Published On: Wed, Dec 28th, 2016

So is a honeymoon in Trump-Netanyahu relations good or bad?

Op-ed: The argument presented by Netanyahu’s opponents appears to have changed overnight. After claiming that the prime minister is jeopardizing our relations with Obama’s US, they are now concerned that America under Trump is moving ‘too close’ to Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Donald Trump (Photo: Kobi Gidon/GPO)

 

During Barack Obama’s years in office, Benjamin Netanyahu’s critics argued—often rightfully—that the tensions between the prime minister and the American president were becoming dangerous for Israel, and that the estrangement of the administration in Washington was wearing out our standing in the Middle East and in the entire world.

Now, at the start of the “Trump era, ” it seems that among those who claimed that Netanyahu was jeopardizing our relations with the United States there are actually people who are increasingly concerned by the fact that America is moving “too close” to Israel. Can this logical contradiction be settled?

Netanyahu’s opponents, in Israel and abroad, argued that his conduct towards Obama was arrogant and ungrateful and that his attempts to undermine the American policy on the Iranian issue, and above all the moves to go around the president, including the famous Congress speech, weakened the strategic alliance between the two countries.

Obama made a great contribution to the feeling of alienation and distrust between him and Netanyahu. Almost from his first day at the White House, he claimed that Muslims and Arabs had suffered enough under Western hegemony, and maintained that the lack of negotiations for the establishment of a Palestinian state and the reinforcement of the settlement enterprise were the reflection of an ongoing failure that must be ended.

Obama also wanted to put an end to the common perception that Washington was controlled by Jerusalem and the Jewish lobby. In a conversation with Jewish leaders in July 2009, he said: “Look at the past eight years. During those eight years, there was no space between us and Israel, and what did we get from that? When there is no daylight, Israel just sits on the sidelines, and that erodes our credibility with the Arab states.” In other words, there is a need for daylight between the US and Israel in order to advance peace and strengthen America’s ties and standing in the Arab and Muslim world.

Famous American diplomat Aaron Miller, who served under the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, wrote recently in Foreign Policy magazine that he believes there will be a “honeymoon” between Netanyahu and US President-elect Donald Trump because of the change in the American paradigm in the Middle East. The new administration does not see the solution of the Palestinian issue and the end of the occupation as acute problems, but sees Israel as a critical—strategic and ideological—partner in the war on radical Islam. According to Miller, the appointment of pronounced rightist David Friedman as ambassador to Israel, and Trump’s rhetoric commitment to move the American embassy to Jerusalem, are first signs of a much deeper change.

It’s hard to predict where Trump will lead to. It’s simply too early. But if we do accept the idea that the US is the key to Israel’s security, we should wonder why Netanyahu’s critics, who see the strength of the alliance with the US before their eyes, are now complaining about the danger of “excessive closeness” between israel and America? If the assumption that we are at the start of a “honeymoon” in the relationship between the two countries is true, they must welcome it.

The argument presented by Netanyahu’s opponents appears to have changed overnight. Now, they are stressing that when Washington and Jerusalem turn to “radical rightism, ” Israel could deteriorate into a bi-national state. In other words, if right-wing Israel receives right-wing American support, its future is in danger. This is a new argument which has to do with the dramatic change in the nature of the new American administration. If up until now many people in Israel hoped that the international community, led by the US, would push Israel to the two-state solution, it’s pretty clear right now that salvation—at least during Trump’s years in office—will not come from that direction.

Those fearing a bi-national state must, therefore, find other ways, at home, and stop counting on an externally-imposed solution. The US will not be the one to pull Israel’s chestnuts out of the fire.

 

Yossi Shain is the Romulo Betancourt Professor of Political Science at Tel Aviv University where he also serves as Head of TAU’s School of Political Science, Government and International Affairs, head of the Abba Eban Graduate Studies Program in Diplomacy and Director of the Frances Brody Institute for Applied Diplomacy.

 

By Ynet News

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