Yedioth Ahronoth: "An Historic Evening" by Nahum Barnea

(from the translation provided by Israel News Today)

  Netanyahu is right. This truly was an historic evening. The plan bearing Trump’s name seals one chapter and opens a new chapter in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The two-state solution, which has dominated international discourse ever since 1993, has now lost the last vestiges of its relevance. One state will rule between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, under the grace of America. This isn’t a peace plan; it’s an annexation plan. Is that good for Israel or bad for it? It depends whom you ask.

   We’ve had lots of American plans and mediators in the time since President Reagan’s plan in 1982. Each one of those initiatives created a major stir in its day. Despite the excitement, they left in their wake expectations that made reaching an agreement difficult.

   The Trump plan has done more than that; it has given the Netanyahu government support to take a series of unilateral steps, starting this coming Sunday. In the initial stage, the settlement blocs and the Jordan Valley will be annexed. Israel will annex the isolated settlements and the access roads leading to them in the second stage.

   Nothing is going to happen on the ground—not immediately. The residents of the settlements live under Israeli law today as well. The facts will be established on the ground afterwards. They will necessarily create a reality of two legal systems for two populations in the same territory—one that rules and the other that is under occupation. In other words, an apartheid state.

   The American plan needs to be discussed irrespective of the indictments against Netanyahu, and the indictments need to be discussed irrespective of the plan. While it is true that the two are linked in terms of the timing and the content, both issues are sufficiently important to warrant being discussed individually.

   Perhaps it would be best to focus on the full half of the glass. The speech that Trump gave yesterday was the most supportive speech towards Israel that any American president has ever given. The detailed plan goes above and beyond in guaranteeing the security needs of Israel and the settlers in the West Bank. Netanyahu got from his American interlocutor what his predecessors were unable to get: recognition of Israeli sovereignty in East Jerusalem up to the separation fence; recognition of Israel’s continued security control over the entire West Bank; a land swap without parity; and, most importantly, a series of preconditions that no Palestinian leadership will ever be able to accept. The independent Palestinian state that Trump is talking about is more miserable [i.e., miniscule] than Andorra, and is more divided than the Virgin Islands.

   Netanyahu’s achievement, with the enthusiastic help of Kushner and Friedman, is a Gift of Medea: it will lead to the end of the Jewish and democratic state, to the end of Zionism. But I can understand the rejoicing of those who think differently. They believe this to be a great achievement. They truly believe that Trump is Israel’s best friend in the White House; they truly believe that Netanyahu is the Messiah.

   Ever since it was first established, Israel has been a domestic political issue in America, not a foreign policy issue. The more influence American Jews gained, the greater the commitment to Israel grew. But a change has been underway in recent years; the emphasis has shifted from the Jews to the evangelists. Trump needs them, their money, their presence at his rallies and their participation in the election. The Jews are more complicated. The overwhelming majority of them despise Trump and are growing more distant from Israel. Trump and Netanyahu’s speeches were crafted for the evangelicals’ ears. That was Netanyahu’s modest donation to Trump’s reelection campaign.

   The timing was Trump’s immodest contribution to Netanyahu’s reelection campaign. I don’t know how many new voters Netanyahu picked up yesterday, if any at all. But Trump’s intention to meddle in the Israeli elections was completely clear. The fact that his impeachment trial, which is now underway in the Senate, revolves around allegations that he tried to enlist a foreign country against a political rival hasn’t stopped him from pulling the same stunt again: Netanyahu is helping him, and he’s helping Netanyahu.  He isn’t the first American president to act that way with Israel, and he won’t be the last. As noted, Israel is part of domestic American politics.

   Everything is in this minestrone soup, including Netanyahu’s indictments. If it weren’t for the indictments, the Trump plan would probably never have come to light, and it certainly wouldn’t have been unveiled at the current juncture in time. Had Netanyahu not dealt deceptively with the justice system for so long, the attorney general would probably not have rushed [to file the indictment] as he did. “He’s obsessed,” Netanyahu accused, referring to Mandelblit. But the person who’s obsessed is Netanyahu. His tenacity at achieving his goals is remarkable.

   If need be, he’ll take the plane that is paid for with out tax shekels, and fly all the way from Washington to Moscow just to pick up a young woman who goes by the name of Naama Issachar. Heads of state often do a lot of strange things in their bid for reelection, but I think that this is the first time that a convicted criminal, even if she was only charged with a minor offense, is going to be given a free flight home in the prime minister’s plane. There are quite a few innocent Israelis who I’m sure would be glad to board the plane, but they’re not worth much on the way to Election Day.

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