President Donald Trump said that Israel would be “in big trouble” without Saudi Arabia, expanding on previous statements in which he linked the interests of both U.S. allies.
Trump revisited the issue Thursday during a Thanksgiving Day telephone call with members of the military from his home at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
“The fact is that Saudi Arabia is tremendously helpful in the Middle East,” the president said. “If we didn’t have Saudi Arabia, we wouldn’t have a big base, we wouldn’t have any reason probably … I mean … if you look at Israel, Israel would be in big trouble without Saudi Arabia. So what does that mean, Israel is going to leave? You want Israel to leave? We have a very strong ally in Saudi Arabia.”
Trump made the remark in responding to a question about reports that the CIA believes that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammad Bin Salman, ordered the assassination in October of the U.S.-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Trump said this week that he would not impose harsher penalties on the crown prince over the death and dismemberment of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist.
Earlier this week, Trump cited Israel in explaining why he won’t compromise relations with Saudi Arabia.
“They have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran,” he said of Saudi Arabia. “The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has signalled support for Bin Salman in recent weeks, seeing in Saudi Arabia an ally against Iran.