Trump, Netanyahu driven into closer embrace as crisis surrounds them

Thursday January 30 2020

 

By Karoli Ssemogerere

When Mr Donald Trump was elected US President in 2016, he tasked his son-in-law Jared Kushner to help chart a broad Israel-Palestinian settlement, the Achilles heel of many American presidents.

Basically, the United States acts as the guarantor of Israel’s existence and security, a proposition backed by military and economic aid, both general and classified.

Israel has used this aid judiciously to build a modern State, to become a major technology anchor and, yes, to claim more land from all her neighbours Syria, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians, who are squeezed between two mostly narrow and uneconomic strips of land that don’t share a border, Gaza and the West Bank.

Worse for the Palestinians who have occupied most of the Holy Land for centuries without formal claims of statehood, has been their near complete loss of Jerusalem now referred to by its smaller moniker, Arab East Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the home of historical sites to Christians, Jews and Muslims.

In 1948, to avoid a final settlement standoff, the Americans vetoed the situation of the Israeli capital of the homeland in Jerusalem, a situation that created Tel Aviv. This situation was never accepted by many Israelis who saw it as an intrusion on their sovereignty. But having achieved a recognition of their State through the United Nations, they resorted to other means to entrench themselves, a situation their Arabs were ill-prepared for.

First at the time of extreme poverty, the Arab neighbouring states were wary of taking in Palestinians and focusing on the status of Jerusalem. Then they thought the situation could be resolved militarily that ended in disastrous wars (1948, 1967, etc.)

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Military victory by Israel created a status quo that now became a major issue for these neighbours, who wisely sued for peace. Israel kept a number of strategic locations like the Golan Heights and the Sinai. Israel is believed to have used this period to acquire nuclear capabilities.

The Arab countries, in an act of desperation, sought to keep Israel on its toes by supporting different offshoots of the Palestinian uprising - Intifada, Hezbollah, etc. An older formal organisation, the PLO, was generally treated as on and off the “street.” Its leader Yasser Arafat was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize before he was annihilated.

When Mr Trump took power, he set out to do two major things. First he rode off with major rhetorical advances recognising Jerusalem as the “capital of the undivided Jewish State” helping Israel achieve what years of wars and conquest had failed to do. He relocated the American Embassy to Jerusalem, reversing decades of American policy. This applied shock therapy to the process.

Israel through carrot and stick policy bolstered by what has happened in Syria, Libya and Iraq has shown the obvious, negotiate or perish. Smaller countries like the Kingdom of Jordan, whose late King Hussein was one of the first leaders to negotiate with Israel in shock, ended temporary land rights that allowed the Israelis to farm their land in the Jordan valley season after season, a lucrative deal as Israel is mostly desert without stable water resources.

Second, both Mr Trump and Mr Benjamin Netanyahu [Israel premier], cannily noted how taking this a few steps further would provide them with political cover at a time they were both facing significant difficulties at home. Mr Trump announced the deal in the middle of his impeachment trial, a big camera event attended by his ally and five-term Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Mr Trump is not expected to be convicted, but his excesses have come under scrutiny in an election year. Netanyahu is still in office even after his parliamentary coalition collapsed before it could be cobbled together again, sending Israel into a new election in September.

Most critical, Bibi as he is called by his fans, had just been indicted in three separate investigations by his Attorney General. Bibi loves Trump and so does Trump know how to shore up a friend.

Mr Ssemogerere is an Attorney-at-Law
and an Advocate. kssemoge@gmail.com