Conflicting Messages on Israel

The AIPAC Conference in Washington DC is the annual occasion for a love-fest between Israel and the US. VP Mike Pence representing the US said in effect “there has never been a US Administration as supportive of Israel as the Trump Administration.”  From the Israeli side Ambassador Ron Dermer stated “there is no light between Israel and the US.”  When PM Netanyahu welcomed the approval of the newly appointed US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, he said “Welcome to Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Israel.”

But, there are troubling signs.  Mike Pence repeated that Pres., Trump is still considering moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. But why the hold-up, in what could be a simple administrative order, consistent with the location of all other US Embassies in the self-declared capital of other countries.  Also, the representative of the Trump Administration for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt, has asked PM Netanyahu to institute a building freeze on the West Bank, not different from that of the Obama Administration. But, this comes at a particularly difficult time for PM Netanyahu, when he has promised the former settlers of Amona, who were forcibly evicted and had their homes demolished only a few weeks ago, that he will give them an alternative site to settle.  And he has promised the settler movement that he will approve the construction of a new settlement, that has not been done for over 10 years. Or maybe Trump is insisting that Jerusalem comply with a  construction freeze before he approves the move of the Embassy, the usual form of US arm twisting of Israel.

In the face of these conflicting messages, maybe PM Netanyahu has concluded that he cannot comply with this request, but cannot also defy the new friendly Trump Administration.  Maybe this is a good time to force an election.  Maybe the subject of the Israel Broadcasting Authority that has been widely accepted as the basis for the current Coalition crisis between PM Netanyahu and Finance Minster Kahlon, is only a smoke screen.  Maybe Netanyahu is buying time, to delay the implementation of any building freeze, so as not to lose the support of his right-wing, and wait and see where the chips fall.  Will the Trump Administration actually fulfil its oft-repeated promise to move the Capital to Jerusalem and to accept the legitimate right of Israel to build in the West Bank.

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