Feb 22nd 2017

Trump And Netanyahu: Embracing Illusions, Ignoring Reality

by Alon Ben-Meir

A noted journalist and author, Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is professor of international relations and Middle East studies at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University. Ben-Meir holds a masters degree in philosophy and a doctorate in international relations from Oxford University. His exceptional knowledge and insight, the result of more than 20 years of direct involvement in foreign affairs, with a focus on the Middle East, has allowed Dr. Ben-Meir to offer a uniquely invaluable perspective on the nature of world terrorism, conflict resolution and international negotiations. Fluent in Arabic and Hebrew, Ben-Meir's frequent travels to the Middle East and meetings with highly placed officials and academics in many Middle Eastern countries including Egypt, Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian territories, Syria and Turkey provide him with an exceptionally nuanced level of awareness and insight into the developments surrounding breaking news. Ben-Meir often articulates

President Trump remained true to his customary flip-flopping on just about every issue when he stated during a joint press conference with Prime Minister Netanyahu that he is “looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like… I can live with either one.” By stating so, Trump gave Netanyahu what he was hoping to get—a departure from the two-state solution. To achieve that, Trump is reportedly looking at other options that would enlist the Arab states—who presently share mutual strategic interests with Israel to form a united front against their common enemy, Iran—to help broker a solution to the Palestinian problem.

To be sure, the two leaders who are both in trouble—Netanyahu is under multiple criminal investigations for corruption, and Trump is being attacked from just about every corner for his outrageous statements, contradictions, and self-indulgence—found comfort with one another.

Netanyahu went back home feeling triumphant, as he seemingly managed to sway Trump from the idea of two states, while Trump presented himself as a statesman thinking out of the box by looking at an Israeli-Arab comprehensive peace through which to fashion a solution to the Palestinian conflict.

Although CIA Director Mike Pompeo met with Mahmoud Abbas the day before the press conference, I was told by a top Jordanian official in Amman that Abbas was abundantly clear during the meeting that there is not and will never be an alternative to a two-state solution based on the Arab Peace Initiative (API). Moreover, Abbas indicated that Hamas’s position on a two-state solution is unequivocal, and in any case, Gaza and the West Bank must constitute a single Palestinian state.

While Netanyahu often pretended that he still believes in the two-state solution, during the many encounters he had with former Secretary of State John Kerry (including a joint meeting with Egypt’s President Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdullah in Aqaba in 2016) where he was presented with a comprehensive peace plan, he repeatedly changed his position.

Netanyahu habitually claimed that his extremist right-wing partners oppose the creation of a Palestinian state under any circumstances and that his government would collapse if he were to actively pursue the idea, as if he could not form a new government with the left and center parties who are committed to a two-state solution. Nevertheless, he continued to sing the song of two states for public consumption and to get the Obama administration off his back.

Regardless of what new ideas Netanyahu and Trump concocted, one thing remains certain: there is simply no other realistic solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict other than two independent states, Jewish and Palestinian.

The viability of this solution does not only rest on preserving Israel as a democracy with a Jewish national identity while meeting the Palestinians’ aspiration for a state of their own. A careful scrutiny of other would-be alternatives floating around have no basis in reality.

Jordan is not and will never become a Palestinian state (as some Israelis advocate) because the Hashemite Kingdom will resist that with all its might; a binational state is a kiss of death to the Zionist dream; the establishment of a Palestinian state in Gaza while incorporating much of the West Bank into Israel is a non-starter; the creation of a federation between Israel, Jordan, and Palestine is a pipe dream; and finally, confining the Palestinians in the West Bank in cantons to run their internal affairs as they see fit, while Israel maintains security control, will be violently resisted by the Palestinians until the occupation comes to an end.

It is true that the Arab states view Israel today as a potential ally in the face of the Iranian threat, and there may well be a historic opportunity to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the context of a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace. This opportunity, though, can be materialized only in the context of the API.

The central requirement of the API is a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on a two-state solution, which would subsequently lead to a regional peace. Indeed, only by Israel first embracing the API will the Arab states lend their support to a two-state solution by putting pressure on the Palestinians to make the necessary concessions to reach a peace accord.

Those who claim that the two-state solution has passed its time and new and creative ideas should be explored must know that many new ideas have been considered. None of them, however, could provide a solution that meets the Israelis’ or the Palestinians’ requirement for independent and democratic states enjoying Jewish and Palestinian national identities, respectively.

