Trump’s Hopes of Being the ‘Neutral Guy’ in the Mideast Seem Long Gone

President Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel displayed on Monday perhaps the closest relationship between leaders of their countries since Israel declared independence.CreditTom Brenner/The New York Times
President Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel displayed on Monday perhaps the closest relationship between leaders of their countries since Israel declared independence.CreditTom Brenner/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — In the midst of his campaign, President Trump vowed to bring peace to the Middle East by playing it down the middle between Israeland the Palestinians. “Let me be sort of a neutral guy,” he said. Two years later, any hopes of being the neutral guy are long gone.

In a meeting at the White House on Monday, Mr. Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel put on display perhaps the closest relationship between leaders of their two countries in the seven decades since Israel declared independence. As for the Palestinians, they are no longer on speaking terms with the president, who is busy cutting their aid.

Few if any doubted that Mr. Trump came into office more supportive of Israel than the Palestinians and he trumpeted his pro-Israeli credentials, but any semblance of straddling the line between warring camps has vanished and the notion that he could bring them together appears more distant than ever. Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu lavished praise on each other on Monday, and the president said he might visit Jerusalem in May to preside over the politically potent transfer of the American Embassy to the disputed holy city.

Mr. Trump insisted that he still had “a good chance” of forging peace and expressed optimism that the Palestinians were ready to return to discussions. “The Palestinians, I think, are wanting to come back to the table very badly,” he said, despite evidence to the contrary. Then he acknowledged what would happen if he is wrong. “If they don’t, you don’t have peace.”

The White House has said it is close to finishing a peace plan that it could release soon. But the conditions hardly seem ripe. The two men who met in the Oval Office on Monday are both fighting off investigations. The president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who was leading the effort for him, just lost his top-secret security clearance. And the Palestinians are angry about the embassy.

 

“I can’t see him actually proposing anything,” Oded Revivi, chief foreign affairs envoy for the Yesha Council, which represents West Bank settlers, said of Mr. Trump. The president seems unlikely to come up with a plan more acceptable than those that have been rejected in the past, Mr. Revivi said, and “he doesn’t want to fail where others have failed.”

The meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu, their fifth since the president’s inauguration 13 months ago, demonstrated just how close the two have become while the Palestinians remain off at a distance. The two celebrated Mr. Trump’s decision in December to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the American Embassy there from Tel Aviv in defiance of much of the rest of the world.

Mr. Netanyahu extolled Mr. Trump for the decision, comparing him to three of the most important figures in the history of the Jewish people: King Cyrus of Persia, who 2,500 years ago freed the Jews from exile in Babylon and permitted them to return to Jerusalem; Lord Arthur James Balfour, the British foreign secretary whose declaration in 1917 first paved the way for a Jewish homeland in Palestine; and President Harry S. Truman, who recognized Israel’s existence 11 minutes after it declared independence in 1948.

Just as Israelis remember those historical figures, Mr. Netanyahu said, “we remember how a few weeks ago President Donald J. Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”

“Mr. President,” he continued, “this will be remembered by our people through the ages. As you just said, others talked about it. You did it.”

Unlike Mr. Trump, however, Mr. Netanyahu mentioned the goal of peace with the Palestinians only in passing and focused instead on the topic he always makes his top priority when he visits Washington, namely Iran.

He hoped to use the visit to encourage Mr. Trump to tear up President Barack Obama’s agreement with Tehran limiting its nuclear program or renegotiate it to toughen its provisions, particularly with respect to ballistic missiles. He also sought consensus on how to counter Iran’s presence in Syria.

“Iran must be stopped,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “That is our common challenge.”

He voiced deep skepticism about the prospect of a Palestinian state, recalling how Gaza fell under the control of Hamas after Israel withdrew. “You can bring models, theoretical models, say it will be good if we give them a state,” he told the reporters. “Empirically, it doesn’t work with what we see. When we leave land, terror organizations take it up. Immediately.”

Mr. Trump, by contrast, was still more interested in seeking what he has called “the ultimate deal” between Israel and the Palestinians. “We’re working on it very hard,” he said with Mr. Netanyahu at his side in the Oval Office. “Look, it would be a great achievement even from a humanitarian standpoint. What better if we could make peace between Israel and the Palestinians? And I can tell you, we’re working very hard on doing that and I think we have a good chance.”

Palestinian leaders, who also claim Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, have given no public indication that they would return to discussions any time soon. In response to the president’s Jerusalem move, they declared that they no longer saw the United States as a neutral broker with the Israelis. Mr. Trump then withheld $65 million in aid for Palestinian refugees.

