U.S. President Donald Trump waves to supporters at a campaign rally on the eve of the U.S. mid-term elections at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, U.S., November 5, 2018..
(photo credit: CARLOS BARRIA / REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – News of Israeli elections in April is certain to affect the Trump administration’s strategic plan for the rollout of its Middle East peace initiative.
Unless their proposals are intentionally calibrated to boost the electoral prospects of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – privately their preferred candidate – White House officials are likely to delay its release once again, fearing both the perception of election interference in Israel as well as any unintended political consequences sure to arise from the contents of the plan.
Netanyahu has reportedly requested a delay, and the administration’s desire to get on with its peace process may have factored in to his call for elections seven months earlier than necessary.
Having a date gives US President Donald Trump’s team some clarity on its own timeline, presuming Netanyahu emerges victorious. The election of a prime minister to Netanyahu’s political right would likely kill the plan, and US officials doubt anyone to his left could cobble together a governing coalition.
On Christmas Eve, Trump’s peace team was assessing precisely how the April date will alter their rollout. The president’s aides earlier this year had thought the release of the plan might prove an election-inducing event, but now that elections are already set, they face an entirely new calculus.
While elections may provide the White House with confidence it will release its plan with a stable Israeli government in office, they also amount to yet another hurdle toward its launch. Once slated for release in the spring, and then summer, Trump proclaimed in September that his initiative would finally launch by the end of the year. That soon slipped into February or March, only now likely to slide again even further, possibly into the heat of the 2020 US presidential election cycle.
The peace team – led by Jared Kushner, his son-in-law; Jason Greenblatt, his senior adviser and special envoy; and David Friedman, his ambassador to Israel – continues to say it will release its plan when the timing is right. But developments such as the breakdown in US-Palestinian communications and Saudi Arabia’s killing of Jamal Khashoggi have only deteriorated the environment for peace talks.
A summer release would give the Trump team just over one year to pursue peace before the 2020 US election.
“The upcoming election in Israel on April 9 is one of many factors we are considering in evaluating the timing of the release of the peace plan,” one White House official told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
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