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

Sep 24th 2021
EXTRACTS: "We have found that 47 million American adults – nearly 1 in 5 – agree with the statement that “the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump and Joe Biden is an illegitimate president.” Of those, 21 million also agree that “use of force is justified to restore Donald J. Trump to the presidency.” Our survey found that many of these 21 million people with insurrectionist sentiments have the capacity for violent mobilization. At least 7 million of them already own a gun, and at least 3 million have served in the U.S. military and so have lethal skills. Of those 21 million, 6 million said they supported right-wing militias and extremist groups, and 1 million said they are themselves or personally know a member of such a group, including the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys." ----- "..... the Jan. 6 insurrection represents a far more mainstream movement than earlier instances of right-wing extremism across the country. Those events, mostly limited to white supremacist and militia groups, saw more than 100 individuals arrested from 2015 to 2020. But just 14% of those arrested for their actions on Jan. 6 are members of those groups. More than half are business owners or middle-aged white-collar professionals, and only 7% are unemployed."
Sep 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "That long path, though, has from the start had within it one fundamental flaw. If we are to make sense of wider global trends in insecurity, we have to recognise that in all the analysis around the 9/11 anniversary there lies the belief that the main security concern must be with an extreme version of Islam. It may seem a reasonable mistake, given the impact of the wars, but it still misses the point. The war on terror is better seen as one part of a global trend which goes well beyond a single religious tradition – a slow but steady move towards revolts from the margins."
Sep 11th 2021
EXTRACTS: "Is it not extraordinary that in a country that claims to be as enlightened and advanced as ours, the combined wealth of three individuals – Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and investor Warren Buffett – exceeds the total wealth of the bottom half of Americans? One has to return to the days of the pharaohs of Egypt to find a parallel to the extreme wealth inequality that we see in in America today." ...... "The top tax rate remained above 90 percent through the 1950s and did not dip below 70 percent until 1981. At no point during the decades that saw America’s greatest economic growth did the tax on the wealthy drop below 70 percent. Today it is somewhere around 37 percent. President Biden’s American Families Plan would increase the top tax rate to 39.6 percent – a fairly modest alteration, albeit in the right direction. It is true that there was a time when the top marginal tax was even lower than it is today: in the years leading up to the Great Depression it hovered around 25 percent."
Sep 7th 2021
EXTRACT: "But Biden can’t be blamed for the rise of the Taliban, or the fragile state of a country that has seen far too many wars and invasions. The US should not have been there in the first place, but that is a lesson that great powers never seem to learn."
Sep 4th 2021
EXTRACT: "The world is only starting to grapple with how profound the artificial-intelligence revolution will be. AI technologies will create waves of progress in critical infrastructure, commerce, transportation, health, education, financial markets, food production, and environmental sustainability. Successful adoption of AI will drive economies, reshape societies, and determine which countries set the rules for the coming century." ----- "AI will reorganize the world and change the course of human history. The democratic world must lead that process."
Sep 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Although the Fed is considering tapering its quantitative easing (QE), it will likely remain dovish and behind the curve overall. Like most central banks, it has been lured into a “debt trap” by the surge in private and public liabilities (as a share of GDP) in recent years. Even if inflation stays higher than targeted, exiting QE too soon could cause bond, credit, and stock markets to crash. That would subject the economy to a hard landing, potentially forcing the Fed to reverse itself and resume QE." ---- "After all, that is what happened between the fourth quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019, following the Fed’s previous attempt to raise rates and roll back QE."
Sep 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Today’s economic challenges are certainly solvable, and there is no reason why inflation should have to spike."
Aug 27th 2021
EXTRACT: "To be sure, they have focused on their agenda, which is totally misguided—not by our own account but by the account of the majority of the American population, who view the Republican party as one that has lost its moral footing to the detriment of America’s future generations, who must now inherit the ugly consequences of a party that ran asunder."
Aug 21st 2021
EXTRACTS: "Now that so many sad truths about Afghanistan are being spoken aloud, even in the major media – let me add one more: The war, from start to finish, was about politics, not in Afghanistan but in the United States. Afghanistan was always a sideshow."--- "....the 2001 invasion was fast and apparently decisive. And so it rescued George W. Bush’s tainted presidency,..." --- "Bush’s approval shot up to 90% and then steadily declined,..."
Aug 17th 2021
EXTRACT: "The Taliban’s virtually uncontested takeover over Afghanistan raises obvious questions about the wisdom of US President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw US and coalition forces from the country. Paradoxically, however, the rapidity and ease of the Taliban’s advance only reaffirms that Biden made the right decision – and that he should not reverse course. ...... The ineffectiveness and collapse of Afghanistan’s military and governing institutions largely substantiates Biden’s skepticism that US-led efforts to prop up the government in Kabul would ever enable it to stand on its own feet. The international community has spent nearly 20 years, many thousands of lives, and trillions of dollars to do good by Afghanistan – taking down al-Qaeda; beating back the Taliban; supporting, advising, training, and equipping the Afghan military; bolstering governing institutions; and investing in the country’s civil society. .... Significant progress was made, but not enough." ....... "That is because the mission was fatally flawed from the outset. It was a fool’s errand to try to turn Afghanistan into a centralized, unitary state. "
Aug 6th 2021
EXTRACT: "But even in the US, which is more lenient than most countries, the principle cannot be absolute. Inciting imminent violence is not permitted. Donald Trump’s speech on January 6, urging the mob to storm the US Capitol, certainly came close to overstepping this boundary. It was a clear demonstration that language can be dangerous. What the internet media has done is raise the stakes; “fighting words” are spread around much faster and more widely than ever before. This will require a great deal of vigilance, to protect our freedom to express ourselves, while observing the social and legal bounds that stop words from turning into actual fighting. "
Jul 27th 2021
EXTRACT: "When it comes to the Chinese economy, I have been a congenital optimist for over 25 years. But now I have serious doubts. The Chinese government has taken dead aim at its dynamic technology sector, the engine of China’s New Economy. Its recent actions are symptomatic of a deeper problem: the state’s efforts to control the energy of animal spirits." ---- "... the Chinese economy, no less than others, still requires a foundation of trust – trust in the consistency of leadership priorities, in transparent governance, and in wise regulatory oversight – to flourish. --- Modern China lacks this foundation of trust ."
