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Is Trump Offering West Bank to Bibi In His ‘Deal of the Century’?

And he's bringing Netanyahu and Benny Gantz here on Tuesday, smack in the middle of impeachment.

Benjamin Netanyahu stands near a photo showing him and US President Donald Trump shake hands as he speaks to supporters at a Likud Party campaign rally on January 21, 2020 in Jerusalem, Israel. (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images)

In his bid to detract from his impeachment and to help out his friend Benjamin Netanyahu, who is under indictment and facing a fierce election March 2, is Trump willing to light the Middle East on fire?

That is what the news suggests this morning. The details are vague but it appears that Trump may be planning to announce his “peace deal of the century” for Israel and the Palestinians soon, and has invited Prime Minister Netanyahu and his political rival Benny Gantz to the White House next week. He has not invited Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who would be the other signatory if a “peace deal” would in fact be in the offing.

More importantly, reports indicate that the so-called deal might give Israel the green light  to annex  the Jordan Valley  and illegal settlements in the West Bank. This is what Netanyahu has promised Israelis throughout this tumultuous election drama and his own indictment on charges of fraud and bribery, for which he has yet to stand trial. He is on a razor thin tightrope, but despite claims that he was finished (even from these pages!) he has managed to stay on. Trump’s gambit—-giving him everything he asked for right before the election, may be the greatest gift Trump could give.

And what does it do for Trump? On it’s face, it’s all upsides for him politically. He has not been hurt as he has made other brazen moves to put the American thumb on the scale for Israel’s right wing throughout his three-and-a-half-year term—including moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing Israel’s annex of the Golan Heights, withdrawing aid from Palestinian refugees, and declaring that Jewish settlements in disputed Palestinian territories were not illegal.

If he can bolster his Republican hawk base—think Senators Rubio, Cotton, and Graham—during impeachment, all the better.  High profile Democrats are unlikely to make a fuss, either, as many of them are strong supporters of Israel, too. It would be no surprise to see several of them take time from the trial for an audience with Netanyahu when he is here.

Trump was characteristically banal in his comment about the plan Thursday: “It’s a great plan. It’s a plan that really would work,” he told reporters on Air Force One en route to a Republican Party meeting in Florida. Sure, it would work for Netanyahu and the right wing Israelis who have been praying for a U.S. president to act so boldly biased in favor of them for decades. For their part, the Palestinians under Abbas have already rejected Trump’s plan in the works and have cut off all diplomatic ties with Washington, for obvious reasons. There is no “peace” in this plan, the fix was in from the start. The whole business of the deal including a huge economic plan for the Palestinians is hooey and the world knows it—that’s why Trump son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner was widely panned when he announced that piece of the proposal last year.

For all the politics, even Israeli media sees the danger in the course, whether or not the people in Washington give a damn. From Haaretz this morning:

There is a really skewed vision of “peace” in the White House and it has very little to do with foreign policy expertise, or well-informed  ideas or plans. Trump has been led by members of his team with specific ideological interests from the start. He and his surrogates were very plain about this during his 2016 campaign. His vice presidential pick, plus his hiring of Pompeo, Bolton, Kushner and appointment of David “Israel is on the side of God” Friedman as U.S. ambassador only cemented it. He has been ratified by his base all the way. God help us if this latest political calculation is the one that goes too far.


about the author

Kelley Beaucar Vlahos is a contributing editor at TAC and co-host on the Empire Has No Clothes podcast. Follow her on Twitter @VlahosAtQuincy.

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