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Trump may kill Netanyahu with kindness

Israel/Palestine
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While the United States presidential election bitterly divided the American public, most Israelis were sanguine about the race. Both candidates – Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton – were keen to end eight years of icy mistrust between Barack Obama, the outgoing president, and Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Israeli prime minister should – at least on paper – be happier with Trump.

Netanyahu, elected four times, has always faced off with Democratic incumbents. Now he has not only a right-wing Republican in the White House but a Republican-dominated Congress too.

Standing guard over the relationship will be Sheldon Adelson, a US casino magnate who is Netanyahu’s most vocal supporter. It will not be lost on Trump that the billionaire is one of the Republican Party’s main financiers.

Netanyahu was among the first to congratulate Trump by phone. The US president-elect reciprocated by inviting him for talks “at the first opportunity”. And yet Netanyahu is reported to be anxious about a Trump White House. Why?

It is certainly not because of Trump’s stated policies on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

He has backed moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – a move that, if implemented, would make the US the first western state to recognise the city as Israel’s capital. It would effectively rubber-stamp Israel’s illegal annexation of East Jerusalem, the expected capital of a Palestinian state.

Previous Republican candidates have made the same promise, but Trump looks like the first who might carry it through. A nervous Palestinian leadership warned at the weekend they would “make life miserable” for him if he did.

A Trump policy statement issued just before the election could have been written by Netanyahu himself.

It dismissed a two-state solution as “impossible”, blaming the Palestinian leadership for rewarding terrorism and educating children in “hatred of Israel and Jews”. It suggested that Israel would have a free hand to expand the settlements.

There were hints too that US military aid might be increased above the record $38 billion over 10 years recently agreed by Obama. And the statement proposed a crackdown on all boycott activities, even those targeting settlements. “The false notion that Israel is an occupier should be rejected,” it concluded.

So why the nerves in Tel Aviv?

However hawkish Netanyahu appears to outsiders, he is relatively moderate compared to the rest of his Likud party and his government coalition partners.

The prime minister has won favor at home by presenting himself as an embattled leader, but one best placed to look out for Israel’s interests against a hostile White House. Now with the battlefield gone, Netanyahu’s armor risks making him look both clumsy and surplus to requirements.

There is another danger. Trump’s advisers on the Israel-Palestine conflict are closer to settler leader Naftali Bennett, the education minister, than Netanyahu. After Trump’s victory, Bennett crowed: “The era of a Palestinian state is over.”

The Israeli prime minister could find himself outflanked by Bennett if the Trump administration approves settler demands to annex most or all of the West Bank.

Netanyahu’s realization of his Greater Israel dream may prove pyrrhic.

Israel’s complete takeover of the West Bank could trigger an irreversible crisis with Europe; the collapse of the Palestinian Authority, forcing the military and financial burden of the occupation back on to Israel; and a full-blown intifada from Palestinians, battering Netanyahu’s security credentials.

The creation of a Greater Israel could also damage Israel by reframing the Palestinian struggle as a fight for equal rights in a single state. Comparisons with earlier struggles, against South African apartheid and Jim Crow in the US deep south, would be hard to counter.

But Netanyahu has an additional reason to fear an imminent Trump presidency.

There were few US politicians Netanyahu had a better measure of than Hillary Clinton. He knew her Middle East policy positions inside out and had spent years dealing with her closest advisers.

Trump, by contrast, is not only an unknown quantity on foreign policy but notoriously mercurial. His oft-stated isolationist impulses and his apparent desire to mend fences with Russia’s Vladimir Putin could have unpredictable implications for the Middle East and Israel.

He might tear up last year’s nuclear accord with Iran, as Netanyahu hopes, but he might just as equally disengage from the region, giving more leeway to Iran and Russia. The effect on the international inspections regime in Iran or the proxy wars raging in Israel’s backyard, in Syria and elsewhere, would be hard to predict.

In short, Trump could kill Netanyahu with kindness, turn Israel into a pariah state in western capitals and leave it exposed strategically.

