Once a Messiah, Trump Could Turn Out to Be Israel Right’s Worst Nightmare – Analysis:

Analysis: Once a Messiah, Trump Could Turn Out to Be Israel Right’s Worst Nightmare

The U.S.A. president’s cordial phone conversation with Mahmoud Abbas shows the growing influence of Sunni states, led by Saudi Arabia.

Chemi Shalev | Haaretz

You don’t have to love Donald Trump to enjoy him sometimes. Over the weekend, Trump spoke to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and upset – and if he didn’t, he should have upset – the entire Israeli right. A U.S.A. president who states his commitment to a “comprehensive agreement that would end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” and who emphasizes “his personal belief that peace is possible and that the time has come to make a deal” is one who spells trouble for Jewish settlers and their champions.   

From a messiah elected by divine miracle to deliver Israel from the injustices perpetrated by his predecessor, Trump could turn out to be the Israeli right-wing’s worst nightmare.   

Swept away by their celebration of Barack Obama’s political demise, the Israeli right paid little attention to the fact that while he was proclaiming his wish to move the U.S.A. embassy to Jerusalem, and as his Jewish aides were promising Israelis that they’ll be able to settle wherever their hearts desire, Trump was uncharacteristically consistent in his pledge to seek an Israeli-Palestinian deal and in claiming that such a deal was possible. As someone who views himself as the greatest dealmaker in the universe, he didn’t hide his ambition to close “the most difficult deal of all.”

This resoluteness should have triggered multiple alarms among the settlers and their supporters, but the unhinged demonization that the right wing did to Obama, as well as its recurring wish to experience divine deliverance from oppression to redemption, blinded their eyes to the troubles that may lie ahead.

Obama, after all, had to take into account the pro-Israel lobby, the Republican-led Congress and the staunch Israel supporters in his own Democratic Party. Netanyahu exploited them all, sometimes successfully, as he did in 2011 by derailing Obama’s peace plans, and sometimes unsuccessfully, as in the nuclear deal with Iran. Trump is a completely different story. The GOP won’t dare confront him as it would Obama. It has already shown remarkable ideological flexibility in domestic affairs, as the new GOP health bill meant to replace Obamacare shows, and in foreign affairs, as in Vladimir Putin morphing into a right-wing American hero.

In a confrontation with Trump, Netanyahu could find himself alone in the battlefield, without any real allies to rely on. If Trump is his BFF, as the prime minister is now telling everyone, perhaps he has nothing to worry about. But if Trump cares only about Trump, which sounds much more reasonable, Netanyahu may rue the day he was happy to be rid of Obama.

The question whether Trump said or didn’t say the magic words “two states” is meaningless. There are numerous ways not to reach an agreement, including building new settlements so that hope for contiguous Palestinian territory is lost forever, as well as annexing the city of Maale Adumim near Jerusalem, or all of Area C in the West Bank, or establishing Palestinian pockets of autonomy, cantons or apartheid-like Bantustans.  But there is only one way to achieve an agreement, even if the Israeli right has convinced itself and others that if they deny it often enough it will disappear forever, voodoo-style.  The picture could become clearer on Monday and Tuesday, following the talks that Trump’s emissary Jason Greenblatt will hold in Jerusalem and Ramallah.

It was the so-called  “moderate” Sunni states that seek to strengthen Trump’s resolve against Iran that also made it clear to him that the way to their hearts goes through an Israeli-Palestinian peace process, or at least the semblance of one. When Abbas understood over the weekend that Trump had gotten the message, he was naturally overjoyed. Of course, if the Obama White House had published a read out of a conversation with Abbas that stated that a peace deal with Israel “would reverberate positively throughout the region and the world,” the right wing in both countries would be livid with rage. How dare he create such “linkage” between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and all the bad things that plague the Middle East, and how could he be so naive as to buy the Palestinian propaganda line that their conflict with Israel is the “crux” of the Middle East problem as a whole. But when Trump does it, everyone stays mum, as they will during tougher times in the future.

It is against this backdrop that reports were floated Saturday about a possible regional peace summit in Jordan, Egypt or even Saudi Arabia. From the moment he was elected, Trump has been making an effort to patch up his rocky relations with Riyadh and other Gulf countries, who preferred to see Hillary Clinton as president. He has kept Saudi Arabia off the list of countries affected by his immigration ban, despite the fact that 15 of the 19 terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks were from Saudi Arabia. He is going to approve the $390 million arms deal with Saudi Arabia that was suspended last year by Obama, in the hope that it will pave the way for more massive arms purchases in the future. He intends to increase American support for the Saudi campaign in Yemen and the White House will host the Saudi Defense Minister and deputy Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman to discuss these and other matters this week.

