You heard that right. Benjamin “I Want To Annex Your Land” Netanyahu, after four terms in office, will suddenly turn the tides and seek peace with his Palestinian rivals, the president suggests.
“Everybody says you can’t have peace in the Middle East, with Israel and the Palestinians,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “I think we have a chance. I think we have now a better chance with Bibi having won,” he said, using the PM’s diminutive nickname.
Netanyahu won a narrow election Tuesday on a platform of outright hostility toward the Palestinians, promising to “extend sovereignty” over West Bank settlements, which are illegal under international law. He said he would try to do that with American support.
President Trump’s own bona fides as a peacemaker are dubious. In late 2017, he bucked longstanding US policy and recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s “undivided” capital city, a move that enraged Palestinians. He later shuttered Palestinian diplomatic offices in Washington, eliminating an important communication channel between diplomats working to resolve the decades-long conflict. More than ever, US policy is lopsided in Israel’s favor.
Trump in late March also decided to recognize the occupied Golan Heights, territory stolen from Syria during the 1967 Six Day War, as part of Israel proper. This, too, surely bodes well for peace on the horizon. The message to Israel is clear: “Annex whatever you want.”
President’s advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner is preparing his own peace plan, which he said he would roll out sometime after Israel’s April 9 elections. The exact date for that has yet to be set, but White House officials say it could happen in June. Few details of the plan have emerged, but it could involve land swaps with neighboring states Egypt and Jordan.
Throughout his multiple terms in office, PM Netanyahu has time and again urged escalation against the Palestinians, overseeing the brutal 2014 siege of Gaza that killed thousands, as well as operations like Cast Lead and Pillar of Defense, which also saw large numbers of civilian casualties. He has vowed to oppose the creation of a Palestinian state as long as he is in office, rejecting what many see as a vital condition for any negotiated settlement.
“[Israeli voters] have chosen an overwhelmingly right-wing, xenophobic and anti-Palestinian parliament to represent them,” said senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi. “Israelis chose to entrench and expand apartheid.”
Trump’s optimism about “Bibi” is nice, but simply cannot be squared with the facts. Netanyahu is no peace PM, and the Palestinians know it.