Since being elected, President Trump has showered Netanyahu with a range of gifts, from the move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem to the cessation of aid to the UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA), and from recognition of Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights to the State Department declaration several weeks ago that settlements are not illegal. All permanent status issues that remained open in the Oslo Accords have now reached their desired solution or, as Trump expressed it at the time, have been “removed from the table.” Trump gives Netanyahu priceless gifts to strengthen the latter’s position among the Likud’s base, and in return he receives praise, embraces and photo ops with Bibi, which strengthen his position among the American evangelical base. Netanyahu likes getting gifts. Especially those which involve “benefits” for the givers, and for this he has been charged with bribery. The difference is that while Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is responsible for the charges against Netanyahu, only history will judge him for the gifts he received from Trump.
Bibi Netanyahu is about to descend from the stage of history in an ugly manner, by calling on his base to protest and rise up against what he calls the ‘attempted coup’ against him. His slogan, “Investigate the investigators!” exactly matches Trump’s slogan after he was suspected of conspiring with Putin to influence the 2016 election results. Like Netanyahu, Trump sees the investigation conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller as no more than a conspiracy of the left, the FBI, the DOJ and the American media. That’s why Trump appointed William Barr as attorney general, in an attempt to subordinate the judiciary to his desires and to investigate the investigators. This is needed to bring evidence in support of his conspiracy theory, according to which it was Ukraine and not Putin that interfered in the US elections. The first to come up with this theory was Putin himself, and the delusional American right adopted it. It has cost Trump a Congressional impeachment inquiry, focused on accusations of bribery and extortion via his telephone conversation with newly elected Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky.
Netanyahu is already on his way out, while Trump is busy with various survival exercises, including terrorizing Republican Party members, much like the way Netanyahu acts with Likud members. After the two of them go home, they will leave behind a wounded and divided society, and we in Israel will remain with disenfranchised five million Palestinians, a gift from Trump.
Even more worrying is the fact that the decision to recognize the legality of the settlements was also welcomed by the opposition, led by Benny Gantz. Thus, over the head of the High Court and any other legal authority in Israel, the American decision, which seals all future negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, was accepted with equanimity. Interestingly, the Palestinians also received the decision with complete equanimity. The attempt to hold a Day of Rage in the West Bank was very limited, because Palestinians do not believe in the PA’s calls to come out and protest. Hamas also cancelled the March of Return to the fence of the Gaza Strip, apparently because Gazans also despise Hamas and realize that the protests cost them numerous victims, while putative financial assistance pours into Hamas pockets.
Only a few days remain before Israel decides on a third round of elections, after which there may be a fourth one and so on ad nauseam, because, as in the US, the camp remains behind its leader, even when he has been caught in the act. In the US, Congressional Democrats expect to find a Republican who will break unity and support the impeachment process. In Israel, a righteous man in Sodom was indeed found in the image of Gideon Sa’ar, who comes from the very heart of the Likud. In short, the anti-Bibi trend is gaining considerable popularity among Likud members.
Yet when Sa’ar deviates from the issue of deposing and replacing Netanyahu and speaks politics, Netanyahu’s right-wing attitudes pale in the face of his extreme views. Sa’ar strongly opposes a Palestinian state and advocates autonomy with some sort of link to Jordan, as he explained earlier this year to US Ambassador David Friedman: “I oppose the establishment of an Arab state in the heart of the land of Israel. I believe it is dangerous and will not bring peace or security but the reverse: it will damage security and stability. I also hope that this administration, an administration that is very friendly to Israel, will not repeat mistakes made by previous governments, such as the Clinton and Obama administrations, which presented outlines that are based on the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank” (website of Israel Channel 7 on January 29, 2019).
Hence, the removal of Netanyahu and the establishment of a national unity government between Gideon Sa’ar and Benny Gantz can resolve the small political problem, but not the big one. Israel will remain stuck with a government lacking a practical solution to the fate of five million Palestinians living under Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Jordan will be unable to accept responsibility for them as it collapses under the weight of millions of Syrian and Iraqi refugees sheltering from the horrors of their countries. On the other hand, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are prepared in practice, if not in theory, to continue the current arrangement with Israel, as they share control over the West Bank and Gaza. On the face of it, in Israel a national unity government can be formed that will not need to deal with Palestinian issue, since it was “resolved” thanks to Trump. Moreover, the Palestinian problem receives no interest in the Arab world, which itself is undergoing huge political and social upheavals from Sudan and Algeria to Iraq and Lebanon (not to mention Iran). The Arabs are busy with their problems and lack the will or energy to deal with the Palestinians, who have become an Israeli internal matter through the force of reality and the American position.
The problem is that this is a misrepresentation, a virtual reality. Indeed, Israel has managed to tame Hamas, as we saw in the recent Black Belt operation, during which Hamas refrained from intervening in Israel’s war against the Islamic Jihad. The Palestinian Authority responded to the move of the American embassy to Jerusalem with a boycott of the White House, but continued its security coordination with Israel, even though Palestinian citizens are unwilling to adapt to the existing reality. Who can live without access to water, hospitals, housing and work? The Palestinians live under a dual regime of oppression and occupation. On the one hand, corruption and oppression at home and on the other, an Israeli occupation that severely restricts freedom of movement. They are prisoners in their homeland. The fact that Hamas is not demonstrating by the Gaza-Israel fence, and that the Palestinian Authority is unable to mobilise the masses to demonstrate, should be a red light for the Israeli leadership, signalling the disgust felt toward the head of the PA Abu Mazen and Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar.
While the ongoing protests of the Arab Spring in Baghdad and Beirut do not put the Palestinian issue at the forefront, their slogan “Everyone means everyone!”—which calls on all the sectarian and corrupt political parties to give way to the revolution—is in line with the wishes and aspirations of the young, unemployed and futureless Palestinians to rid themselves of both Abu Mazen and Sinwar. Only the removal of the two will eliminate the obstacle faced by Palestinians to claim their full human and civil rights from Israel. The slogan “Everyone means everyone!” will end the PA and Hamas rule. Together with the slogan “One democratic state for Jews and Arabs!” it will challenge the Israeli public. This public will have to awake from the illusion spread by the right, to which the left has succumbed, that the Palestinian problem is “solved” and that the Palestinians will come to terms with a life lacking in freedom, rights or a future. Trump’s gift to Netanyahu will therefore turn out, in the not too distant future, to be a poisoned apple. It will end the Zionist idea that a Jewish and democratic state can function simultaneously as an apartheid regime.