The Netanyahu-Trump encounter was short on substance and long on “kumbaya.” Yes, we all know and appreciate the new strong relationship between the two countries. We are also well aware of the “fist in the pocket” relationship that Mr. Netanyahu had with the past administration, namely President Obama. However, what should have been and could have been a “wow” for the new administration and a “high five” for Mr. Netanyahu; ended up a ho-hum first date with photo ops and clichés but little substance. I was prepared for a glorious victorious “yes!”: instead I waited painfully for a punch line. Three significant issues were on the table: settlements, two-state solution, and Iran. Unfortunately they only received a quick by-line mention. There was plenty of “relationship” and good feelings but not much else. I was left hungry for something definite, something precise, and something I can sink my teeth into. Sadly enough; it was a performance without a curtain call.
The “settlement” debacle is the global community’s battle cry for peace. The United Nations and the European Union hold on to the narrative like a Chihuahua to a pant leg. If only Israel would remove settlements on the West Bank: then we would surely achieve peace! Their lamenting mantra. Buzz words like “rightful” owners, and “occupied territory” drop off everyone’s tongue like butter. The Security Council would be jobless were it not for Israel and the “occupation”. Of course “occupation” is open to interpretation. According to the February 13, 2017, issue of AICE (The American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise), the Regulations Bill that is so widely admonished by world leaders allows approximately 4,000 Jewish settlers in West Bank to keep property rights. These properties had never been claimed by anyone including “Palestinians” prior to the homes being built and occupied. And that did not happen for quite a while later. President Trump had a great opportunity to explain this small detail and take the biased world to task. The United Nations and the European Union are very adamant in ignoring the truth or spinning it to fit a dialogue. The truth: individuals who can prove legitimate land ownership are generously compensated 125% of property value and or offered plots of land in exchange for keeping Jewish settlers on their land (AICE, February 13, 2017). Not a bad deal! Now for the building of new settlements. That is another can of worms, one which President Trump obviously wants to avoid at all costs. So with the proverbial nod and nudge he asked Mr. Netanyahu to “hold back” on building new settlements. This was a statement sent out to the void. It left more questions than answers. What does “hold back” really mean? Temporarily? We will be revisiting the issue again? Or perhaps the United States is really against new settlements? Probably Mr. Netanyahu should have asked these questions from his BBF.
I was on the edge of my seat waiting for the two-state “solution” to be given center stage. Apart from the reconciliatory remarks and generic “working towards a peace agreement”, the two men kept a profound gray area with President Trump stressing that an agreement “would necessitate both Israel and the Palestinians each making compromises” (World Israel News, February 15, 2017). And that is news? Everyone on earth wants both sides to compromise. The trouble is that no one really explains what the compromises are. So I will ask: what compromises Mr. President? The Palestinians will not agree to recognize Israel as a state let alone compromise. What nonsense! Why didn’t you just simply say that you do not want to get involved? That’s right. Let them duke it out because whatever they come up with is fine by you. The United Nations and the European Union has asked Israel to be a good sport and “compromise” while at the same time giving the Palestinians an “Atta boy” pat on the back. Is that the compromise? President Trump should have at least reiterated Israel’s right to exist and exposed the “occupation” myth once and for all; giving Israel clout and credence in any future negotiations. This “tongue ‘n cheek” compromise rhetoric without set conditions and holding no one accountable to any agreement is inane. I applaud Mr. Netanyahu for clearly identifying two conditions for peace “compromise”: the unconditional recognition of Israel as a state and right to exist, and sole control of the “entire area west of the Jordan River” (World Israel News, February 15, 2017). Those conditions should have been set and stated by President Trump. As the new president he would have been setting up the stage toward serious future peace talks. Instead we got an “iffy” disjointed conversation on one-state, two-state, or a “whatever” shoulder shrug option to appease rather than to support. Not good enough Mr. President and very disappointing.
President Trump hit Iran with more sanctions in an effort to differentiate himself from his predecessor. He was tough. He stressed that the United States will always be Israel’s best “friend”. Possibly a message to Iran that if you mess with Israel you will be messing with the United States. But that cliché is getting old. How is the United States going to remain Israel’s BFF? Iran has repeatedly stated that its sole intentions is to eradicate Israel off the face of the map. President Obama’s nuclear arms agreement was a slap in Israel’s face which empowered Iran to deepen its anti-Israel rhetoric. President Trump has taken a different course and I doubt that military action has not crossed his mind. World leaders would not consider military action a viable move for sure. They tend to side with diplomacy regardless if it works or not. In their defense: military action in that part of the world is very dangerous, especially to Israel. However, this historic meeting could have given Iran something to think about. But Iran seemed to have been put on the back burner of the agenda. Hardly mentioned at all. Got me to think that maybe Iran is one of those problems that requires more than a one-day meeting and a press conference. Maybe Iran is the elephant in the room; the subject that is on everyone’s mind but everyone is afraid to discuss it. Whatever the reason, both men missed the chance to address the elephant as a united front. We all know that moving forward, Iran will get brasher and bolder; if only to annoy the new president who they is as brash and bold as they are. Not a good combination. How far are they willing to push him? Are they hoping for a confrontation? Will they use his weakness in diplomacy as an excuse to hit Israel?
The joint press conference was unfortunately hijacked by reporters asking questions about General Flynn and anti-Semitism. I hate to say it, but President Trump is his own worst enemy; he has the uncanny ability to bring out the worst in reporters. His tweeting and off the cuff remarks distract from important matters like Israeli settlements, the two-state solution, and Iran. Instead reporters wallow in rating nonsense about boycotts, Ivanka’s clothing line at Nordstrom, and “fake” news. They chose to pursue the inane rather than the significant. They missed a great opportunity to hold both men accountable. The Middle East is not getting any friendlier or stabilized. Israel keeps a delicate equilibrium in an area of the world where life is in the balance. Surrounded by Arab nations that do not get along but tolerate each other and Israel; Israel manages to remain relatively focused and secure. The United States must help to broker a well thought and grounded peace plan. No quivering. It is imperative that President Trump keeps his momentum on Israel and the peace process. It is also imperative that Mr. Netanyahu demands answers of Mr. Trump. This is not a “morning after” tweet that can be explained with a hashtag. Peace in the Middle East would stabilize the economies of the Arab countries and bring prosperity. I hope that President Trump and Mr. Netanyahu are serious about peace; otherwise this meeting was just another photo-op.