s abdication of leadership in the Middle East should compel the Israeli government to explore recalibrating its foreign relations in an increasingly multipolar Middle East. This is especially true given Trump’s strategic failure in applying what he calls “maximum pressure” on Iran. Without a credible threat of military force, for example, in response to Iran’s maneuvers in the Straits of Hormuz to threaten maritime commerce and the oil markets, such a strategy is practically meaningless. Sanctions alone will neither bring down the Iranian regime nor lead it to negotiations over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and its support of terrorists abroad.

To the contrary, sanctions by themselves have emboldened Iran, which may attack Saudi Arabia again or even Israel. Iran and its proxies in Lebanon and Iraq, including  Hizballah and the Shi’a militias known as the Hashd al-Shaabi, have been struck repeatedly by Israel, and Iran claims Israel and the Saudis attacked one of its oil tankers. Despite Trump’s loose talk of a potential mutual defense treaty between America and Israel (something most Israeli and American defense officials don’t even want), the Jewish state should prepare itself for self-reliance and conflict management through Russian, not American, interlocutors on the Iranian front. Israel may also need to rely on Russia, as opposed to America, in deescalating tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, where Turkish and Israeli natural gas interests are quickly colliding. While Turkey remains a NATO member, it  has reoriented itself towards Russia in recent years, as evinced by the recent security zone agreement in Syria.

Fortunately, Israel, and in particular acting Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and previous defense minister and current head of Yisrael Beiteinu, Avigdor Lieberman, have seen the writing on the wall and have laid much of the groundwork for a positive relationship with Russia, and Putin in particular. Israel has also allowed the Chinese to manage the Haifa port. Israel may find it advantageous to continue improving relations with America’s strategic competitors, but in a way that won’t disrupt the “special relationship” with America, which supplies Israel with billions of dollars in annual aid and helps to preserve Israel’s qualitative military edge over its neighbors. A push too hard in the direction of Russia could have blowback in America, where Israel is already becoming a wedge issue within the democratic party. To wit, Democratic presidential candidates are even now questioning aid to Israel should it go decisively down a one-state path. As Israel proceeds to balance its patronage from global powers like the United States (under President Trump) as well as China and Russia, it should always be aware of their foreign policy strategies, whereby each pursues its national interests without an eye toward long term alliances but rather through discrete areas of cooperation with other states. For China and Russia, that includes states like Iran, which seek Israel’s destruction. Therefore, Israel should not box itself in when dealing with any of these states individually but should instead leverage its relations with each as an effort in hedging and optimizing results.

President Trump seems to have built a strong personal relationship with Netanyahu. Trump has also supported the current government politically, moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing the Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights and creating a an apparent peace plan tilted in Israel’s favor – which remains undisclosed and may never be released . Whether Trump’s support for this right-wing government is actually in Israel’s best long-term interests is a topic for another day. However, his treatment of other allies and foes during the last few months should give Israeli leaders cause for immediate concern, and may prompt Israel to deepen its relationships with America’s rivals in the Middle East.