Netanyahu to Discover if the Ginger’s Fuse Is in Fact Shorter than Trump Tower
By Alon Ben-David
Together against radical Sunni Islam… The question that remains open is: What will be the status of Iran? Trump has surrounded himself with company that understands the dangers of radical Islam, but is equally concerned about the reprehensible nuclear agreement Obama signed with Iran. Putin will not rush to give up his ties with someone whom he sees as a strategic neighbor, an important market for his military industry, and a significant partner in the alliance for the preservation of Assad. Who will blink first?
Translated by Viktoria Lymar
Edited by Steven Stenzler
31 December 2016
The President-elect has a vested interest in pushing an Israeli-Palestinian deal that would credit him with success where Obama has failed miserably. But what if it doesn’t happen?
Christmas in London was particularly bleak this year. Even the 60 million sheep of New Zealand have been thrilled since the Israeli prime minister declared war on them. Not to mention the Senegalese... At least the prime minister had the wisdom not to damage the important cooperation with Egypt, even if it was the one to initiate the resolution1 in the [U.N.] Security Council. He again revealed himself as the last to recognize the processes unfolding in front of him -- and his waiting, holding his breath, for the end of days that Trump promises will come on January 20, may also result in reality slapping him in the face.
After eight years of disregard and contempt for the American president, Obama sent a precise ball from the golf course in Hawaii to Netanyahu’s plastered forelock. This was his revenge. [John] Kerry, in an accurate and pro-Israel speech, tried to fix the impression a little bit -- but not sure this was the end of the revenge of the outgoing administration. We, the Israelis, tend to believe that the sun shines from behind us, that the whole world is interested only in us -- and the last week only reinforced this sensation. But while we’re happily wallowing in the warm ‘victim feeling,’ the world is faced with much larger developments, in which Israel will be a very secondary player, if at all.
The variety of tweets and speeches of the U.S. president-elect portray a clear picture in which the first and foremost international challenge in his view will be China, or as he calls it: “Jina.”2 His phone conversation with the president of Taiwan was not accidental. Although over the last months of the year, China has dropped from its status as the largest [foreign] holder of U.S. debt to the second place after Japan, China still holds America by the sensitive parts, with vast quantities of American currency and bonds. Its ability to influence the U.S. economy, combined with economic and military power, makes it the most significant threat to the United States.
Therefore, Trump seeks to get closer to Russia, and when he tweets about his desire to continue a nuclear arms race in the world -- he eyes the Russian nuclear arsenal, positioned near China, joined with the American arsenal in order to threaten the Chinese giant. Russia understands Trump’s intentions, and although its cash flow relies on oil and gas sales to China -- it’s been signaling that it is open to negotiations. Exchanges of compliments between Putin and Trump and the appointment of the Russians’ darling, Rex Tillerson, to secretary of state, guarantee that this negotiation is off to an upbeat start.
Any American-Russian bargain will require sacrifices. Russia is already looking forward to the lifting of sanctions imposed on it after the invasion of Crimea, however, the basket of its demands will also include Georgia, Ukraine, the Baltic states, and securing the Assad regime in Syria, too. To buy Russia’s support, Trump may join the supporters of Assad, and this won’t be good news for Israel.
The [Middle East] region already understands this. Egypt, the biggest Sunni Arab country, quietly sent last month its air force helicopters to be deployed in Syria, and is preparing to dispatch a larger military force to assist Assad in his war. At the price of hurting the financial aid it receives from Saudi Arabia, Egypt chose to join the alliance of autocrats emerging in the region: Putin-Assad-Sisi, and it looks like Erdogan as well. All together against radical Sunni Islam. The question that remains open is: What will be the status of Iran?