Jul 25th 2021
EXTRACT: "It seems that they are, as the last 18 months have seen a remarkable expansion of the central banks’ fields of activity, largely driven by their own ambitions. So they have moved into the climate change arena, arguing that financial stability may be put at risk by rising temperatures, and that central banks, as bond purchasers and as banking supervisors, can and should be proactive in raising the cost of credit for corporations without a credible transition plan. That is a promising new line of business, which is likely to grow. ---- Central banks are also trying to move into social engineering, specifically the policy response to rising income and wealth inequality, another hot button topic with high political salience."
Jul 25th 2021
EXTRACT: "The EU’s ambitious unilateral climate strategy will transform Europe into a trade fortress, encourage green protectionism worldwide, and give other regions the opportunity to develop using cheaper energy. And without China, India, and the United States on board, other countries will be careful not to follow the EU in its self-appointed role as the world’s green guinea pig. If Europe is not careful, it will risk finding itself in a climate club of one. "
Jul 9th 2021
EXTRACT: ".... ruminants belch and fart methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas. As a result, rearing beef cattle brings about, on average, six times the contribution to global warming as non-ruminant animals (for example, pigs) producing the same quantity of protein. ..... if projected to 2050 [beef production], would use 87% of the total quantity of emissions that is compatible with the Paris climate agreement’s objective of staying below a 2° Celsius increase in temperature."
Jul 8th 2021
EXTRACT: " .... while China’s leaders never mention it, they are just as embittered over Russia’s theft of Chinese territory in the nineteenth century as they are over the West’s imperial predations. With Western imperialism having been largely rolled back, it is Russia’s continued occupation of historic Chinese territory that stands out the most to ordinary Chinese observers. For example, the city of Vladivostok, with its vast naval base, has been a part of Russia only since 1860, when the tsars built a military harbor there. Before that, the city was known by the Manchu name of Haishenwai." ---- "There is also a demographic argument for Putin to consider: the six million Russians spread along the Siberian border face 90 million Chinese on the other side. And many of these Chinese regularly cross the border into Russia to trade (and a good number to stay)."
Jul 7th 2021
EXTRACTS: "According to a new analysis by researchers at Brown University, America’s two-decade war in Afghanistan cost it nearly $2.3 trillion. Now, Afghanistan’s neighbors – Pakistan, Iran, China, India, and the Central Asian countries – are wondering just how much it will cost them to maintain security after the United States is gone." ----- "After clandestinely supporting the Taliban as a means to undermine the US war effort, Russia now fears broader destabilization in Central Asia and beyond." ---- "Similarly, after having made nice with the Taliban, China also now fears the greater regional instability that the US withdrawal may incite. In addition to disrupting Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Eurasia-spanning Belt and Road Initiative, a revitalized Taliban could re-energize the Islamist extremist threat in China’s western Xinjiang province."
Jul 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "When former Fed Chair Paul Volcker hiked rates to tackle inflation in 1980-82, the result was a severe double-dip recession in the United States and a debt crisis and lost decade for Latin America. But now that global debt ratios are almost three times higher than in the early 1970s, any anti-inflationary policy would lead to a depression, rather than a severe recession. ---- Under these conditions, central banks will be damned if they do and damned if they don’t, and many governments will be semi-insolvent and thus unable to bail out banks, corporations, and households. The doom loop of sovereigns and banks in the eurozone after the global financial crisis will be repeated worldwide, sucking in households, corporations, and shadow banks as well. ---- As matters stand, this slow-motion train wreck looks unavoidable."
Jun 19th 2021
EXTRACT: "Xi Jinping’s call for friendship gives us an opportunity to examine Chinese politics on both the domestic and international stage. On the face of it, it suggests the possibility of rapprochement between the rich liberal democracies represented by the G7 and the authoritarian Chinese state. However, despite appearances of a call for a closer relationship, there is more than one way of being friends – and Xi’s idea might be somewhat different to what many in countries attending the G7 might expect."
Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "China’s recently published census, showing that its population has almost stopped growing, brought warnings of severe problems for the country. “Such numbers make grim reading for the party,” reported The Economist. This “could have a disastrous impact on the country,” wrote Huang Wenzheng, a fellow at the Center for China and Globalization in Beijing, in the Financial Times. But a comment posted on China’s Weibo was more insightful. “The declining fertility rate actually reflects the progress in the thinking of Chinese people – women are no longer a fertility tool.” "