But Mr. Kushner went to the United Nations recently to hear Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader, speak in an effort to show respect shortly after the president publicly pressed Israel on settlement construction in the West Bank.

The Monday meeting came at a time when both Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu are under increasing domestic pressure from investigations bearing down on them and their families. Shortly before their get-together, Mr. Trump was lashing out at the investigation into whether his team cooperated with Russia during the 2016 election, while reports from Israel indicated that a former confidant of Mr. Netanyahu’s had made a deal with the police in a corruption investigation of the prime minister.

“They have an awful lot in common and they both may be desperately in need of a friend and someone who understands what they’re going through,” said Mara Rudman, a former deputy special envoy for Middle East peace under Mr. Obama. “And they happen to be showing it for the world to see.”

Mr. Netanyahu later said their mutual woes — they both use the phrase “witch hunt” to describe the inquiries into their activities — never came up during their meeting. Instead, they relished the chance to showcase their partnership during the part of their session when cameras were on.

“The relationship has never been better,” Mr. Trump declared.

“It’s never been stronger,” Mr. Netanyahu agreed.

Mr. Trump has made his decision to move the embassy a selling point among his supporters, lauding it during a recent speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference as one of his major achievements. His administration announced that it would formally open the Jerusalem embassy in May to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence by redesignating an existing consular facility.

The president said on Monday that he may attend. “We’re looking at coming,” Mr. Trump said. “If I can, I will.”

As he has before, Mr. Trump argued that his decision to recognize Jerusalem resolved a tough issue dividing Israel and the Palestinians. “We’ve taken it off the table,” he said. “So this gives us a real opportunity for peace.”

Hardly any veterans of Middle East peacemaking, including some who support moving the embassy, share this view. Mr. Trump’s unilateral declaration does not mean that the Palestinians have given up on Jerusalem; instead, they have dug in. Many former negotiators have envisioned a peace deal in which both sides operate their capitals out of Jerusalem, the Israelis in the west and the Palestinians in the east.

As he often does, Mr. Trump boasted that he had already cut the cost of building a new embassy, but he seemed to be conflating two different expenses. “They put an order in front of my desk last week for a billion dollars,” he said. “I said a billion? What’s that for? They said, ‘We’re going to build an embassy.’ I said we’re not going to spend a billion dollars. We’re actually doing it for about $250,000.”

The State Department has estimated that construction of a new embassy will cost about $500 million. Mr. Trump’s reference to $250,000 presumably is the cost of making minor adjustments to the existing consular facility so that it can house an office for the American ambassador and be formally redesignated an embassy while a new facility is constructed.

  • Niemals

    Both Netanyahu and Trump live in a fantasy world with sick and irrelevant comparisons taken from the Jewish people’s history.

    What does King Cyrus of Persia have to do with today’s state of Israel?
    The only one that have some association with the Israeli state was the very hated by the arab Palestinians, Lord Arthur James Balfour, because he paved in 1917 the way for a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

    Harry S. Truman, who recognized Israel’s existence 11 minutes after the declared independence in 1948 was the only one that done something for the state of Israel.

    What Trump and Netanyahu are doing, is the destruction of Israel as well as the destruction of the Middle East.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/03a6e91615722bfaa95b0287552e5775a4250ebb74586d597a8831f323384f1e.png
    Trump and Netanyahu care only about their own power position.

  • Niemals

    Mohammed Khalaf Al Habtoor must be a nightmare for the supporters of Assad as well as Netanyahu and Trump, especially efter his;
    “We Want Peace with Israel and Should Allow Israelis to Participate in Sports Events in the Arab World”.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7c4094a00cff34d35e716928399b67f12426dc78fb5b1f1a77c4f6fbb4ba7609.jpg
    UAE business magnate Khalaf Al-Habtoor said that he believed Israelis should be allowed to participate in sports events in the Arab world. “Let them play. We in the Arab world want to have peace with Israel in the future,” he said. In a video uploaded to his Twitter account on March 2, Al-Habtoor called to stop referring to Israel as a “criminal enemy,” to use modern logic and identify the interests of the Arab world and the GCC, and “pay no heed to what all the hypocrites and charlatans have to say.” https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d6a65252ccf7d4f60f72f695f7a2ab5cd337504aaa44504cc36498d482dce49f.jpg

    • vs

      Niemals, please leave alone Netanyahu and Trump

      • Niemals

        vs, I belongs to the group that regards Netanyahu and Trump as disgrace for a leader roll of the country’s they living in.

        Netanyahu is a low economic criminal and Trump is a president that must be impeached.

        • vs

          You are brainwashed in this direction

          • Niemals

            I have a clean and unmmanipulated brain.