Netanyahu has found in Trump a co-conspirator. Both have a proven record of double talking, misleading, and often outright lying. Both are blinded by their hunger for power and are ready and willing to say anything to please their shortsighted constituencies. Neither has the vision or the courage to rise above the fray, and nothing they have uttered jointly meets the hardcore reality they choose to ignore.

What Netanyahu and Trump have demonstrated during their press conference was that both seem to revel in illusions where they find a zone of real comfort, while leaving Israelis and Palestinians to an uncertain and ominous future.

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Jan 17th 2020
EXTRACT: "Thanks to cutting-edge digital technology, cars are increasingly like “smartphones on wheels”, so manufacturers need to have access to the latest patented 4G and 5G technologies essential to navigation and communications. But often the companies that hold the patents are reluctant to license them because manufacturers will not accept the high fees involved, which leads to patent disputes and licensing rows."
Jan 13th 2020
EXTRACT: "Recent polling from Pew Research demonstrates how the public’s attitudes toward the US and President Trump have witnessed sharp declines in many nations across the world. In Europe, the Americas, and the Middle East favorable attitudes toward the US went from lows during the years of George W. Bush’s presidency to highs in the early Obama years to lows, once again, in the Trump era. And in our Zogby Research Services (ZRS) polling we found, with a few exceptions, much the same trajectory across the Middle East."
Jan 13th 2020
EXTRACT: "In the absence of a declaration of war against Iran, the killing of a foreign official – by a drone strike on Iraqi territory – was possibly illegal. But such niceties do not perturb Trump. The evidence is that Trump’s decision was taken without consideration of the possible consequences. The national security system established under Dwight D. Eisenhower, designed to prevent such reckless measures, is broken to non-existent, with ever-greater power placed in the hands of the president. If that president is unstable, the entire world has a very serious problem."
Jan 9th 2020
EXTRACT: "It is possible that Trump’s reverential base won’t be sufficient to keep him in the White House past 2020. But such ardent faith is hard to oppose with rational plans to fix this or that problem. That is why it is so unsettling to hear people at the top of the US government speak about politics in terms that rightly belong in church. They are challenging the founding principles of the American Republic, and they might actually win as a result."
Jan 7th 2020
EXTRACT: "If anything has become clear in our recent Zogby Research Services (ZRS) polling in Iraq, is that most Iraqis are tired of their country being used as a playground for regional conflict, especially the conflict between the US and Iran. In fact, our polling has shown Iraqis increasingly upset with the role played by both the US and Iran in their country. Majorities see both of these countries as having been the major beneficiaries of the wars that have ravaged their nation since the US invaded in 2003. "
Jan 5th 2020
EXTRACT: "Under his [Suleimani's] leadership, Iran helped Hezbollah beef up its missile capabilities, led a decisive intervention to prop up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, supported the Houthi rebels who have been waging a war against Saudi-led forces in Yemen, and backed a wave of resurgent Shia militias in Iraq. According to Gadi Eizenkot, who completed his term as the Israel Defense Forces’ chief of general staff last year, Suleimani had plans to amass a proxy force of 100,000 fighters along Syria’s border with Israel."
Dec 31st 2019
EXTRACT: ".....stunning technological progress during the 2010s makes it possible to cut GHG emissions at a cost far lower than we dared hope a decade ago. The costs of solar and wind power have fallen more than 80% and 70%, respectively, while lithium-ion battery costs are down from $1,000 per kilowatt-hour in 2010 to $160 per kWh today. These and other breakthroughs guarantee that energy systems which are as much as 85% dependent on variable renewables could produce zero-carbon electricity at costs that are fully competitive with those of fossil-fuel-based systems."
Dec 31st 2019
EXTRACT: "Predicting the next crisis – financial or economic – is a fool’s game. Yes, every crisis has its hero who correctly warned of what was about to come. And, by definition, the hero was ignored (hence the crisis). But the record of modern forecasting contains a note of caution: those who correctly predict a crisis rarely get it right again. The best that economists can do is to assess vulnerability. Looking at imbalances in the real economy or financial markets gives a sense of the potential consequences of a major shock. It doesn't take much to spark corrections in vulnerable economies and markets. But a garden-variety correction is far different from a crisis. The severity of the shock and the degree of vulnerability matter: big shocks to highly vulnerable systems are a recipe for crisis. In this vein, the source of vulnerability that I worry about the most is the overextended state of central-bank balance sheets. My concern stems from three reasons."
