Israel, be­ware Trump’s MidEast ‘deal’

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BYCHARLIE LADERMAN Charlie Laderman is a lec­turer at King’s Col­lege Lon­don. He is the co-au­thor of ‘Don­ald Trump: The Mak­ing of a World­view’, avail­able now on Ama­zon

DON­ALD TRUMP’S vic­tory in the US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion was greeted by some Is­raeli rightwingers as an en­dorse­ment of fu­ture in­tran­si­gence.

Naf­tali Ben­nett, leader of the hard­line na­tion­al­ist Jewish Home party, de­clared that, as a re­sult of Mr Trump’s vic­tory, the “era of the Pales­tinian state is over” given “the Pres­i­dent-elect’s out­look as it ap­pears in his plat­form”. And, in an at­tempt to ratchet up po­lit­i­cal pres­sure on Ben­jamin Netanyahu ahead of his trip to Wash­ing­ton on Wed­nes­day, Mr Ben­nett warned the Is­raeli PM that if the words “Pales­tinian state” were men­tioned at the meet­ing with Mr Trump, “the earth will shake”.

It is true that the new pres­i­dent has trum­peted his com­mit­ment to Israel at al­most ev­ery op­por­tu­nity, and has ap­pointed a staunch sup­porter of West Bank set­tle­ments, David Fried­man, as his am­bas­sador.

But look­ing more broadly, Mr Trump has con­sis­tently stated his am­bi­tion to secure peace in the Mid­dle East. In a 2007 in­ter­view with the Ob­server, he sug­gested that, if he be­came pres­i­dent, “first, I’d try and solve the prob­lems in the Mid­dle East … Every­thing can be solved if you have tal­ent.”

Dur­ing the 2016 Repub­li­can pri­maries, Mr Trump de­clared his in­ten­tion to be “neu­tral” on the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­flict, to give him­self the best chance of mak­ing “the tough­est deal in the world.” And, two weeks ago, the White House de­clared that the expansion of Is­raeli set­tle­ments, while not “an im­ped­i­ment to peace,” was not “help­ful in achiev­ing that goal.” Mr Trump was again sig­nalling his in­ten­tion to make that deal.

But, as pre­vi­ous pres­i­dents have dis­cov­ered, the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­flict does not oc­cur in a vac­uum and is ex­tremely sen­si­tive to shifts in the wider re­gion.

For the past few years, the Is­raeliLe­banese bor­der has been rel­a­tively quiet as Hizbol­lah has fo­cused its at­ten­tion on bol­ster­ing Bashar alAs­sad in Syria. How­ever, if, as he has in­di­cated, Mr Trump gives As­sad and his sup­port­ers a free hand to crush their op­po­nents, then the bat­tle-hard- ened, Iran-armed Hizbol­lah guer­ril­las are highly likely to turn their at­ten­tion back to their goal of de­stroy­ing Israel.

Mr Trump’s an­i­mus to­wards the Ira­nian regime runs deep. In his first ma­jor TV in­ter­view on NBC in 1980, which took place amid the Ira­nian hostage cri­sis, he ex­pressed his de­sire to in­ter­vene in Iran, declar­ing it would en­sure “re­spect” and make Amer­ica an “oil-rich nation”.

Af­ter im­pos­ing new sanc­tions on Iran over its re­cent mis­sile test and sup­port of ter­ror­ism, Mr Trump fol­lowed up with a tweet: “Iran is play­ing with fire — they don’t ap­pre­ci­ate how ‘kind’ Pres­i­dent Obama was to them. Not me!”

But, by back­ing As­sad, Mr Trump will boost Iran in Syria, where its in­flu­ence is stronger than any other power. Above all, it will free up Hizbol­lah to at­tack Israel. The con­tra­dic­tion of strength­en­ing Iran in Syria, while si­mul­ta­ne­ously ratch­et­ing up ten­sions with Tehran else­where, is likely to lead to a broader Mid­dle East war, not the peace deal that Trump be­lieves he alone can bro­ker.

PHOTOS: AP, GETTY IMAGES

Shoot­ing from the hip: Trump and an Ira­nian mis­sile test

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