          • vs

            so for You Bibi and Trump sure are better than stupid half criminals Ihud Barak and Barak Obama f.e.

          • Niemals

            None of them is a European politician, therefore not relevant.

          • vs

            but your judging is relevant, lol

          • Niemals

            He’s said it countless times in myriad ways.
            But he usually only says it in Hebrew……
            This week, however, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said on camera that under his leadership Israel will never end the occupation of Palestine.

            The same goes with Abbas:
            There will be no Israelis in Palestine.” (30 July 2013)

            In 2015, Netanyahu declared that a Palestinian state will never be established on his watch.
            Fast-forward to 2017 and the prime minister started promising that he will never remove any Israeli settlements from the West Bank, without which even basic Palestinian autonomy is inconceivable. And more than a decade ago Netanyahu was filmed bragging about how he set out to sabotage the Oslo Accords.

            https://youtu.be/qyYsrTqGPrU
            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/89b2bdeff0e7a6c896f72f66387701921190e979c35471ff24e837c37e084c70.jpg The next time anyone tries to blame the Palestinians for refusing to return to the table, remember that Israel’s prime minister repeatedly states his unwillingness to end the occupation.

          • vs
          • vs

            Can not be 23th Failed Or. “State” and i guess will never be. Why Or. occupation so follytically correct not visible everywhere?

          • vs

            Occupation? Lol You are not visited yet Afula Hospital f.e. to see what is it and where is it really Occupation. Don’t be fool, please, Niemals

          • Niemals

            Do not understand your infinite babbling about Arab Palestinians, not a word about JEWISH Palestinians, like the well known Ariel Scheinermann (Sharon), geboren am 26. Februar 1928 in Kfar Malal, Palästina.

          • vs
          • Niemals

            Forgot your antipalestinian medicine?

          • vs

            check please yourself, Niemals corrupted by leftism. So called in 1964 FalIEstinians by Soviet KGB and Egyptian Arafat just usual Orabians, apatheided selected follytically corrected, no more Orabistans

          • vs

            You are not forgot your profaliestinian, stupid orabophil (a bit?) Niemals

          • vs

            Check Your antilogic, are You mean antimedicine? I’m not forgot You are good commentator, we can all be crazy, but no t good to be corrupted even a bit

          • vs

            +Do not understand about Orab Faliestinians+ Orab Faliestinians is wet water, oil butter. Forgot your medicine?

          • Niemals

            You start to be like Hindler with absurd comments, you complain about Palestinian Arabs, Abyss retwitter hatred of the Jews.

            Only in the Middle East are you confronted with Muslims, Jews and Christians who protest against alleged erosion of Muslim, Jews / Christian life….

          • vs

            You are living in Eurape, Your thoughts are raped. Please stop use word “FaLIEstinian” or You can write like me. This is Soviet 1964 KGB Hoax. Please stop already. Also religions are not existing in the world, only two ideas-ideologies: One of Creation, Mutual Fecundation, Other is of Destruction, Mental Castration and Masturbation. Stop live in 19-20 century, Niemals

          • Niemals

            You can’t do anything about name of the Roman Syria and Roman Judaea, the Roman Emperor Hadrian changed the name of the Judea province and merged it with Roman Syria to form Syria Palaestina.
            Since then it bear the name Palestina

            Syria Palaestina was established as a insult following the defeat of the Bar Kokhba revolt in AD 135.

            In 1948 when the Independence of a Jewish state was declared, they didn’t call it Judaea – they called Israel.

            I prefer to stick to the facts and the story, dislike ideologies driven by religions.
            There are those who live according to God said…. God gave…. or there is only one God, even though all religions have their God – we know of facts and experience that it can not be the same for all religions.

            You have seen the hashtags #JewishSupremacy, #SynagogueOfSatan retweeted and 👍 by @AbyadHindler https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/2d4de731e92a1b6c93d5f11cca8e99cdbcc521056738a1cab51ff45bab280088.jpg
            https://twitter.com/DonaldTrumpWall/status/973077714365280256

            Start living in the 21st century.

          • vs

            You are using follytical BS crap “falestinian” (not like caucasian!), “occupation”, (by whom?) “West Bank” (of what?), “settlements” (agreements?). I beg You to stop

          • Niemals

            You aren’t better than your “dear friend” the Abyss, soon I’ll call you Abyss II….

          • vs

            Have You something to say better? You can be wrong, i can be wrong. But we can not be corrupt. You are not Abyss 2, why me? Am i witch? Please think before You say something. I don’t want You to be follytically correct even a bit, why You want like to fight me?

