In the last day there have been more signals that the Trump presidency will make Benjamin Netanyahu very happy. The Israeli PM trilled over Trump on “60 Minutes,” of course, and Trump aides are returning the favor. Spokesperson Kellyanne Conway says Trump can’t stop talking about moving the embassy to Jerusalem, it’s a “very big priority” for him:
KC: That is a very big priority for this President-Elect, Donald Trump. He has made that, he made that very clear during the campaign, Hugh [Hewitt]. And as President-Elect, I’ve heard him repeat it several times privately, if not publicly. It’s something that our friends in Israel, our great friend in the Middle East, Israel, would appreciate, and it’s something that a lot of Jewish-Americans also have expressed their preference for that. It’s a great move, and it’s an easy thing for him to do based on how much he talked about, I think, in the debates, out on the stump, why it’s important to do. It’s one of those… People scratch their heads and wonder why it wasn’t done, Hugh, if anything.
Israeli centrist Yair Lapid applauded the idea in the Financial Times, which also quotes Mustafa Barghouti, the Palestinian leader, saying he was “shocked” by Conway’s comments.
“If the US takes such a decision, it will not only be violating international law, but violating a unanimously respected international principle that no country can annex another’s territory by force,” Mr Barghouti said.
Kellyanne Conway also said that Mike Flynn, the new national security adviser in waiting, is for the move, and so are evangelical Christians:
KC: The Evangelical Christians always have, for example, always have Israel on the top of their list when you ask them what’s most important to them. People think it’s just marriage, it’s just abortion, it’s just religious liberty. Of course, it’s all of that, but it’s also, it’s also a strong Middle East and protecting Israel. And I talked to General Flynn, the national security advisor-designee very recently. He said his top three priorities as NSA director will be government reform, and will be peace and security. And also, he told me stabilization in the Middle East. And that’s important for us all to realize you’ve got an NSA director who pinpointed that as one of the top three priorities as he sees it. And it goes with what you’re saying about moving the capital, certainly, but also just sending that message and tone and content, substantively, that this commander-in-chief and this president of the United States wants strength around the globe, but he will always put Americans first.
Israel can’t wait to break ground. Times of Israel:
Israel’s Foreign Ministry has already gotten involved in the matter, with officials in Jerusalem checking into when a possible site for the embassy, in an area that includes the Diplomat Hotel in Jerusalem’s Talpiot neighborhood, would be available, Channel 2 reported.
The Trump team’s advance work on moving the embassy is being conducted without coordination with the US State Department, and officials there “deeply dislike the idea,” the report said…
Al-Monitor says that Netanyahu is modeling Trumpian behavior and wants the modelling to go both ways; Trump should tear up the Iran deal:
Netanyahu said in the CBS interview that he will encourage Trump to revoke the nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers. According to the Israeli prime minister, there are several ways that this goal could be accomplished.
As of today, Netanyahu still believes that Trump meant what he said when he talked about revoking the nuclear agreement and moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem. Netanyahu has opened an offensive on two fronts. On the domestic side, he intends to try to rule “like Trump.” On the foreign affairs side, Netanyahu hopes that Trump will follow the lead of the Israeli prime minister.
Al-Monitor’s Ben Caspit points out that the understanding between Trump and Netanyahu is viewed with horror by most of American Jewry and is doing what settlements, house demolitions, and massacres could not do, it is alienating the body of American Jewish leadership from Israel.
Netanyahu has burned a lot of bridges to large swathes of American Judaism. The enthusiastic seal of approval he gave Trump in the CBS interview together with other declarations aroused great anger among much of American Jewry, which is strongly liberal and Democratic. Trump’s rise to power provoked anti-Semitism. Many American Jews feel that the earth is starting to burn under their feet. While they worriedly follow developments, along comes the prime minister of the Jewish state giving his seal of approval to the new administration while ignoring the emotional turmoil and distress of the American Jewish community.
Netanyahu hears the criticism but elegantly ignores it. As far as he is concerned, the yellow brick road to the White House, off limits to him in recent years, is now open, and taking it is in Israel’s supreme interest.
On “60 Minutes,” Netanyahu prepared that yellow brick road by bragging that he works well with Vladimir Putin. As does Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson of Exxon Mobil.
The Wall Street Journal’s Gerald Seib says that Trump has indicated a shift in Middle East policy towards a strong-man-stability doctrine. Judging from a recent speech on Trump’s thank you tour, Seib says Trump will undertake:
— An end to the effort to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, for the effort to throw out Mr. Assad is nothing if not an effort to topple a regime.
— A partnership with Russia in the region, for Russian President Vladimir Putin certainly has demonstrated he is “willing to join in the effort” to defeat Islamic State in Syria.
— A warmer relationship with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi…
— A policy toward Iran that doubtless will be hostile and include an attempt to dissolve the Obama-negotiated deal on nuclear arms, but one that won’t include regime change in Tehran as an explicit goal.
And of course Netanyahu fits right in. Liberal Jews aren’t happy. The National Jewish Democratic Council has weighed in that Tillerson‘s “affinity for Putin and business dealings with some of Israel’s worst enemies adds to the growing list of fears for supporters of the US-Israel relationship.”
And in another sign that the Jewish community is dividing openly, J Street issued a very strong statement against the reported choice for deputy secretary of state, neoconservative warhorse John Bolton, as a “reckless” idea:
J Street believes John Bolton is a completely inappropriate choice for Deputy Secretary of State, or any role related to America’s relations with the rest of the world…
Bolton’s long track-record shows to him to be hostile to the notion of diplomacy itself. He is an unabashed advocate for premature, unnecessary and dangerous use of military force in the Middle East and around the globe.
Bolton was one of the earliest champions of “regime change” in Iraq, and helped promote false information that led to the disastrous US invasion of that country, a decision he continues to defend. He has applied the same attitude and approach to Iran, publicly advocating in 2015 to “Bomb Iran” and insisting that diplomacy could never succeed in preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, even as negotiations to defang Iran’s nuclear program without firing a shot were just weeks away from reaching fruition.
Even as the nuclear agreement with Iran has been implemented and deemed a success by US security officials and many members of the Israeli security establishment, Bolton has opposed it and called on the President-Elect to abrogate the agreement in his first days in office. That step would undo a major diplomatic accomplishment, isolate the US from our allies and potentially put Iran back on the path to a nuclear weapon and the United States again on the path to another costly war….
In addition to his extreme and out-of-touch policy views, Bolton demonstrated during his time as American ambassador to the United Nations that he is incapable of behaving diplomatically or upholding the reputation and foreign policy interests of the United States. His tenure in that position is widely viewed as an embarrassing and damaging period for our country, and has been widely denounced by American diplomats who have served under both Republican and Democratic administrations.