Trump and his family have had extensive business dealings in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. They are used to hobnobbing with multi-billionaires like them, who speak their language, rather than prime ministers who, like Netanyahu, have to beg Hollywood producers to purchase their pink champagne and Cuban cigars for them. From that point of view, Saudi Arabia, which has had an inordinate sway on American foreign policy since World War II, will apparently continue to exert its influence, despite the fact that America is far less dependent on foreign oil than ever before.

Israel sought to highlight its discreet dealings with Sunni states in order to show Israelis and everyone else that it can secure its place in the Middle East without giving up the occupation. But it’s a double edged-sword: after investing so much time, energy and resources in collaborating with Sunni countries and cementing an anti-Iranian front, Israel will find it much harder to resist calls for an Israeli-Palestinian peace process – especially if Trump stamps his name and his prestige on it.

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Comments

  • michael hawkins  On March 16, 2017 at 4:54 am

    Israel has every right to get on as a country, but they can not do so by crippling the Palestine people by taking their land. No other country in the world could get away with what Israel does

    guyaneseonline posted: “Analysis: Once a Messiah, Trump Could Turn Out to Be Israel Right’s Worst Nightmare The U.S.A. president’s cordial phone conversation with Mahmoud Abbas shows the growing influence of Sunni states, led by Saudi Arabia. Chemi Shalev | Haaretz You “

  • Clyde Duncan  On March 17, 2017 at 11:24 pm

    Arab Diplomat Resigns UN Post Amid Pressure to Pull Report Accusing Israel of ‘Apartheid’

    UN report accusing Israel of ‘apartheid’ should be pulled, UN chief said; Israel’s likened report by Arab-led UN commission to Nazi propaganda.

    Reuters | Haaretz | The Associated Press 

    The head of a Lebanon-based United Nations agency that promotes development in Arab countries has resigned, after refusing to withdraw a controversial report that concludes that Israel has established an “apartheid regime.”

    The report for the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), which comprises 18 Arab states, concluded that “Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole”.

    The accusation – often directed against Israel by its critics – has never before been made by a United Nations body. 

    Earlier Friday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres asked that the report be removed from the agency’s website, a UN official said on Friday.

    Rima Khalaf, a Jordanian who heads the Beirut-based ESCWA, announced her resignation at a hastily-arranged press conference in the Lebanese capital Friday.

    Israel praised the move, with its envoy to the UN, Danny Danon, thanking Guterres and saying in a statement that “the time has come to put an end to those using their status within the UN to promote anti-Israel activity.

    “Khalaf has for years worked to harm Israel and to promote the BDS and she should have left her role a long time ago.”

    Khalaf stood by the report, calling it the “first of its kind” from a UN agency that sheds light on “the crimes that Israel continues to commit against the Palestinian people, which amount to war crimes against humanity/”

    The report, which Khalaf had said had been prepared at the request of ESCWA member states, was no longer visible on the commission’s website on Friday.

    UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Wednesday the report was published without prior consultation with the UN secretariat.

    Israel’s foreign ministry spokesman likened the report to a Nazi propaganda publication that was strongly anti-Semitic and described it as “despicable and a blatant lie”.

    The United States, Israel’s main ally, said it was outraged by the report.

  • Clyde Duncan  On March 21, 2017 at 12:11 am

    Trump Hangs Tough on Germany, Eases on China

    M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline

    Two key templates of the Donald Trump administration’s foreign policies were on display over the weekend – the USA relations with Germany and China – and it presented a study in contrast.

    Germany used to be the closest partner of the USA, even closer than Britain, during the Barack Obama presidency. But Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Washington on Friday and her meeting with President Trump reveals that things can never be the same again.

    What the visit of the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Beijing and his talks with Chinese leaders on Saturday and Sunday signal on the other hand is that the USA-China relationship, which got on to a bumpy start during the transition under Trump, portending stormy weather, is on the contrary stabilizing, and may get a significant upswing in the next fortnight when President Xi Jinping meets Trump for a summit at his Florida Mar-a-Lago resort in early April.

    The Xinhua commentary on Tillerson’s talks in Beijing has been distinctly on a positive note. Tillerson’s mantra throughout was that the USA is ready to develop relations with China based on the “principle of no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation.”

    Importantly, China prevailed that the USA ought to be “cool-headed” in handling the North Korea problem.

    Tillerson acknowledged this:
    I think we share a common view and a sense that tensions on the peninsula are quite high (inaudible) and that things have reached a rather dangerous level. And we’ve committed ourselves to do everything we can to prevent any type of conflict from breaking out, and we view there are a number of steps that we can take that are in front of us.

    And Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi entirely agreed, while stressing, “The most important principle we have identified is that no matter what happens, we have to stay committed to diplomatic means as a way to seek peaceful settlement.”

    Trump’s ‘America First’ doctrine in foreign policy prioritizes the USA partnership with China. The eagerness with which the two leaderships are hastening toward an early summit, unusual for a new American presidency, is self-evident.