    • Y K

      Why would he be a nightmare for Netanyahu, not to mention Trump?

  • Niemals

    Trump and Netanyahu discuss Palestine in WH meeting for just ‘15 minutes’….
    Trump and Netanyahu are doing a great job, for the destruction of Israel as well as the destruction of the Middle East.

    Trump and Netanyahu care only about their own power position.

    Published on RT: Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spent just 15 minutes discussing Palestine in their meeting at the White House. The contentious question of settlements didn’t come up at all.

    “We also spoke about Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinians. Around half the time about Iran, maybe even a little more, and the second half on the rest of these issues. We didn’t spend more than 15 minutes of the conversation on the Palestinian issue,” Netanyahu told journalists on Tuesday, about his two-and-a-half-hour conversation with Trump the day before.

    Netanyahu also said that “the evacuation of settlements didn’t come up at all” during the course of their meeting. The anger over the decades-long settlement dispute intensified this February with the trial of 16-year old Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi who has protested against Israeli occupation.

  • MekensehParty

    2 crooks about to find themselves prosecuted
    Nothing of importance here

    • Niemals

      A vague guess and, moreover, unrealistic.

      You didn’t noticed anything about the reality of prosecuting political ‘crooks’ like Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

      In July 2008, al-Bashir was accused by ICC of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in Darfur.

      The court issued an arrest warrant for al-Bashir on 4 March 2009 on counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

      There was insufficient evidence to prosecute him for genocide.
      Al-Bashir didn’t find himself prosecuted, and you claim that the 2 will find themselves prosecuted….

      Notice that I didn’t add some ‘heavy criminals’ like Assad and Putin.

      Today it was the former spy Sergei Skripal – in Salisbury is far from fiction and has drawn comparisons with the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko.
      in 2016, a 300-page British government inquiry found that Putin had “probably approved” the killing of Litvinenko, who was an outspoken critic of the Kremlin and a former KGB operative.

      “Nothing of importance here”….
      What is the of importance here?

      Your list of bad guys is too short!

      • MekensehParty

        I’m not going to list all the bad guys of the world, I saw two crooks and named them as they are and like it or not they will be prosecuted this year and very probably brought down. When we’ll have a post on al-Bashir I’ll talk about him.
        What’s “nothing of importance here” is exactly that these 2 bozos are very likely going to jail (or out of politics at least) and whatever they talk or decide is irrelevant down the road.

      • Hind Abyad

        Copy paste, you know nothing yourself

    • vs

      Follytics is corruption, but Bibi and Trump are less corrupted in may be the all world i guess

      • Niemals

        Netanyahu less corrupt…. 🤣

      • MekensehParty

        guess again…

        • vs

          i guess even Kim will be better than Putin-Assad-Ayatollahs Co. We will see who is who, i wish You and me longer life than of all politicians, Mek. Again, as far as i know and can see, Bibi and Trump are the best leaders comparatively

          • MekensehParty

            you call them the best leaders
            I’ll call them in jail 🙂

          • vs

            All follyticians are hatred by one or other. Follytics is half crime, any State-Power-Government is half or more corruption, even can be friendly-fascist) But where people want better, prefer to live? In Israel, USA, Eurape, here they are less depends on dictatorship-power

          • MekensehParty

            The day we stop holding our aholes accountable and start pointing fingers elsewhere at other aholes in the world is the day we fall into authoritarianism again.
            Every elected ahole in our democracies cannot get a pass just because dictators around the world are getting one. Our ahole work for us and when they do a crime they go to the jail where we put our aholes.

          • vs

            please start to put in jail leftists liberal fundamentalists with their loved cannibals terrorists together

          • Y K

            It’s precisely for these principled views that I respect you, mate, even when I (rarely) disagree with you. Well, that and our shared love for the “Resistance”. 🙂

        • Hind Abyad
    • Niemals

      “U.N.: Russia may have committed war crimes in Syria market attack
      [http://yalibnan.com/2018/03/07/u-n-russia-may-have-committed-war-crimes-in-syria-market-attack/], and how about Assad war crimes in Syria – against his own people?

      “Nothing of importance here”….
      What is the of importance here?

      • Hind Abyad

        It’s your ego.

    • Y K

      Don’t hold your hopes too high for Trump, in any case.

      • MekensehParty

        I don’t think he’ll finish the year, neither will bibi

  • Y K

    “The State Department has estimated that construction of a new embassy will cost about $500 million.”

    How much are the Tel-Aviv lot and compound worth?

    • man-o-war

      One million dollars!

      • Y K

        Make it two and it’s a deal! 🙂