Dec 14th 2019
EXTRACT: "Conspiracy theories about sinister Jewish power have a long history. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a Russian forgery published in 1903, popularized the notion that Jewish bankers and financiers were secretly pulling the strings to dominate the world. Henry Ford was one of the more prominent people who believed this nonsense."
Dec 13th 2019
EXTRACT: "In previous British elections, to say that trust was the main issue would have meant simply that trust is the trump card – whichever leader or party could secure most trust would win. Now, the emerging question about trust is whether it even matters anymore."
Dec 5th 2019
EXTRACT: "Europe must fend for itself for the first time since the end of World War II. Yet after so many years of strategic dependence the US, Europe is unprepared – not just materially but psychologically – for today’s harsh geopolitical realities. Nowhere is this truer than in Germany."
Nov 23rd 2019
Extdact: "The kind of gratitude expressed by Vindman and my grandfather is not something that would naturally occur to a person who can take his or her nationality for granted, or whose nationality is beyond questioning by others. Some who have never felt the sharp end of discrimination might even find it mildly offensive. Why should anyone be grateful for belonging to a particular nation? Pride, perhaps, but gratitude? In fact, patriotism based on gratitude might be the strongest form there is."
Nov 20th 2019
Extract: "Moody’s, one of the big three credit rating agencies, is not upbeat about the prospects for the world’s debt in 2020 – to put it mildly. If we were to try to capture the agency’s view of where we are heading on a palette of colours, we would be pointing at black – pitch black."
Nov 17th 2019
Extract: "Digital money is already a key battleground in finance, with technology firms, payment processing companies, and banks all vying to become the gateway into the burgeoning platform-based economy. The prizes that await the winners could be huge. In China, Alipay and WeChat Pay already control more than 90% of all mobile payments. And in the last three years, the four largest listed payment firms – Visa, Mastercard, Amex, and PayPal – have increased in value by more than the FAANGs (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google)."
Nov 14th 2019
Extract: "Trump, who understands almost nothing about governing, made a major mistake in attacking career public officials from the outset of his presidency. He underestimated – or just couldn’t fathom – the honor of people who could earn more in the private sector but believe in public service. And he made matters worse for himself as well as for the government by creating a shadow group – headed by the strangely out-of-control Rudy Giuliani, once a much-admired mayor of New York City, and now a freelance troublemaker serving as Trump’s personal attorney – to impose the president’s Ukraine policy over that of “the bureaucrats.” "
Nov 4th 2019
Extract: "Trump displays repeated and persistent behaviours consistent with narcissistic personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder. These behaviours include craving for adulation, lack of empathy, aggression and vindictiveness towards opponents, addiction to lying, and blatant disregard for rules and conventions, among others." The concern is that leaders with these two disorders may be incapable of putting the interests of the country ahead of their own personal interests. Their compulsive lying may make rational action impossible and their impulsiveness may make them incapable of the forethought and planning necessary to lead the country. They lack empathy and are often motivated by rage and revenge, and could make quick decisions that could have profoundly dangerous consequences for democracy.
Oct 31st 2019
EXTRACT: "......let’s see what happens when we have less money for all the things we want to do as a country and as individuals. Promises and predictions regarding Brexit will soon be tested against reality. When they are, I wouldn’t want to be one of Johnson’s Brexiteers."
Oct 21st 2019
EXTRACT: "Were Israel to be attacked with the same precision and sophistication as the strike on Saudi Arabia, the Middle East would be plunged into war on a scale beyond anything it has experienced so far. Sadly (but happily for Russian President Vladimir Putin), that is the reality of a world in which the US has abandoned any pretense of global leadership."
Oct 20th 2019
EXTRACT: "Europe also stands to lose from Trump’s abandonment of the Kurds. If, in the ongoing chaos, the thousands of ISIS prisoners held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces escape – as some already have – America’s estranged European allies will suffer. Yet Trump is unconcerned. “Well, they are going to be escaping to Europe, that’s where they want to go,” he remarked casually at a press conference. “They want to go back to their homes." "
Oct 15th 2019
EXTRACT: "Assuming the House ultimately votes to impeach Trump, the fact remains that there are far fewer votes in the Senate than will be needed to convict him and remove him from office. But the willingness of Congress – including the Senate – to continue tolerating his dangerous conduct in office, including threats to US national security, is now truly in question."