Story-ideas-1011172

World Middle East

Is the bromance between Trump and Netanyahu coming to an end?

  • paula_slier
US President Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner, are expected in Israel for the moving and opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem in a few weeks’ time.
by PAULA SLIER | Apr 26, 2018

The president himself will not attend. It does seem an obvious choice to send the power couple – both senior US administration aides – in his place, not least because they are the most ardent pro-Israel supporters in Trump’s inner circle. However, it does not detract from rumours that have been circulating for months that Trump is privately considering ousting them from office.

In February, Kushner had his top-secret security clearance stripped as federal investigators zeroed in on business dealings he’d conducted in the Middle East. No surprise, then, that Kushner finds himself increasingly on the defensive. Although people close to him insist his security clearance downgrade hasn’t hindered his ability to work on Middle East issues, it’s unclear how he can advance the so-called “deal of the century” that Trump has charged him with. Ask most Israelis and Palestinians what they think about Kushner’s efforts, and they’ll laugh in answer.

And herein lies the worry. Trump might want to save his son-in-law and, in a push to do that, could put pressure on Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make concessions for a peace deal. This would be a wonderful public relations coup for the American president. It might even explain recent reports which surfaced of a phone conversation between Trump and Netanyahu last year, in which the American president was alleged to have asked Netanyahu whether he seriously cared about making peace with the Palestinians.

Speaking apparently off script, as is Trump’s fashion, the comment came after Israeli press reported that the Israeli premier was planning to approve settlement construction projects to satisfy his right wing base.

But Netanyahu has no appetite for making concessions – and certainly not now. Which means if Trump pushes him into a corner, he won’t necessarily relent and the so-called honeymoon period between the two could come to an abrupt end. Many argue it already has.

The last time the leaders met was in March, marking five meetings since Trump assumed office more than a year ago. During this period, they’ve forged a very public camaraderie, often stressing the tight bond between their countries and themselves.

Indeed, one cannot help but think how similar they are – at least in one respect. Both are embroiled in potentially far-reaching and damaging political investigations. Trump is dealing with a special counsel inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 elections; Netanyahu faces allegations by the Israeli police that he committed bribery, fraud and breach of trust in his dealings with wealthy businessmen and newspaper publishers.

One question hanging over the excitement of their last Oval Office meeting – which Washington described as “a routine check-in” – was whether they would ever meet there again. As things stand for Netanyahu back home, chances are slim.

Just hours before that meeting, the Israeli prime minister learned that a close aide of many years was turning state witness – the third in seven months. The feeling in Israel is that the prime minister’s days are numbered. This is compounded by new rounds of Israeli police questioning and recommendations to indict him and his wife, some of which seem likely to be endorsed by the attorney-general.

The worry is that in his doggedness to remain in office, Netanyahu could significantly harm the Israeli judicial system. Certainly, as the weeks go by, his tenure seems to be coming to an end.

As for Trump, he joked a few weeks ago that the quick White House turnover was good for business. He pondered aloud if his wife would be the next to leave him.

Trump has repeatedly said what a “wonderful thing” his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is, and that he believes it will lead to peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Nothing could be further from the truth for the latter. Palestinians remain resolved in their fury and are adamant that Washington no longer has a role to play as a neutral mediator.

But Netanyahu is hardly concerned with how the Arab world views the embassy move. He is concerned with making sure that Israeli voters back home, who might possibly be contemplating a future without him, realise that it was on his watch that Washington broke decades of foreign policy and moved its embassy to Jerusalem.

What Netanyahu wants Israelis to remember, and he’ll remind them at every opportunity, is that of all Israel’s prime ministers, it was he who made this happen.

The truth is that it was, in fact, Trump who did so – with or without the help of his daughter and son-in-law, who’ll be in Jerusalem to watch the historic occasion in all its promised pomp and ceremony.

  • Paula Slier is the Middle East Bureau Chief of RT, the founder and CEO of Newshound Media and the inaugural winner of the Europcar Woman in Leadership Award of the South African Absa Jewish Achievers.

Comment

  1. RadEditor - HTML WYSIWYG Editor. MS Word-like content editing experience thanks to a rich set of formatting tools, dropdowns, dialogs, system modules and built-in spell-check.
    RadEditor's components - toolbar, content area, modes and modules
       
    Toolbar's wrapper 
     
    Content area wrapper
    RadEditor's bottom area: Design, Html and Preview modes, Statistics module and resize handle.
    It contains RadEditor's Modes/views (HTML, Design and Preview), Statistics and Resizer
    Editor Mode buttonsStatistics moduleEditor resizer
      
    RadEditor's Modules - special tools used to provide extra information such as Tag Inspector, Real Time HTML Viewer, Tag Properties and other.
       
 

Follow us on

Newsletter