Tom Gross Mideast Media Analysis

Anti-Semitic dog whistle

April 27, 2019

 

ANTI-SEMITIC DOG WHISTLE

[Note by Tom Gross]

Is it any wonder that so many people accuse the New York Times of encouraging anti-Semitism? A skull-cap wearing US President Donald Trump is led by a dog Netanyahu with a Star of David. The cartoon above is from the New York Times’ international edition; once again the Times helps spread anti-Semitic tropes around the world.

As I wrote in this new article I sent out earlier:

In the latest in a long line of tweets or retweets with inaccurate or incendiary information concerning Jews, congresswoman Ilhan Omar this week retweeted a New York Times Easter op-ed which claimed that “Jesus… was most likely a Palestinian.”

Jesus was, of course, like all his disciples, Jewish. Denial of the fact that Jews originated in Israel is now a staple of anti-Zionist anti-Semitism on both the extreme right and left. Palestinians are Arabs. Arabs first conquered the area in which Jesus was crucified over 600 years later. That the New York Times should mislead to the detriment of Israel is hardly surprising – it is notorious for doing so. But Omar, a member of the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee, should know better than to spread fake history.

 

* See also: Cartoons through the ages

* See also: Cartoons from the Arab World (past post)

* See also: Anti-Israel cartoons cross into anti-Semitism (past post)

 

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Democrat presidential candidates under pressure to turn on Israel

April 26, 2019

Cory Booker was one of several Democratic Party presidential candidates to come under pressure from pro-Palestinian activists last weekend

 

PRESSURE ON DEMOCRATS UNNERVES MANY JEWS

Pressure on Democrat presidential candidates unnerves many Jews
By Tom Gross
April 25, 2019

In past centuries, Easter was often a time of increased attacks against Jews, attacks sometimes as deadly as the atrocious slaughter of Sri Lankan Christians this week.

There are still some remnants of this today. In Russia, on Good Friday, assailants torched Moscow’s biggest yeshiva as Jews met there for a Passover meal and drew swastikas by the entrance to the building. In Poland, a crowd (including many children) beat, hung from a tree, and then burned an effigy of a Jew to mark Easter.

In Britain, on Easter Monday, in another all too familiar piece of fake news about Israel from allies of Jeremy Corbyn, Labour MP Grahame Morris tweeted a video which he claimed showed Israeli soldiers attacking Palestinian children “for the fun of it.” “May God forgive them… on an Easter Monday,” added Morris. In fact, the video was of Guatemalan soldiers kicking two teenagers in 2015.

These incidents are very disturbing, of course. But what has perhaps concerned many Jews even more this Easter period is how several leading Democratic candidates for next year’s US election are being pushed into adopting hostile positions towards Israel by the party’s increasingly vocal “progressive” wing.

This is seen as a long-term threat that could significantly weaken Israel. Since the Holocaust, most Jews in the world have strongly supported Israel, not just because of its achievements but because it offers a refuge for them to escape to if their safety is threatened elsewhere.

Recently, Israel has greatly improved relations with other countries, including Sunni Arab governments, Australia, Canada, China, India, Russia, Brazil and others, as I noted here. But America still remains an indispensable ally for Israel, a tiny country that continues to face deadly enemies.

Yet now, 2020 presidential candidates for the Democrats – the party which most American Jews support and which has for decades been strongly supportive of Israel – are being increasingly bullied by their own party’s radical base.

Some have responded. Beto O’Rourke, a popular presidential contender who has long been sympathetic to Israel, made sharply critical remarks earlier this month, calling the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu “racist”. Another rising young star for the Democrats, Pete Buttigieg, who has so far been only moderately critical of Israel, opened his official campaign with a rally on Easter Sunday, while disruptive anti-Israel activists unfurled banners and called on him to be more outspoken against Israel.

Meanwhile, another contender, New Jersey senator Cory Booker, also had his recent “hometown kickoff” in Newark disrupted by protesters waving Palestinian flags and keffiyahs as he spoke (although not as many Palestinian flags as were on display at the British Labour Party conference last September).

