Last week, three days before Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in the US with newly elected US president Donald Trump, I wrote the following about Trump and Israel ("Will there be a real Trump-Israel alliance, or not?”, tuviabrodieblog, February 12, 2017):
“Trump is neither politician nor diplomat. He’s a deal-maker--and he's aggressive. When he gives something, he expects something in return.
Today, Trump protects Israel [at the UN]. Will he now expect something in return from Israel? What could that ‘something’ be?”
On February 12, no one could answer that question. Everyone was ‘on hold’. They had to wait for a February 15, 2017 meeting between Trump and Netanyahu to learn if Trump expected something from Israel.
Three days later, that meeting took place. At a post-meeting joint news conference, Trump said he’d like to see Israel hold back on settlements “for a little bit” (“Read full transcript: Trump and Netanyahu's Joint Press Conference”, haaretz, February 15, 2017). No one knew what ‘a little bit’ meant.
Headlines in Israel now reveal what Trump meant. The news isn’t good for Israel:
- Elad Benari, “ 'We can't build [in Judea-Samaria] without coordinating with the U.S.' “, arutzsheva, February 17, 2017;
-“Netanyahu, Trump, agree to create Judea and Samaria 'team' “, arutzsheva, February 19, 2017;
- Nitsan Keidar, “ 'We might not be able to keep our promises on Amona' “, arutzsheva, February 20, 2017.
In exchange for protection on the international stage, Trump wants control of what happens in Judea-Samaria.
‘Amona’ is the name of a tiny Jewish community (perhaps 60 buildings) in Judea-Samaria. The state of Israel has recently torn it down. Arabs had claimed the land upon which that community had been built was their land. Interestingly, these Arabs didn’t go before Israel’s High Court to sue for this land. They were pretty much invisible (Moshe Arens, “Israel's Supreme Court Wants Amona Demolished. Where Are the Palestinian Plaintiffs?”, haaretz, November 21, 2016). Only the anti-Israel NGO Peace Now (which has an anti-Israel agenda) appeared in court, even though it was not an aggrieved party.
The Court didn’t mind. Despite the Arabs’ invisibility, the High Court ruled in their favour. It ordered all houses in Amona torn down.
Amona residents resisted. They refused to move.
The state negotiated. It made promises: if Amona residents permitted their homes to be destroyed by the state, the state would give them new land—nearby--and build new buildings for them. The residents accepted these promises. Then they were evicted.
Now there’s a new Trump-Netanyahu ‘team’ approach to Judea-Samaria. The US and Israel will ‘work together’ on Judea-Samaria issues. As a result of this arrangement, Netanyahu believes he has a problem. He says he doesn’t know if he can now fulfill his promises to Amona (Keidar, above).
The wording of the report that Netanyahu might not now be able to fulfill these promises suggests two observations: (1) Netanyahu had neglected to tell Trump that pre-existing ‘settlement’ promises are in place for Amona; and (2) Netanyahu appears afraid to declare to Trump that these promises must stand because they pre-date the ‘team’ agreement.
Netanyahu simply returned home and announced that, oh, there’s a problem. We may not now be able to keep those Amona promises after all (Keidar, ibid).
Trump has brought confusion to Israel. Netanyahu said he doesn’t know if he can fulfill his Amona promises (above). His office announced he will not renege on these promises (Ido Ben Porat, “PM will not renege on Amona commitment”, arutzsheva, February 20, 2017). Then Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (the final authority over Judea-Samaria) declared, Israel would be crazy to defy Trump (Jacob Magid, “Liberman: Israel would be crazy to defy Trump on settlements”, timesofisrael, February 20, 2017).
Certainly, Netanyahu’s ‘oops’ moment (above) doesn’t mean his promises to Amona will be abandoned. But if Netanyahu is even thinking he may not be able to keep his promises to Amona, then he reveals three new (and extraordinary) realities for Israel: (1) his agreement to a ’team’ approach to Judea-Samaria is not a ‘team’ concept at all, but a relationship where Trump’s opinion regarding Judea-Samaria is more important than Israel’s; (2) Netanyahu can no longer make or keep promises to anyone in Judea-Samaria without Trump’s approval; and (3) because of (1) and (2), Netanyahu has given up Jewish control of Judea-Samaria to a non-Jewish power.
If this conclusion (3) is correct, it would be an historic first. The underlying anti-Israel truth of this ‘team’ agreement would represent the first time in modern Israel history that the nation’s Prime Minister has voluntarily given control of ancestral Jewish homeland to a non-Jew.
If this conclusion is not correct, why does Netanyahu sigh that he may not now be able to keep his promises to Amona?
To sell someone ‘down the river’ is to betray them. Is that what the Netanyahu-Trump ‘team’ agreement has done to the Jews of Judea-Samaria? Is this what Israel must do to gain Trump’s protection?