Bibi is Totally Sweating the Prospect of a Biden Win
Under a power sharing agreement, the Israeli PM must get U.S. (Trump) approval before he can annex the West Bank.
Trump’s success in the U.S. never rested on the political fate of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. They are fierce allies and even friends—probably the closest one Trump has among other heads of state—but Netanyahu’s rise and fall and rise again in the recent national elections probably did not keep the U.S. president up at night, wiping his brow at the thought of Benny Gantz besting Bibi and licking the Likud Party for good.
The same cannot be said for Benjamin Netanyahu. He really needs Trump to win this Fall. The U.S. president and his administration—particularly Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Ambassador David Friedman (who tested negative for COVID by the way) and son-in-law Jared Kushner—have provided back-up for all of his tough policies on Palestine every step of the way. The moving of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem? Check. Withdrawing U.S. aid to Palestinian refugees as a way to keep their right of return off the table in future peace talks? Check. Recognizing the Golan Heights as an Israeli territory and naming a settlement there “Trump Heights”? Check. Breaking with international law and saying the Jewish settlements (nearly 430,000 settlers as of 2018) in the West Bank aren’t illegal? Check.
The Trump administration has helped paved the way for Bibi to come through on his ultimate campaign promise: annexing wide swaths of the West Bank and likely putting the final nail in the coffin of any hoped for two-state solution. It did this, primarily, by endorsing annexation in the so-called White House “peace proposal” back in January.
Now that Bibi has worked out a power sharing agreement with Gantz (clearly getting the upper hand) and was sworn in again as prime minister Sunday (one week before he stands trial for corruption) he is now sweating out how he will get his prize legislation through before November. According to the power sharing deal, he can seek a government vote to annex 30 percent of the West Bank as early as July 1, as long as he has the full endorsement of the U.S.
If for whatever reason he can’t get that vote before November, he risks facing a Biden Administration and Biden just publicly warned against the annexation in a speech given in a virtual fundraiser. “Israel needs to stop the threats of annexation and stop settlement activity because it will choke off any hope of peace. Today neither (Israel’s) present government or the Palestinians want to take steps thanks to President Trump’s unilateralism,” he told an audience of Jewish Democrats hosting the event this week.
He added that the Trump administration has “just been unequivocal on anything that (Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) does and has been equivocating on the importance of this two-state solution.” Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., must’ve been using those words as rocket fuel, as he was reportedly on a lobbying tear this week, urging the White House and GOP lawmakers to act fast on backing Netanyahu’s annexation plan. “He said that it should be done, and the quicker the better,” an official told The Jerusalem Post this week. “He did not necessarily mention any connection to the upcoming elections.” Right.
The majority of Americans endorse a two-state solution, but Trump has been known to pull the “anti-Israel” card against his opponents to win political points. This could become a wedge issue if Biden pushes it. Evangelical Republicans, especially, support Trump’s moves in Israel and Netanyahu’s policies in general. But really, Netanyahu needs Trump more than Trump needs him. You’d never see Trump producing campaign ads like this using Netanyahu to sell himself or plastering both of their visages on billboards overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue.
Most importantly, Trump now has the power over a vote that “would alter Israel’s character forever.” Whether he gets to execute it, or even will, is not certain, but that it is even a question—a foreign government having the power to shape the future of another country (or really, two) is a stunning revelation in itself. That the direction it takes hinges on who wins our dysfunctional duopolistic cage match in November makes it even more frightening.