The new White House opens its doors to Israel

No one in the world yet knows what to expect from Donald Trump and many are quite worried, but there are some who are hoping for the best, and first and foremost among them are the Israelis.

So much so that it’s being said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has recently had to add to his daily commitments that of calming the enthusiasm of his ministers who are keen to affiliate themselves with him. The phone call that the new US president made to the Israeli Prime Minister on Sunday night sparked satisfaction although the two have not entered into details.

However, the initial indications are that they were cheerful (“very nice” said Trump, “very warm” according to Bibi), compared to the increasingly chilly talks that occurred between Netanyahu and Obama. Trump has promised to “closely consult” on the Iranian threat, finally called again as it should; he stated that the aid Israeli will receive for its security will be “unprecedented” and so too the “determination to help achieve peace with the Palestinians.”

There was no mention about the settlements, nothing about the “‘1967 borders” or “two states for two peoples”, or at least we don’t know. Instead, a prompt invite was extended to Netanyahu to come to the White House “in the first part of February.”It is unknown if the two talked about the prospect of moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, but given the fact that Trump’s spokesman has said “we are in the very beginning stages of even discussing this subject”bodes well; it’s also certain that the search for its home has begun in the city’s Talpiot area.

The project has resulted in Palestinians issuing threats of a world intifada, a war of the worlds in which Islam may exert its weight. Who knows? Meanwhile, we have seen a meeting between Abu Mazen and King Abdullah, as the Jordanians are the custodians of the assets of the Waqf in Jerusalem, including the Al Aqsa Mosque, and a stance by the Saudis; they too are custodians of Islamic Holy Sites.

Netanyahu has not shown more than what was needed in order to display an apparent satisfaction: we understand that he’s heading towards a shift in behavior; that Israel’s greatest nightmare, namely the Iranian threats of total destruction that he prophesied before Congress, and that greatly cost him Obama’s goodwill, who instead wanted the deal, are now being seriously considered. Trump also speaks about “fighting ISIS and other Islamic terrorist groups,” while Obama had never put together the adjective “Islamic” with the concept of terror. Islamic terrorists are also envoys in the West, they are Hezbollah; Hamas; for funding, including membership and praiseeven from the leadership of Fatah; Iran is still a declared terrorist country by all intelligence agencies… it is very challenging to change direction, and Israel has done it for some time. We have to see what Trump’s true intentions are. What is certain is that Bibi has immediately decided to give him a sign of confidence by blocking the annexation of one of its largest suburbs, the city ofMa’aleAdumim, on the border of Jerusalem in Judea, in order to avoid obstructing the possible recognition of the capital.

Trump stood up shortly after winning the election by condemning the U.S.’s stance on UN Resolution 2334, which eradicates Israel from East Jerusalem; while reaffirming that peace can only arise through direct negotiations. He has appointed as U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman, a great friend of Israel, and has named his Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner a senior White House advisor.

There are many things that Trump can do in order to re-establish a balanced role for the U.S. in the Middle East: first and foremost to remove “Obama’s curse,” that states that the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines, which would not only condemn Israel to a wretched and besieged existence, but also uproothundreds of thousands of people. Trump may very well bringback into playthe framework of the 1994 letter in which George Bush acknowledged that some settlements are an inseparable part of Israel.

Before Obama, this was common knowledge even among the Palestinians: his intransigence has resulted in great steps backwards in relation to the peace process. Trump could also recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel: it is unthinkable that they could become part ofSyria that is being fought over between Assad and ISIS with Iran and Hezbollah’s support.

It can also expose all the nonsense that delegitimizes Israel by criminalizing it with gigantic lies, like when they call it an “apartheid state” or talk about the “ethnic cleansing” of the Palestinians. This could be curtailed by withdrawing funding to not only the Palestinians whenthey pursue anti-Semitic defamation, but also to those who help them such as the UN.

If Trumpputs in a lot of effort into this he can be an agent of change and who knows whether this wouldn’t finally push at least part of the Arab world to consider that this is the opportunity not for a new Intifada against the U.S., but an invitation to sit down to discuss with Israel. This would really be a great victory for Trump.



Translation by Amy K. Rosenthal



This article originally appeared in slightly different form in Italian in Il Giornale (January 24, 2017)

About the Author
Fiamma Nirenstein is a journalist, author, former Deputy President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, and member of the Italian delegation at the Council of Europe.