WHAT DEAL will President Donald Trump try to push when he gets to Israel later this month?.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
It’s a visit that probably could have waited a while, as far as the policy planners in the Prime Minister’s Office are concerned.
US President Donald Trump touches down in Israel on Monday, and nobody knows what’s going to happen. Sure, every step of the way has been choreographed and coordinated between the Trump team and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office. Every word, every photo-op and every stop on the way has been vetted, dissected and analyzed to prevent any improper interpretation or misplaced symbolism from occurring.
The problem is Trump.
Nobody knows what’s going to happen – he’s a loose cannon entering a volatile minefield. So when you combine the inclination to utter off-script statements with a less-than-average knowledge of the facts at hand, you’ve got the perfect recipe for any number of cringe-worthy moments during Trump’s appearances in Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
From Israel’s point of view, the best thing to do would be to stay out of the line of fire as much as possible, while walking the tightrope between giving the necessary respect to the office of the presidency and at the same time not fawning over the strangest president in American history.
The right-wing flank of Israeli politics was already burned once by the latter approach. After Trump’s election, he was practically deified by drooling Israeli ministers exalting in the “great friend” of Israel, crowing about how things would be different than under the wicked days of former president Barack Obama, and how Trump would now see eye to eye with the government on settlement policy and stop putting pressure on Israel for concessions to the Palestinians.
How’s that working out so far?
The only thing we know about Trump’s policy regarding Israel is that it could change at any time. Trump may be no better or worse than any of his modern-day predecessors, except that due to the alarming lack of stability emanating from his fickle presidency, he’s a liability for Israel.
Netanyahu and his cronies will have to put on brave faces, issue the required platitudes and hang on Trump’s every word during his visit, while praying that the president doesn’t say something offhand about Jerusalem or two states or Kotel sovereignty that reverberates across the region, and which places Israel behind the eight ball.
Nobody knows what’s going to happen. One thing is certain though – when Trump climbs up the steps to Air Force One on Tuesday to head off to Vatican City, Netanyahu and his team will heave a collective sigh of relief. The circus will have left town.