19 February 2017

Trump: Netanyahu's Dream and Nightmare

This Ynet op-ed spells out the realities and difficulties of a Likud government operating in parallel to the Trump administration.
On the one hand, it's their dream come true. They finally have a US president that has effectively given them a blank check. Not only is there agreement when it comes to policy, there are actual personal relationships.

The Bush administration certainly was less than zealous in pursuing the Two-State peace plan but they never dared to openly dismiss it. Trump's somewhat confused and stupid statement marks a shift in official policy.
And yet for Netanyahu it does present a crisis. He can't delay anymore. He will be expected to act and yet any action is likely to unleash turmoil. The formalising of a unified Zionist state is likely to generate another intifada and the measures taken to make that 'One State Solution' work will bring down harsh international condemnation on Tel Aviv. Likud is committed to an Israel with a Jewish identity which means if the West Bank is formally annexed, the Palestinians living there will effectively be placed into a lower-tier of citizenship. They cannot be treated as equals in a democratic system. Israel would cease to be a 'Jewish' state.
One needs only to look at the history of Apartheid South Africa to understand where this is headed. The Bantustan model comes to mind as a means by which Israel can retain Palestinians within the land and yet deny them all rights as well as any ability to find social or political unity.
This is already the reality but it's permitted because it's viewed as temporary, a situation on hold awaiting the conclusion of the peace process. Once that process is declared over, the Palestinian Bantustans have to either be eliminated or made permanent.
The distraction of Trump's proclamation is probably annoying on one level. Netanyahu is mired in various scandals at the moment. Trump has handed him a gift but in terms of Israeli politics it's almost an ultimatum. He has to act.
The Israeli Far Right and certainly the massive Evangelical wing in the United States will be putting the pressure on. The Dispensational wing of Zionism has always opposed the Two-State solution. The very notion contradicts their theology.
On the other hand (as Tevya would say).... a potential Palestinian crisis would take the pressure off Netanyahu's scandals and possibly unite and even galvanise the nation.
There's another possibility and one we can hope he doesn't pursue. Sometimes when presidents have their backs against the wall and are caught in the domestic spotlight, they find it convenient to turn to international politics, even adventurism.
Israel is already involved in Syria and to some degree in Iraq. But what's potentially scary is a scenario in which Netanyahu and figures within the Trump administration decide it's a prime moment to start moving on Iran.
While certain actors in the DNC would be loathe to see the Iran deal collapse, a conflict with Tehran would immediately dash any attempts by the Trump team to reach out to Moscow.

Politics always twists and turns and is full of plots and schemes but this moment in particular is rife with deceit, intrigue and peril. Trump feeds the angst and yet does so in a Mr. Magoo fashion.

1 comment:

  1. Again, as always, I'm always caught on the fence in bafflement. Is this Mr. Magoo or is this a brilliant diplomatic move? As the article makes it clear, Netanyahu is caught in an impossible situation. Did Trump make such a dumbly sweeping possibility as the means to actually freeze his opponent. He can't depend upon US frowning to explain his inaction. If he doesn't do anything, Netanyahu will depend more and more upon American contacts to keep his base from tumbling between an impatient zealous right and from a horrified left. This might move the ball back from Israeli brash satrapy into the sphere of desparate dependent.

    As usual, I might be reading far too much into a president everyone thinks is a towering idiot, full of contradictions and incoherence. But this might do well for an Establishment faction that wants to cooldown the Middle East. Brinkmanship is a dangerous game, but its purposes was always to call bluffs and not initiate Armageddon. This could end disastrously for Palestinians, but it could also lead to something else.