The Trump-Netanyahu press conference of yesterday (which can be seen and read in full here) was an orgy of perverse ‘love’, and a shared love of hate against Palestinians, Iran and ‘radical Islam’.
I would like to provide a picture of how the Israeli government’s top officials are viewing what Trump said, sometimes directly mirroring their perceptions against what Trump actually said. Whilst their paraphrasings are just that, I believe they provide a rather honest view of what Trump was ACTUALLY saying, in his own way, to Israel. Translation of the quotes is by me from Hebrew.
Education minister, head of the ‘Jewish Home’ party Naftali Bennett said after the press conference:
“We’re talking about a new era. After 24 years the flag of Palestine has been lowered and taken down from the post, to be substituted by the flag of Israel. The Palestinians already have the 2-state solution: In Gaza and Jordan. There’s no need for a third [state]. Now it’s necessary to look forward and mold a new strategic concept in light of the new reality. I strengthen the PM, who revealed leadership and courage and has fortressed the security of Israel.”
Thus, for Bennett, this is the final erasure of Palestine (except Gaza).
Yuval Steinitz – Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources, in charge of Israel Atomic Energy Commission and a member of the Security Cabinet:
“It was an excellent press conference, chapeau to the PM and also to President Trump. These are new tunes, first and foremost on the issue that is of utmost importance regarding our national security – the need and the recognition that Iran must be restrained. Also in the Palestinian sector [sic] we heard melodies and tunes very different to what we have heard some years ago [in recent years– Ed]. There was implicit agreement from President Trump that it is possible that the Palestinians aren’t at all ready for peace, that it may be that the 2-state solution isn’t relevant or applicable.”
It would appear, that Steinitz may be referring to Trump saying, “There’s no way a deal can be made if they’re not ready to acknowledge a very, very great and important country. And I think they’re going to be willing to do that also.” That’s strange, because the PLO already recognized Israel in treaty in 1993 (Oslo accords). So why is Trump saying ‘not ready to acknowledge’? Apparently because he works on the basis of the Netanyahu ‘addition’ that he made in 2009, saying it’s not enough to recognize Israel, but to recognize it as a JEWISH STATE. This was of course upping the ante to a level that was adding insult to injury towards the Palestinians. Whether a state is Jewish or Christian is an entirely internal matter. Netanyahu was essentially seeking to have the Palestinians give their stamp of approval to their own dispossession, and seal the matter of refugee return. This propaganda trick has apparently succeeded in entrenching a narrative of Palestinian ‘rejectionism’.
Netanyahu repeated this claim at the conference:
“So this is the source of the conflict. The persistent Palestinian refusal to recognize a Jewish state in any boundary, this persistent rejectionism, that’s the reason we don’t have peace.”
And that’s what Trump buys into, in his own way. Trump tacitly conflates ‘country’ with ‘Jewish State’. He thus fully endorses the Zionist propaganda.
“Trump, in his figurative manner, sought to convey a clear-cut message – he said: ‘ladies and gentlemen, the Israelis need to decide. I stand behind you, whatever you decide, the government of Israel will decide what is good for it’. In opposition to the former administration, he did not say ‘I impose the solution’. He said ‘I understand what difficulties Israel is in, I understand what it has experienced’. And therefore, USA will not impose any solution. On the contrary. Trump essentially said – ‘Israel will lead, and we will support whatever it says’. [Concerning settlement construction]: We will build. We will definitely build. We’ll build the settlement, we’ll build Jerusalem, and there’s no need to apply any comment towards us.”
But did Trump really say that? Did he say ‘Israelis need to decide’? It would appear that Trump’s words which Steinitz seems to be referring to are these:
“So, I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one. I thought for a while the two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two but honestly, if Bibi and if the Palestinians, if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best.”
Alright, let’s try and look beyond the rhetoric level which seems to render this down to a children’s dispute over ice-cream. Those words, ‘like’ and ‘happy’, they seem so rosy-pink. We already know what Israel would ‘like’, which is mostly for the Palestinians to simply be gone. We also know that Israel does pretty much what it likes with regards to Palestinians. This of course makes Palestinians very un-happy. These words ‘like’ and ‘happy’, they make it seem like a mere conflict between two equal sides, a little quarrel. One can quickly forget, we are speaking about an occupation by a mighty occupier, against a rather defenseless occupied. But beyond that – is Trump saying “Israelis need to decide”, as Steinitz suggests? No, he’s suggesting, again in his own way, that both sides be ‘happy’ and ‘do what they like’. If one was to translate the infantile rhetoric level of Trump’s words, one could translate this to ‘both sides have to decide’. But Steinitz says only Israelis have to decide.
Is he simply omitting the Palestinian side unwittingly? I would say no. I would say that Israelis understand that in the political reality of today, what Trump is saying actually means that it is only the Israelis that will do the deciding, upon the fate of the Palestinians. Palestinians don’t have the luxury to apply their ‘likes’ in any meaningful way, whilst Israel generally does what it likes. That’s what Steinitz got, and I believe that’s what Trump really meant.
Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev:
“The era of [settlement construction] freeze is over. The freeze in Judea and Samaria is over. The freeze in USA-Israel relations is over. Today a new political era has begun in Washington.”
Some freeze. John Kerry already mentioned the roughly 100,000 extra settlers on President Obama’s watch. Israel broke records in Palestinian home demolitions and displacements in 2016 , the settlement expansion has persisted steadily and Israeli leaders have assured that the expansions would continue, particularly after President Obama left the White House. Obama wasn’t nearly as tough on Israel as Republican presidents, and finally allowed a toothless UN Security Council resolution condemning settlements to pass in December, at the very end of his term, less than any president had done since 1967. That’s how ‘freezing’ it was. Prof. Avi Shlaim opines that “Obama’s actual record over his eight years in office makes him one of the most pro-Israeli American presidents since Harry S Truman.”
Minister of Construction Yoav Galant: “The Press conference looked like a very successful meeting. Trump said very clear things – you will decide upon your own future, the Palestinians need to stop the incitement. I am not concerned with the settlement issue because as the President said, Netanyahu is a negotiator, he knows how to negotiate”.
Once again, ‘you’ seems to be translated to ‘Israel’, whilst the Palestinians just ‘need to stop the incitement’.
In relation to settlements, Galant is apparently referring to Trump saying “as far as settlements, I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit. We’ll work something out”.
“Hold back” – what does this mean? The Merriam-Webster dictionary says
a : to hinder the progress or achievement of : restrain
b : to keep from advancing to the next stage, grade, or level
So, to show ‘restraint’ and to not take it to the ‘next level’ – that could mean just kind of, carry on, ‘moderately’ as it were, doing what you do? For just “a little bit”? Because Trump will work something out, so you can bulldoze Palestine freely and without restraint?
The Israelis totally got it. This is coded language they understand.
There’s an extremely popular old Israeli song, an evergreen, back from 1963, it’s called “When you [in feminine tense] say no, what do you really mean?”
The first verse is worth translating here:
When you say “no”, what do you really mean?
What do you mean when you say “no”?
Is the “no” really “no”
Maybe it is just a “maybe” but not just now
Or that “no” means just “not yet”
Maybe “oh”, maybe it’s “come”
Because you say “no” with such grace
So it sounds to me even more inviting than “yes”.
Indeed, this is what Trump is really saying to Israel, and they got it. It’s as if he’s almost saying “no” with his “hold back…for a little bit”, but really, he’s saying “grab Palestine by the pussy”.