In addition, becoming the poster child of a controversial and possibly short-lived Trump presidency could rapidly transform Israel into a deeply divisive issue in US politics.

The adage – be careful what you wish for – may yet come to haunt Netanyahu.

A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.

Jonathan Cook
About Jonathan Cook

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His new website is jonathan-cook.net.

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20 Responses

  1. DaBakr
    DaBakr
    November 15, 2016, 12:09 pm

    either way however, most mw commentators will be pleased and content to think of B.N. in any state of turmoil, discomfort or anxiousness.

    in other points:
    israels credit rating raised to a+ by fitch-and in line with other 2 credit giants SP and moodys. no economic stats pointing to bds having any effect other then the ones the bds’rs feel in their emotional core. [evidently].

    of course bn has to be circumspect…he , along with many past israeli pm’s have had to deal with the ‘devil-they-know’ strategy vs. ‘the devil-they-don’t’. he held his nose and dealt with morsi , has good to mediocre dealings with putin&co. and tolerates erdogan for the time being. many more israelis then just the far right parties favored trump if only because they believed-despite her hawkish come-on to israel and its security-would only be a continuation of long standing obama/g.w.bush/clinton/g.bush policy.

    this piece strikes as nothing more then hoping that netanyahu is portrayed as miserable-despite being elected more then any other isreali pm. for those that lament netanyahus reactionary politics sometimes the status quo is exactly what is required to hold the general peace with occasional flair-ups together. when the time is right for israel to make big moves- perhaps another leader will take over from bn. or, perhaps trump will present bn with alternatives other then trading strategic , historic and legal settlements for absolutely nothing concrete. actuallly give up the most holy of holy places for jews to mollify muslims who already retain control of their 2 most holy places as well as their 4th, 5th, 6th 7th and 8th holy places as well. Thta is the defininition of absurd. just ‘promises’ of peace with absolutely NO mechanism to assure that israels neighbors are not infiltrated or overthrown by terrortistic forces like Daesh , Hezbollah, Hamas who are dedicated to tearing down the zionist nation, completely and replacing it with a muslim/arab majority with jews as a ‘protected’ minority. If there was ever a more ridiculous and absurd idea-that a strong and thriving nation would stand down and turn its full assets over to a corrupt org supported by people who may want to ‘live a normal life w/o israeli occupation’ but with no way to guarantee they will not collaborate with (or be toppled by) outside forces in neighboring states looking to expand ‘caliphates’, dynasties, theocracies and which are decidedly hostile to the presence of a jewish nation in ‘their’ midst.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      November 15, 2016, 12:40 pm

      I hear muttering.

    • eljay
      eljay
      November 15, 2016, 12:46 pm

      || @Dar: either way however, most mw commentators will be pleased and content to think of B.N. in any state of turmoil, discomfort or anxiousness. … ||

      As long as your king, Bibi, insists on being a supremacist ruler of a supremacist state, he deserves to be in turmoil, in discomfort and anxious.

      || … dedicated to tearing down the zionist nation, completely and replacing it with a muslim/arab majority with jews as a ‘protected’ minority. … ||

      Religion-supremacist and (war) criminal “Jewish State” has no right to exist. It must be torn down and replaced with secular, democratic and law-abiding Israel – a state of and for all of its Israeli citizens, immigrants, expats and refugees, equally. There’s nothing wrong with such a state having a population comprised of a majority of non-Jewish Israelis and a minority of Jewish Israelis.

      || … neighboring states looking to expand ‘caliphates’, dynasties, theocracies and which are decidedly hostile to the presence of a jewish nation in ‘their’ midst. ||

      Caliphates, dynasties, theocracies and religion-supremacist (Jewish) states have no business existing as such. All states should exist as secular and democratic states of and for their citizens, immigrants, expats and refugees, equally.

