The Fateful Netanyahu-Trump Meeting

A lot is riding on the upcoming first meeting this Weds between PM Netanyahu and Pres. Trump at the White House in Washington DC.  At least one prediction that can be made is that there will be none of the hostility and petty personal invective shown by former Pres. Obama.  Although we don’t know what policies will come out of this meeting, we can predict two things, the two countries will have friendly relations including strong security ties and there will be an attempt to ensure that there is no light between them in the policy area.  The subjects to be discussed will include:

  1. Iran: Both countries are very wary of the intentions of Iran, including not only its nuclear program, but also its ballistic missile tests. According to the White House, these breach prior UN resolutions and Pres. Trump has put Iran on notice that sanctions will be imposed.  Since Netanyahu made opposition to the Iran nuclear deal a priority of his Government, and Pres. Trump described the deal as the worst he had ever seen, we can expect them to discuss how to manage Iran despite the deal.
  2. The US Embassy: The question of moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem will undoubtedly come up. Pres. Trump, like most Presidents before him, has backed off his campaign promise to make this transfer.  It is not clear that he will keep his oft-repeated promise.  The extension of Israeli sovereignty to all of Jerusalem, including East Jerusalem, will also be discussed.
  3. The settlements: Pres. Trump has only mildly criticised the plans announced by the Israeli Government to build thousands of housing units in settlements in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).  It will be difficult for Netanyahu to back off these plans, since he is under intense political pressure from the right-wing of his coalition, including the Bayit Yehudi Party of Education Minister Bennett, as well as the settlers after the forced evacuation of Amona after 20 years. In principle, it is thought that Pres. Trump will support Israel’s right to build there in parallel to that of the Palestinians.
  4. The two-state solution: Pres. Trump will try to ensure that Israeli building in the territories will not prevent the two-state solution deal that he obviously hopes to negotiate.  At his weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday PM Netanyahu reiterated his support for the two-state solution that he accepted in 2009, even against strong right-wing opposition in his coalition. A compromise might be the extension of Israeli sovereignty over Area C of the West Bank that was alloted to Israel under the Oslo Accords that established the Palestine Authority in Area A.
  5. The UN: The topic of US funding for the UN that has been blatantly biased against Israel will be discussed.  The US pays for most of the support for the UN and especially for its subsidiaries, such as UNRWA and the UN Human Rights Council that are virulently anti-Israel and anti-American.
  6. The Islamic State: IS and its threat of world-wide terrorism is a serious concern for Pres. Trump.  Particularly in an era of US retraction from the region, he may ask for Israeli help in the need to defeat IS.  He may not want to see the Syrian crisis resolved by the triumvirate of Russia, Iran and Turkey, without protecting US interests.

Israel’s PM was not the first or most important leader that Pres. Trump met with, he was preceded by British PM Theresa May and Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe.  But, it may be inferred that Pres. Trump sees Israel as a close ally in his future dealings in the Middle East.

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