Feb 22nd 2017

Trump/Netanyahu Meet: an Exercise in Fawning, Fantasy, and Anti-Palestinian Incitement

by James J. Zogby

Dr. James J. Zogby is the President of Arab American Institute

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's meeting with US President Donald Trump was overshadowed by dramatic and unsettling events that preceded and followed their perfectly bizarre press conference.   

The week began with the forced resignation of White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and revelations of extensive communications between Trump campaign aides and Russian intelligence—revealing a White House in disarray, operating under a dark cloud of suspicion. The day after the Trump/Netanyahu joint press event was dominated by reactions to Trump's solo press conference—an unprecedented incoherent and, at times, paranoid affair that left many commentators questioning the President's stability.

As a result of growing concerns with Trump's Russian connections and his out-of-control behavior when challenged by reporters or other American institutions (intelligence services, judiciary, or political opponents), the Netanyahu visit became a one day news story and the content of the Trump/Netanyahu press event escaped needed scrutiny.

Their press conference was, as expected, a love fest. During Netanyahu's time as Prime Minister, he has had to deal with Democratic Presidents (Clinton and Obama) who have pressed him (albeit, ever so gently) to make concessions in order to advance peace with the Palestinians. Now he has a Republican President who he has every reason to believe sees eye to eye with him on most issues. For his part, Trump, who made opposition to what he characterized as Obama's "weak" policies toward Israel, Iran, and Islam major issues in his campaign's foreign policy agenda, sees Netanyahu as a "soul mate".

The press event featured an excess of embarrassing fawning. US leaders often heap praise on Israel, committing themselves to an "unbreakable", "unshakable" bond. Trump upped the ante referring to Israel as: "a cherished ally", "an open democracy" that has "advanced the causes of human freedom, dignity, and peace" and claimed that the US and Israel are "two nations that cherish the value of human life".   

Netanyahu repaid the unwarranted compliments with undeserved tributes. He praised Trump's dealing with "Islamic extremism" saying "you've shown great clarity and courage in confronting this challenge head on". And, in response to a question about the extent to which Trump's presidential campaign was supported by and gave a platform to anti-Semitic elements, Netanyahu absolved the US President saying that "there is no greater supporter of the Jewish people and the Jewish State than President Donald Trump".

After this shameless exercise in "log-rolling", the two settled down to presenting their views of the future of peace in the region—a discussion that included equal doses of hallucination, fantasy, and anti-Palestinian incitement.    

Trump insisted that he wants to make a "great deal" that will bring peace to the region. He was initially vague about what that would entail, but after being coaxed by Netanyahu it became clear that both leaders believe that they can convert the Arab World's concern with Iran and ISIS into an alliance that would create a regional peace agreement. Both suggested that some Arab States are already working covertly with Israel to confront both threats. This being the case, they posited that this shared interest can be transformed into an open alliance that would make peace with Israel, on Israel's terms.

This is sheer fantasy. While it is true that Arabs are concerned with both threats—hatred or fear of Iran or ISIS does not translate into an overt alliance with Israel over the backs of the Palestinian people. Such an arrangement has long been an Israeli dream, but it ignores, as former Secretary of State John Kerry has noted, deeply felt Arab attachment to the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.

As my polling clearly demonstrates, Israeli behavior toward the Palestinians has not only increased Arab antipathy toward Israel, it has also significantly eroded the Arab people's support for the Arab Peace Initiative. Given this, it is more likely that Arab cooperation with Israel, that is perceived to undercut Palestinian rights, would more likely play into the hands of Iran and extremist movements who would use it to inflame passions against such an arrangement.

Much was made of President Trump's statement that he didn't care whether peace involved two-states or one state, not enough attention was given to why it was said and what it would ultimately mean. Netanyahu has no interest in seeing the creation of an independent Palestinian State. He has ambitions for a Greater Israel—but wants to proceed gradually by taking more land, building more settlements, and discrediting and weakening moderate Palestinian leadership in order to make annexation an eventual "fact". While he has succeeded, to some extent, in these efforts, the Palestinian people's aspirations for justice, freedom, and self-determination have not been extinguished. Nor has Arab support for the Palestinians been diminished. 

Netanyahu has so empowered the Israeli right, that he has become its captive. As much as he resented Obama's pressure, he was able to use it to tame the more extreme impulses of his far right coalition partners. With the election of Trump, Israel's right feels that the pressure is off. Calls for immediate annexation are now heard. And the Knesset recently passed a bill "legalizing" the theft of Palestinian owned land. Before leaving to the US, Netanyahu's coalition partners warned him that should he publicly commit to two states he would face a rebellion at home. In ducking the two state formula, Trump was saving Netanyahu from his domestic foes.

