Dov S. Zakheim
Security, Middle East
Benjamin Netanyahu wants to win the upcoming election and he’ll do almost anything Donald Trump asks in order to achieve that goal.
Bibi Netanyahu owed Donald Trump—big time. In late 2017 President Trump had recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announced that the U.S. embassy would be relocated there from Tel Aviv. Just before the first of Israel’s two 2019 elections, in an attempt to ensure that the Israeli prime minister retained his office, Trump had recognized Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights.
But Netanyahu wanted more; he had begun to plan the annexation of at least parts of the West Bank. His Washington hit-man, Ambassador Ron Dermer, had sought to lay the groundwork for annexation by lobbying hard to remove any language from the congressional anti-BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) resolution that would refer to a two-state solution to the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Rebuffed by a normally supportive Congress, Netanyahu could only look to Trump for support and then hope that the docile Republicans on Capitol Hill would go along with the president’s push for an annexation plan.
Netanyahu was therefore in no position to ignore Trump’s demand that Israel reverse its initial position and bar Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from visiting the Jewish state. Jerusalem was well aware that both congresswomen were virulent opponents of Israel. The Israeli government had initially recognized that in many ways the trip was a set-up: it would create a propaganda opportunity for the two legislators to buttress their case for BDS, whose ultimate objective, as enunciated by extreme opponents of Israel, was to strangle the state economically. Nevertheless, Dermer had indicated that both ladies would be admitted to Israel, despite the country’s legislation that BDS supporters would be barred entry. It was Trump’s demand that the two members of “the Squad” be denied entry that forced Netanyahu’s hand.
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