    • Talkback
      Talkback
      November 16, 2016, 8:16 am

      dabakr: “just ‘promises’ of peace with absolutely NO mechanism to assure that israels neighbors are not infiltrated or overthrown by terrortistic forces like Daesh , Hezbollah, Hamas who are dedicated to tearing down the zionist nation, completely and replacing it with a muslim/arab majority with jews as a ‘protected’ minority.”

      Reminds me of Zionist terrorists who were not only dedicated by actually tore down the Palestinian nation complety to replace it with a majority of Jewish infiltrators.What was your point again?

  2. November 15, 2016, 12:14 pm

    This is kind of like beginner chess players trying to think six moves ahead. Better to remember that your opponent’s bishop gets to move diagonally too.

    • annie
      annie
      November 15, 2016, 12:57 pm

      your opponent’s bishop gets to move diagonally too.

      and they are not beginners at it either

      • Yakov Hirsch
        Yakov Hirsch
        November 16, 2016, 8:18 pm

        FWIW as a Chess “luminary,” i too am in favor of Mondoweiss transitioning into a chess site, once the “Jewish question” is resolved.

        “Participants included Ylon as well as chess/poker luminaries Greg Shahade, Yakov Hirsch, Ben Johnson, Donny Ariel and Noah Siegel.”
        http://www.uschess.org/content/view/8690/471

      • RoHa
        RoHa
        November 16, 2016, 10:35 pm

        Life’s too short for chess.

        (H. J. Byron)

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        November 17, 2016, 7:23 pm

        “FWIW as a Chess “luminary,” i too am in favor”

        I’m glad you train them to do something besides gamble!

    • kalithea
      kalithea
      November 15, 2016, 1:18 pm

      Lemme put it to this way: Zionism is a criminal endeavor operating outside the rule of Law and like most criminal operations; it’s days are numbered. Zionists are like criminals that pulled of the heist of the Century and then go around bragging about it and buying up all the stores and paying off officials to look the other way.

      Quit hiding your criminal operations behind ISIS. That distraction is about to be eradicated by Russia, Iran and the U.S., like it or not.

      You guys are responsible for Hezbollah and Hamas militant resistance in that you continue to illegally occupy territory that isn’t yours and then you justify wars that are tantamount to state terrorism killing women and children gratuitously every chance you get in these military assaults.

      Zionism is a criminal operation and it started committing crimes of terrorism, ethnic cleansing from day one and illegal occupation supported by yet more war crimes since. You all are quickly becoming the biggest, baddest black stain in the global community. You’re not becoming a pariah state; you have been a pariah state the moment you started ethnically cleansing and settling illegal territory.

      Criminals like your Zionist compadres in Israel and others peddling influence abroad to hide the crimes shouldn’t be able to brag about their crimes except before a War Crimes Tribunal. There, you all can brag all you want. The chickens will come home to roost and everything you bragged about in your post: credit rating, blah and blah, is but the calm before the storm that will catch you off guard.

      There is no legitimacy in the crimes being committed by Zionism and your hubris and bragging are like a cheap tin sound echoing in the wind that doesn’t fool everyone and soon will fool no one with any moral compass.

      • Marnie
        Marnie
        November 16, 2016, 12:06 am

        “Criminals like your Zionist compadres in Israel and others peddling influence abroad to hide the crimes shouldn’t be able to brag about their crimes except before a War Crimes Tribunal. There, you all can brag all you want. The chickens will come home to roost and everything you bragged about in your post: credit rating, blah and blah, is but the calm before the storm that will catch you off guard.”

        The title of this piece made my heart soar, especially in these gloom and doom days, but your post was the best kalithea.

      • Misterioso
        Misterioso
        November 16, 2016, 10:34 am

        Bottom line:

        Foreign Jews had the same right to Palestine as Irish Catholics and Mexican atheists, i.e., none
        whatsoever. Therein lies the root cause of the conflict.

  3. Bandolero
    Bandolero
    November 15, 2016, 5:50 pm

    I think Jonathan Cook missed one important point.