Trump has surrounded himself with company that understands the dangers of radical Islam, but is equally concerned about the shameful nuclear agreement Obama signed with Iran. Putin will not rush to give up his ties with someone whom he sees as a strategic neighbor, an important market for his military industry, and a significant partner in the alliance of the preservation of Assad. Who will blink first? Will Trump hold back on the nuclear accord with Iran in return for a partnership with Putin, or maybe the Russians will abandon their support for the Ayatollahs to gain the removal of sanctions, the recognition of their presence in Ukraine, and American backing for Assad? The two possible outcomes are not good for Israel.
Trump and the Interests
We must take into account another scenario: the way to Russian-American partnership is paved with difficult obstacles. Despite Trump’s sincere desire to join forces with the Russians -- there are quite a few conflicting interests between the [super]powers that may run such negotiations aground. If Trump’s move fails, he is likely to find himself isolated against a Russian-Chinese-Iranian-Arab consociation -- which would accelerate the decline of the American superpower. This scenario does not bode well for Israel either.
In the ideal scenario from our perspective, Trump teams up with the Russians, agrees with them upon the stabilization of the Assad regime on about one-fifth of what was once Syria, and obtains their consent to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions. He strengthens the rule of el-Sisi in Egypt and harnesses Turkey to play a positive role in the areas from which Daesh [ISIL] is going to be expelled. What will each of the scenarios project on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
Israel and Palestine are not really the focus of the global interest. They are rather a thorn that constantly pricks the Arab world and the Western world, which can’t wait for the day when they would be able to pull it out. In spite of his supportive and enthusiastic tweets, it is doubtful whether Trump sees himself as the chosen one to guard the [settlement] construction in Amona.3 So the prime minister had better sleep well the night before his meeting with the new president, likely to be held in February. If he doesn’t free himself from his penchant to preach, Netanyahu might find out how much shorter than Trump Tower the redhead’s fuse is -- and how fast he can be driven to an explosion.
Trump has an obvious interest to push an Israeli-Palestinian deal, that would neutralize a lot of noises bothering him on the way to a Global Deal, and would give him the credit for success where Obama has failed badly. Trump the popularity hunter knows that such a move would buy him points among the intellectuals, and could help his re-election to a second term. Jason Greenblatt, his envoy for negotiations and clearly a fan of Israel, might present himself here with a draft agreement that will surprise even the one who professes to be “the first to recognize.”4
Netanyahu is right that there are far more serious disasters in the world which less preoccupy the international community. He can kick the British prime minister, a consistent supporter of Israel, and can punish Africa, a moment after he prided himself in our relationship with it -- but he cannot change the simple fact: There is no other country claiming to be Western that occupies another people for nearly 50 years and doesn’t grant them fundamental rights. The faith that the regime changes expected in Europe will bring with them tolerance to the Palestinian case could lead him again to the place of one who does not understand the historical processes taking place in front of him.
And beyond the global goings-on, isn’t it time that we, the Israelis, decide for ourselves what the boundaries of this country are? Do we want to swallow up inside us three million Palestinians, or are we perhaps working to ensure a Jewish majority in the country? Just before we turn 69, it is a good time to look in the mirror and decide on our own, even before we checked if there is a partner [for peace],5 from where to where our state extends -- for what we are willing to fight and what we are ready to waive.
The author is the military commentator for Israeli Channel 10
1. The troublesome U.N. resolution, repeatedly referred, and alluded to here, is the recent UNSC Resolution 2334: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Security_Council_Resolution_2334
2. IPA: ˈʤaɪnə
3. Israeli outpost in the central West Bank; a particular focus of tensions.
4. Reference to Benjamin Netanyahu, often said to be a savvy analyst, who was “the first to recognize,” e.g., the nuclear threat emanating from Iran, or too-rosy forecasts for the Arab Spring.
5. Israeli cliché.
Original Hebrew article:
Image credit: The Jerusalem Journal/DEBKAfile
Reuters/Stevo Vasiljevic & The Indian Express - Pedestrians in Danilovgrad, Montenegro look at a billboard featuring U.S. president-elect Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin; November 16, 2016.
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