For his part, Netanyahu maintained the fiction that he could accept two states but on two conditions: that Palestinians accept Israel as a "Jewish State" and that would give Israel permanent security control of the land to the west of the Jordan River. The first of these two conditions would permanently disenfranchise Palestinians inside Israel. The second would leave Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem living under Israeli military rule with no freedom or access and egress to the outside world. Both are obviously non-starters. This is not a two-state solution, rather it is an outcome that would merely formalize the apartheid system that currently exists. 

To justify his intransigence, Netanyahu used his time at the podium to accuse the Palestinians of incitement and violence using language that was, itself, a shameless act of incitement. However, because this narrative has become so accepted in the US, no questions were raised about whether the charges are true or how whatever the Palestinians say or do compares with Israel's incitement against Palestinians, documented instances of Israeli violence against innocent Palestinians, and the daily humiliation, brutality, and violence of the occupation.

With all of the questions that should have been raised, it was disturbing that the only real discussion that followed the visit focused on warnings that a one state solution would produce a state with an Arab majority compromising Israel's Jewish character—with no attention paid to the issues of justice or the rights of the Palestinian people.  

In any case, at the trip's end, Netanyahu returned home to new revelations of corruption charges being leveled against him and new challenges from his far right "partners". Back in Washington, Trump faced challenges of his own: more signs of a White House in disarray and more self-inflicted wounds of an out of control President. As a result, whatever expectations might have been created by the visit were left unmet. This exercise in fawning, fantasy, and incitement was for naught. Peace was not advanced, nor was the understanding of what real peace would require and how what Trump and Netanyahu would contribute to that goal.

 

