The messianic appearance of the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, with the evangelical preacher and Chabad rabbi, illustrated the strength of the political alliance between the religious wing of the Republican Party and the inner circle of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Iranian nuclear presentation, the result of a bold and sophisticated operation by the Mossad, which was presented dramatically by Netanyahu, was the first part of this combined exercise. Without understating the incredible intelligence achievement, it was only a show designed to prepare the American political scene to leaving the nuclear agreement performed by Donald Trump. For the knowledgeable on the Iranian agreement and plans there was no startling information in the presentation. If there was an intention to impress and persuade fellow intelligence services and European leaders, there are more effective ways to do so. But that was not what the binder show was intended for, as I have stated. It was provided to Trump as ordered. The American president generously rewarded Netanyahu for this, by turning the embassy’s move into a spectacular propaganda show.
The alliance between Trump and Netanyahu is a political rather than a strategic alliance, as Netanyahu is trying to present it. If it were a strategic alliance, we would not be kept in the dark about the depth of the American commitment in Syria, we would not have feared that we would remain alone with the Iranians if the conflict in Syria escalated, and we would not have to maneuver ourselves around Vladimir Putin in order to prevent Iranian consolidation in Syria.
The next move by the Trump-Netanyahu pair will apparently be the “peace plan,” which also has a political purpose, both in the United States and in Israel. The American president is supposed to be portrayed as a peace-loving statesman who is willing to “invest inputs” in the conflict that everyone had despaired from solving. Netanyahu will plant in the Trump plan some conditions that the Palestinians will not be able to accept, but that are still possible to build a consensus around in Israeli society, for example, security arrangements, Jerusalem, and the declarative (non-practical) issue of the right of return. The Palestinians will be branded as refusers, and Netanyahu will be able to go to elections with the reinforced image as the security guarantor.
Netanyahu is expected to reject several components of the Trump plan, which were coordinated with him in advance. This is also for political motivations of both partners. Netanyahu must prove to his “base” that he does not need to trickle right when elections come around while Trump needs to restore his status as the fair arbiter in the Middle East, a status he lost when his religious-ideological identification with the ideological right in Israel became clear.
The expected exercise is likely to put anyone who sees themselves as an opposition figure in Israel in front of the need to decide. If Netanyahu’s rhetoric is correct, then there is no justification for criticizing him for his attitude towards the Trump plan – not about what he will accept with joy, or about what he will reject definitely. But if the Trump plan is not a real recipe for peace, then we must begin to tell the truth, and the truth is that it is necessary to divide the country into two states, to evacuate some of the settlements, to turn the Arab part of East Jerusalem into the capital of the Palestinian state and to fulfill security arrangements based on the superiority of the IDF and not on its physical presence in important areas. There is no limit to the irony of history. Perhaps Trump’s plan will bring the citizens of Israel to the moment of truth.
This article was originally published in Hebrew in Ha’aretz.