President Donald Trump (R) greets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a joint news conference at the White House. .
(photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)
Donald Trump will arrive in Israel on May 22 as part of his first trip overseas as president. The trip has Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on edge. Here are the top five reasons why:
1) Trump is expected to ask Netanyahu to renew peace negotiations with the Palestinians and to give the talks a timeframe. Since returning to the premiership in 2009, Netanyahu has shied away from making his plan for peace public. If full-fledged peace talks start, he will be compelled to reveal his plan, including the borders he envisions for a future Palestinian state.
To get peace talks resumed, Trump might ask Netanyahu to make concessions even before the talks start. This could be a freeze in settlement construction or a release of prisoners as happened in 2013
, the last time Netanyahu’s government was under pressure by the Obama administration to renew talks with the Palestinians. Netanyahu has stated in recent years that he will no longer agree to preconditions
. Trump, he fears, might force his hand this time.3)
All of the above would spell political trouble for Netanyahu. Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett is unlikely to pull out of the coalition just because peace talks are resumed but he would likely bolt if Netanyahu decides to make concessions
. Bennett has been seeking a way to distinguish himself from Netanyahu and to outflank the prime minister from the Right and declare himself the leader of Israel’s right-wing camp. The best way to do that would be by pulling out of the government over concessions to the Palestinians.4)
While the general consensus in Israel is that a peace deal with the Palestinians is unlikely, Netanyahu is afraid to be perceived as being the man responsible for its failure. After everything is over, he wants Israel to be viewed by Trump as the side that was willing to make peace and the Palestinians as the intransigent one. He will have to maneuver carefully not to upset the president who has already proven to be highly unpredictable.5)
Finally, Netanyahu fears having to face the ultimate dilemma – signing a peace deal and going down in history as the prime minister who enabled the establishment of a Palestinian state. According to some ministers in his cabinet, he really opposes the idea
. But if negotiations succeed and a deal is put on the table, Netanyahu will have to make the most difficult decision of his life. That is his biggest fear.
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