The impact of the Netanyahu-Trump meeting depends on which Donald Trump shows himself. Less than a month after inauguration, and without
a national security adviser, the US administration must
design a Middle East policy and
decide on its role in the region.
This provides a chance for Benjamin Netanyahu to help influence the administration’s positions on issues such as Iran’s nuclear deal, the Syrian civil war, the ISIS threat, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and burgeoning relations between Israel and Sunni states.
Netanyahu said he and Trump see “eye-to-eye the dangers emanating from the region”, but their relationship over the Palestinian issue depends on which Trump the Israeli premier teams up with.
Will it be the supportive Trump who tweeted his defence of Israel at the UN and promised to move the embassy to Jerusalem? Or the more isolationist “American-firster” who demanded countries pay their way, promised neutrality between Israelis and Palestinians, believes settlements are unhelpful, and who wants to achieve the ‘ultimate deal’ on Israeli-Palestinian peace for ‘humanity’s sake’?
And will Netanyahu present positions closer to the strategic Bibi, who gave the Bar-Ilan speech supporting two nation states, froze settlements for 10 months, cautioned that passing the Regulation Bill would bring Israel to the International Criminal Court, and was
reportedly willing to make major concessions during peace talks with Kerry?
Or will his statements fall in line with populist Bibi, who swore no settlement would be evacuated under his watch, opposes a Palestinian state, and voted for the Regulation Bill?
Relations under Trump provide a huge opportunity for Israel. But only time will tell whether Bibi uses it to pay lip service to his right-wing base, or pushes for an agreement over limiting building in Jerusalem and settlement blocs.