    The US foreign policy priorities are dramatically shifting. While Euro-Atlanticism – belief in the importance of cooperation between Europe and the United States of America – may remain as a vector of USA foreign policies, it may no longer be pivotal. The Atlantic community too is poised to assume increasingly ramified features, and all this points toward a shift in the meaning of the ‘West’ in world politics.

    Merkel’s press conference with Trump only helped to highlight the fundamental differences between the two leaderships in policy and style. The Guardian newspaper aptly captured the essence of what transpired when it reported that “it was hard to escape the testy relationship between the bookish woman now seen as a crucial bulwark of the post-war liberal order and the brash businessman who rose to power on a populist tide.”

    The two leaders made some snide remarks, which reflected on the poor ‘body language’ at their press conference.

    Trump showed that he cares nothing about the Western political game. Trump intends to fight Germany’s export surplus; he wants NATO partners to fulfil their commitments on defence spending; he has a different outlook on relations with Russia.

    Germany stands directly in his firing line when he takes on free trade and globalization. Besides, he has hardline views on immigration and ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’ If Merkel was hoping to conquer Trump with her famous ‘charm offensive’, she failed to make headway.

    At the very core, Europe may have to brace for a trade war that could be even more bitterly fought and fateful than a potential Sino-American one. The Spiegel magazine pondered:

    But what happens in the likely event that Trump sticks to his “America First” plans? If that happens, then Merkel is expected to push for a united EU front to blockade Washington… A few days earlier, European trade ministers met for a working lunch in Brussels and agreed to a joint position. They agreed that the EU should not fuel the conflict, but it should prepare for the possibility of a trade war with the United States of America. The goal, in such a case, would be that of isolating the U.S.A.

    EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström was asked to begin negotiating further agreements with other countries and regions of the world. She is currently touring the Far East in order to expedite current talks on trade agreements with Japan, India and Australia… As the defenses are mounted against Trump, Merkel is counting on the European Commission, which recently said it wants to significantly bolster its arsenal for potential trade wars.

    Surveying Merkel’s trip to the White House, German media drew comfort that things could have been a lot worse. But Trump had a different ‘take’. The morning after Merkel’s departure from Washington, he tweeted:

    “Despite what you have heard from the FAKE NEWS, I had a GREAT meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Nevertheless, Germany owes vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!”

  • Clyde Duncan  On March 21, 2017 at 10:59 am

    Syrian UN Envoy:
    Putin Sent Message to Israel That Its Freedom to Act in Syria Is Over

    Ambassador Bashar Jaafari says Syrian use of anti-aircraft missiles against Israeli fighter jets also sends another message to Jerusalem.

    Jack Khoury | Haaretz

    Russia has sent a clear message to Israel that the rules of the game have changed in Syria and its freedom to act in Syrian skies is over, Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations said on Sunday night.

    “Putin sent a clear message,” said Bashar Jaafari, speaking on Syrian television. “The fact is that the Israeli ambassador [to Russia] was summoned for a conversation only a day after he submitted his credentials [to the Russian Foreign Ministry last Thursday], and was told categorically that this game is over.”

    Syria’s use of anti-aircraft fire against Israel last Thursday night has changed the rules of the game, too, Jaafari said, adding that Syria will not stand idly by in the face of an Israeli threat.

    He also claimed that when the civil war began in Syria in 2011, opposition militia groups sabotaged the anti-aircraft defense systems belonging to President Bashar Assad’s regime, giving Israel freedom to operate.

    In a separate incident, Syrian media reported Sunday that the commander of a militia fighting alongside the regime was killed in an Israeli airstrike around Quneitra, in the Golan Heights.

    The Lebanese TV channel Al Mayadeen, which is associated with Hezbollah, identified the casualty as Yasser Assayed, a member of the national defense militia. A source associated with the Assad regime said Assayad was a commander in the Golan brigade, a militia of Druze fighters (from villages in the Syrian part of the Golan Heights) who are fighting with the regime.

    Between Thursday night and Friday morning, Israeli fighter jets attacked several targets in Syria, triggering the most serious clash between Israel and Syria since the civil war erupted six years ago. In response to the airstrikes, the Assad regime’s aerial defense system fired several missiles at the jets.

    Israel’s Arrow anti-missile defense system was launched, shooting down one of the missiles north of Jerusalem. The incident forced Israel to admit for the first time that it had launched an aerial attack in Syria.

    Following that, Israel’s ambassador to Moscow, Gary Koren, was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry for talks with Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov – again, an unusual development.

    Since Russian forces began operating in Syria in 2015, there have been a number of airstrikes that foreign media have attributed to Israel. But the Israeli ambassador had never previously been called in to clarify Israel’s actions.

    Clearly, Israel now knows that its freedom to act in Syria is over.

  • Clyde Duncan  On March 21, 2017 at 4:53 pm

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