PM Netanyahu and President Trump.
(photo credit: AVI OHAYON - GPO)
The strong reactions elicited by last Wednesday’s joint press conference by US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are warranted, but mostly for the wrong reason.
One commentator after another has been highlighting and debating the supposedly major about-face in American foreign policy vis-à-vis the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that was being announced from the podium.
“So I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like,” Trump said, alongside a beaming Netanyahu. “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 [Prime Minister Netanyahu] and if the Palestinians – if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best.”
As soon as the two leaders left the stage, pundits and politicians in America, Israel and the Palestinian Authority began weighing in frantically on the significance of that statement, reporting on it as though Trump had declared the US was no longer supporting a key pillar of its Middle East policy.
Well, everyone can and should relax, because nothing whatsoever has changed on the ground. Whichever way one slices it, the reality remains the same: The Palestinian leadership is not seeking statehood alongside Israel, but resistance against Jewish statehood.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas and his henchmen in Ramallah, as well as the Hamas rulers in Gaza – with a particularly bloodthirsty new chief there who has said his organization should emulate the Iran-backed Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah – make no bones about demanding that any territory they claim to be their own be void of all Jews.
Nor did Trump disavow the two-state solution; he simply said that it is up to the Israelis and Palestinians to decide how to proceed. In other words, he was completely repudiating former president Barack Obama’s strong-arm approach. More importantly, he was doing so while proudly showing appreciation – and even affection – for Netanyahu.
And herein lies the seismic shift that is causing such a stir.
For the past eight years, the White House and State Department have operated on the basis of an ideologically dim view of Western greatness and power.
Obama made no secret of this in Europe, prior to his inauguration, where he stated outright that no countries are better than others. Shortly after taking the reins, he began to court the radical elements of the Muslim-Arab world, abandoning the moderates in order to appease their jailers. And his very first phone call was to Abbas.
Under such circumstances, a modern, America-emulating democracy like Israel didn’t stand a chance. To make matters worse, whenever Obama looked at Netanyahu, all he could see was a Republican – or an Evangelical Christian – disguised as a secular Jew with a hint of an Israeli accent. It was not a happy relationship, despite both parties’ protestations to the contrary.
Then in walked Trump and things instantly took on a different tone. The new US president not only snubbed Abbas, purportedly refusing to answer his calls, but promptly invited Netanyahu to Washington, where he gave him a literal and figurative bear hug for all the world’s mullahs and other detractors to see.
It thus made no difference when Trump told Netanyahu that Israel would also have to make compromises in any future deal with the Palestinians. Indeed, the words at the press conference were secondary to the music and body language.
What was said afterwards, however, was momentous.
According to a press pool read-out of the meeting, Trump and Netanyahu “agreed that there will be no daylight between the United States and Israel... [and] that the Iran nuclear deal is a terrible deal for the United States, Israel, and the world. The president assured the prime minister that Iran must not, and will not, obtain nuclear weapons capability... It is a new day for the United States-Israel relationship, defined by a responsible approach to the challenges and opportunities our two countries face in the Middle East.”
For Trump to grasp that his country and Israel are fighting the same war is cause for trepidation among their shared enemies. The Palestinians – a footnote in this global story – may finally lose their leverage. It’s about time.The writer is the managing editor of The Algemeiner.