Throughout the presidency of Donald Trump, as with his predecessors as US President, America has been interfering in the affairs of other countries, friends and foes alike. Using its embassies and intelligence agencies, US interference is based on its own interests and influence. With Washington betting on a future of US hegemony, its close ally Israel is not spared from interference and manipulation. The US interfered through the so-called negotiations over the Palestine-Israel issue and the road map, and its role in peace treaties agreed between Israel and Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority.
However, such interference and manipulation of Israeli politics by the Trump administration are different now, because it has to be seen in the context of personal rather than national interests. The “electoral gifts” provided by the Trump administration to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu started with the announcement of the “deal of the century” which was followed by recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel; the move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem; the cutting of US donations to UNRWA for Palestine refugees; and the recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. The timings of all of these moves coincided with the last two General Election campaigns in Israel in order to ensure that Netanyahu would not be defeated. Despite having no clear mandate, he still heads the Israeli government by default. Nevertheless, Trump’s gifts were not enough and so Israeli voters will go to the polls for a third election in less than a year on 2 March. There are increasing doubts that Netanyahu will be asked to form the government again.
Washington has postponed the details of the deal a number of times, probably to wait for a new Israeli government to be formed and headed by Netanyahu. The US administration has now said that it is going to announce the details before the March election, and not afterward. It is clearly being done in consultation with Netanyahu, given that the prime minister and his main rival, former General Benny Gantz, have been invited to go to Washington to be briefed on Trump’s plan, at the request of the Israeli leader. He believes that inviting Gantz will remove any differences in their positions on the annexation of the occupied West Bank so right-wing Israeli voters will back Netanyahu’s party instead of Gantz’s right-wing model of the prime minister’s Likud.
Gantz’s support for the annexation of the West Bank, after Netanyahu announced that it is likely to happen, led to accusations that the Blue and White bloc leader had little political sophistication and was weak when reading the political scene. This was because his announcement about annexation benefited Netanyahu and served Likud’s election campaign. Gantz, therefore, may not accept Trump’s invitation to meet him on Tuesday accompanied by his rival.If Netanyahu does meet Trump, with or without Gantz, the personal interests behind the invitation will be clear to both parties. Tuesday is when the immunity committee will start to discuss lifting Netanyahu’s political and diplomatic immunity from prosecution. However, media coverage of Trump’s deal and his meeting with Netanyahu will divert attention from the criminal charges against the Israeli Prime Minister. Trump’s impeachment defence team will also benefit from media attention being diverted elsewhere. Thus, Tuesday’s unveiling of the “deal of the century” to the Israeli leader will serve the personal interests of Trump and Netanyahu, rather than it being a straightforward matter of national interest for the US and Israel.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Ayyam on 26 January 2020
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.