    The next “peace talks” between Israel and Palestine may well be hosted in Moscow. It may well be that Nethanyahu, Abbas and Trump are all very fine with that, but all for different reason. Trump can disengage from the middle east, while Netanyahu may think, Moscow has no leverage, so they are guaranteed to produce nothing but hot air covering the continued colonialization process.

    But then, Trump could somewhere switch from saying he’s fine with Moscow owning the I/P problem to say that both Israel and Palestine are in Moscows orbit now, so America has no business in supporting either side there. The Sanders Dems will not disagree.

    And then, without President Trumps/Dem Sanders’ America’s backing, Israel – as we know it – would be finished. Putin – backed up by Trump – can then dictate whatever solution he thinks fits. And Trump gets what his whole Presidency is all about: get America back for the America Firsters.

  4. shaun patrick
    shaun patrick
    November 16, 2016, 7:56 pm

    There is an old saying “If the Gods want to ruin a man they will give him everything he asks for” Netanyahu and the rest of the Israeli government will come to know the truth of this saying.

  5. Elizabeth Block
    Elizabeth Block
    November 20, 2016, 9:57 pm

    Is Jonathan Cook saying that Trump’s support for Netanyahu might lead to him losing power in favour of someone even worse? Are we to take comfort from that? I don’t.

  6. Avigail
    Avigail
    November 22, 2016, 3:18 am

    I couldn’t agree more with Jonathan Cook. To understand Trump and try to make sense of his decisions and actions it Is necessary to consider the most important factor about him, and that is that he has a Narcissisitic Personality Disorder (NPD).

    If you know any thing about this you would know that the single most important principle that guides a narcissist is their insatiable need for admiration. They are notorious for saying to people what they want to hear just so that they can get the short term perk of approval and admiration from the person they happen to be speaking to. They make outlandish promises and would appear to be giving the person everything they ever wanted. The fickleness that Cook is talking about will come from Trump’s NPD. He might promise the world to one person but then would act in a way which will completely undermine it. Children of parents with NPD will recognise what I am talking about…

    To try to predict what Trump might do, you need to understand that an NPD has a pecking order inside their head. They rank everyone they meet by the degree of ‘narcissistic supply’ they can get from them, by how imporatnt they are and what they can get out of associating with them. It goes together with an assessment of who is more important a than whom. NPDs always compare people and anyone around them would always feel that sense of competition for their attention and ‘favours’.

    The NPD would always want to be associated with the person they perceive as more important (or more ‘famous’, or influential, more beautiful, whatever it is they happen to covet. The thing they covet — beauty, success, status, money, power, academic recognition etc. — is only a context for getting their admiration which is the real narcissistic supply. It is not important in itself so much but only as a means to an end.)

    I believe that Trump considers Putin to be far more important and influential than Netanyahu so he will go with Putin. He admires Putin. So like Cook predicts, Trump will probably be uninterested in the ME (no narcissistic supply there for him), and will leave it to Putin to police. Given what we know about Russia’s sentiments in the ME, it might well usher the one-state in Israel-Palestine. I think Netanyahu should be nervous. No matter what Trump’s advisers might tell him about Israel or Netanyahu or how many Jewish-Zionist advisers he has, he will go where his narcissistic supply will be. The only organising principle in the US from now on in every possible area will be Trump’s personality disorder and what goes with that. Not good at all for Americans but can have potentially unexpected positive outcomes for the rest of the world.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      November 22, 2016, 1:15 pm

      “he has a Narcissisitic Personality Disorder (NPD)”

      And he’s got it bad, and that ain’t good.

  7. Maghlawatan
    Maghlawatan
    November 24, 2016, 1:01 pm

    Huge fires in Israel again, after 2010
    The European trees aren’t designed for the Middle East. Neither are the furry hats.

    Fake, very like Zionism

    • annie
      annie
      November 24, 2016, 1:28 pm

      re the fires, there’s accusations of arson, netanyahu called it terrorism. and i read this morning that multiple tweets (from the ME in arabic) make claims it’s retribution for banning the call to prayer.

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