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Apr 16th 2021
EXTRACT: "When we examined the development of nations worldwide since 1820, we found that among rich Western countries like the United States, the Netherlands and France, improvements in income, education, safety and health tracked or even outpaced rising gross domestic product for over a century. But in the 1950s, even as economic growth accelerated after World War II, well-being in these countries lagged.
Apr 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Some presidents indulge in the “Mount Rushmore syndrome” making an obvious effort to achieve greatness. Normally soft-spoken and apparently modest Biden is making his own bid for immortality."
Apr 9th 2021
EXTRACT: "New ways of thinking about the role of government are as important as new priorities. Many commentators have framed Biden’s infrastructure plan as a return to big government. But the package is spread over eight years, will raise public spending by only one percentage point of GDP, and is projected to pay for itself eventually. A boost in public investment in infrastructure, the green transition, and job creation is long overdue."
Apr 7th 2021
EXTRACT: " One can, and perhaps should, take the optimistic view that moral panics in the US blow over; reason will once again prevail. It could be that the Biden era will take the sting out of Trumpism, and the tolerance for which American intellectual life has often been admired will be reinvigorated. This might even happen while the noxious effects of American influence still rage in other countries. For the sake of America and the world, one can only hope it happens soon.  "
Mar 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "By refusing (despite having some good reasons) to end electoral gerrymandering, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., has directly enabled the paralyzing hyper-partisanship that reached its nadir during Donald Trump’s presidency. By striking down all limits on corporate spending on political campaigns in the infamous 2010 Citizens United decision, he has helped to entrench dark money in US politics. And by gutting the 1965 Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, Roberts has facilitated the racist voter-suppression tactics now being pursued in many Republican-controlled states."
Mar 24th 2021
EXTRACT: "the UK’s tough choices accumulate, and the problems lurking around the corner look menacing. Britain will have to make the best of Brexit. But it will be a long, hard struggle, all the more so with an evasive fabulist in charge."
Mar 15th 2021
EXTRACT: "Over the years, the approach of most American policymakers toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been Israel-centric with near total disregard for the suffering endured by the Palestinian people. The architects of policy in successive US administrations have discussed the conflict as if the fate of only one party (Israel) really mattered. Israelis were treated as full human beings with hopes and fears, while Palestinians were reduced to a problem that needed to be solved so that Israelis could live in peace and security.  ..... It is not just that Israelis and Palestinians haven’t been viewed with an equal measure of concern. It’s worse than that. It appears that Palestinians were judged as less ​human than Israelis, and were, therefore, not entitled to make demands to have their rights recognized and protected."
Mar 8th 2021
EXTRACTS: "XThere’s a global shortage in semiconductors, and it’s becoming increasingly serious." ...... "The automotive sector has been worst affected by the drought, in an era where microchips now form the backbone of most cars. Ford is predicting a 20% slump in production and Tesla shut down its model 3 assembly line for two weeks. In the UK, Honda was forced to temporarily shut its plant as well." ..... " As much as 70% of the world’s semiconductors are manufactured by just two companies, Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC) and Samsung."
Mar 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Back in 1992, Lawrence H. Summers, then the chief economist at the World Bank, and I warned that pushing the US Federal Reserve’s annual inflation target down from 4% to 2% risked causing big problems. Not only was the 4% target not producing any discontent, but a 2% target would increase the risk of the Fed’s interest-rate policy hitting the zero lower bound. Our objections went unheeded. Fed Chair Alan Greenspan reduced the inflation target to 2%, and we have been paying for it ever since. I have long thought that many of our economic problems would go away if we could rejigger asset markets in such a way as to make a 5% federal funds rate consistent with full employment in the late stage of a business cycle."
Mar 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Under these conditions, the Fed is probably worried that markets will instantly crash if it takes away the punch bowl. And with the increase in public and private debt preventing the eventual monetary normalization, the likelihood of stagflation in the medium term – and a hard landing for asset markets and economies – continues to increase."
Mar 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Massive fiscal and monetary stimulus programs in the United States and other advanced economies are fueling a raging debate about whether higher inflation could be just around the corner. Ten-year US Treasury yields and mortgage rates are already climbing in anticipation that the US Federal Reserve – the de facto global central bank – will be forced to hike rates, potentially bursting asset-price bubbles around the world. But while markets are probably overstating short-term inflation risks for 2021, they do not yet fully appreciate the longer-term dangers."
Feb 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "To be sure, calls to “build back better” from the pandemic imply some awareness of the need for systemic change. But the transformation we need extends beyond constructing modern infrastructure or unlocking private investment in any one country. We need to re-orient – indeed, re-invent – global politics, so that countries can cooperate far more effectively in creating a better world."
Feb 23rd 2021
EXTRACT: "So, notwithstanding the predictable release of pent-up demand for consumer durables, face-to-face services show clear evidence – in terms of both consumer demand and employment – of permanent scarring. Consequently, with the snapback of pent-up demand for durables nearing its point of exhaustion, the recovery of the post-pandemic US economy is likely to fall well short of vaccine development’s “warp speed.” "
Feb 20th 2021
EXTRACT: "Human rights abuses under Erdogan are beyond the pale of inhumanity and moral decadence. The list of Erdogan’s violations and cruelty is too long to numerate. The detention and horrifying torture of thousands of innocent people for months and at times for years, without being charged, is hard to fathom. Many prisoners are left languishing in dark cells, often in solitary confinement. The detention of tens of thousands of men and hundreds of women, many with their children, especially following the 2016 failed coup, has become common. It is calculated to inflict horrendous pain and suffering to bring the prisoners to the breaking point, so that they confess to crimes they have never committed."
Feb 20th 2021
Courtyard of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, circa 1670, (Job Adriaenszoon Berckheyde).
Feb 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "Global regulators will no doubt be concerned about a potential volatility spillover from digital asset prices into traditional capital markets. They may not permit what could quickly amount to effective proxy approval by the back door for companies holding large proportions of a volatile asset on their balance sheets."
Feb 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Since Russians began protesting opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s imprisonment, the security forces have apparently had carte blanche to arrest demonstrators – and they have done so by the thousands. If Russians so much as honk their car horns in solidarity with the protesters, they risk personal repercussions. The official response to the protests goes beyond the Kremlin’s past repression. It is war."
Feb 6th 2021
EXTRACT: ".......like Biden, Roosevelt was certainly no revolutionary. His task was to save American capitalism. He was a repairer, a fixer. The New Deal was achieved not because of Roosevelt’s genius or heroism, but because enough people trusted him to act in good faith. That is precisely what people are expecting from Biden, too. He must save US democracy from the ravages of a political crisis. To do so, he must reestablish trust in the system. He has promised to make his country less polarized, and to restore civility and truth to political discourse. In this endeavor, his lack of charisma may turn out to be his greatest strength. For all that he lacks in grandeur, he makes up for by exuding an air of decency."
Feb 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Europe must not lose sight of the long game, which inevitably will center on China, not Russia or relations with post-Brexit Britain. China is already establishing a presence in Iran, and demonstrating that it has the capital, know-how, and technology to project power and influence beyond its borders. Should it succeed in turning the Belt and Road Initiative into a line of geopolitical stepping-stones, it might soon emerge at Europe’s southeastern border in a form that no one in the EU foresaw."
Jan 29th 2021
EXTRACT: "One sign of this change is that, unlike all recent Democratic administrations, Biden’s hasn’t paid obeisance to Wall Street by giving bankers top jobs. The new Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, is a former Federal Reserve chair and academic who has made it clear that she understands the country’s pressing social needs. Moreover, Biden consulted Warren on her economic views, and has named a former Warren adviser as Yellen’s deputy. Yellen’s appointment demonstrates that Biden shares the insight that enabled Trump’s rise: that too many Americans feel that they cannot get a fair share. "