On Monday, Bernie Sanders (who was the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination until Joe Biden entered the race on Thursday) singled out Israel in an interview on CNN as having a “racist government.”

Of course, no country is perfect. But Israel does relatively well. Just this month Israelis elected Druze, Muslim, vegan and openly gay candidates representing parties of both right and left to the 120-seat Knesset. Arabs are prominent in almost all walks of life – from Israeli-Arab supreme court judge Salim Joubran, who sentenced former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert to jail for bribery in 2016, to Israeli-Arab TV presenter Lucy Ayoub who will co-host next month’s Eurovision song contest in Tel Aviv.

Other countries – which far left activists in the US (and Britain) don’t single out for opprobrium – have far more draconian polices. In Denmark, for example, as the New York Times reported last year:

Starting at the age of 1, ‘ghetto children’ must be separated from their families for at least 25 hours a week, not including nap time, for mandatory instruction in ‘Danish values,’ including the traditions of Christmas and Easter, and the Danish language.’

O’Rourke, Sanders, and other candidates haven’t accused such countries of having “racist” governments. Why?

Indeed one of the reasons Democrat voters have traditionally been supportive of Israel is that, on most issues, Israel more closely resembles a liberal Scandinavian country than it does the United States.

In Israel, there is state funded universal health care. Abortion is widely available, as is state-subsidised IVF. Israel is among the most welcoming countries in the world for homosexuals, veganism is widespread, prisoners have voting rights and gun ownership is strictly limited. Some Israeli Arabs also serve in the Israeli army.

Not all Democrat politicians are turning against Israel, of course, and many have been firm in rebuking the more radical members of their party who have strayed towards anti-Semitism. But some of the presidential candidates seem eager to pander to the radicals.

There was shock among moderate Democrats for instance at the eagerness with which Sanders leapt to the defence of two radical new US congresswomen, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, widely criticized for making anti-Semitic remarks.

Prominent Democrats such as Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama’s former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel spoke out against Omar. But not Sanders, who reacted to the row over Omar’s comments by saying: “We will stand by our Muslim brothers and sisters.”

In the latest in a long line of tweets or retweets with inaccurate or incendiary information concerning Jews, congresswoman Omar this week retweeted a New York Times Easter op-ed which claimed that “Jesus… was most likely a Palestinian.” Jesus was, of course, like all his disciples, Jewish.

Denial of the fact that Jews originated in Israel is now a staple of anti-Zionist anti-Semitism on both the extreme right and left. Palestinians are Arabs. Arabs first conquered the area in which Jesus was crucified over 600 years later. That the New York Times should mislead to the detriment of Israel is hardly surprising – it is notorious for doing so. But Omar, a member of the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee, should know better than to spread fake history.

Come next year’s presidential election, the Democrats could pay a price for not making Jewish voters feel more welcome. While Jews comprise only a small minority of US voters, they are concentrated in key states including New York, Illinois and Florida, and could make a difference. And while, contrary to stereotypes, most Jews are not rich, many of those who are, have been generous donors in the past to Democratic candidates.

Donald Trump is lapping this up, speaking of a hoped for “Jexodus” to the Republican Party.

Even if Jewish Democrats won’t actually vote GOP, then at least he hopes they will be less enthusiastic about voting – and campaigning – for a Democratic Party candidate hostile to Israel.

And so, he thinks, might many mainstream non-Jewish Democrats, who like most Americans in general, remain strongly supportive of Israel – a close US ally and a democracy in a part of the world where democracy is rare.

(Tom Gross is a former Mideast correspondent for the Sunday Telegraph)

 

THE STRUGGLE TO HAVE AN ACCURATE PIECE ABOUT ISRAEL PUBLISHED IN THE BRITISH MEDIA

Tom Gross adds:

The piece above was written on Tuesday (and slightly updated yesterday). I could not find a British publication to print it, even online, without their insistence that factual inaccuracies were first injected into it. It may instead be published by an American news outlet on Monday.

(My last piece two weeks ago gained positive feedback. For example, it was cited by the magazine The Week in its round-up of noteworthy articles. And Robert Fulford, who has been described as Canada’s most eminent columnist – he was formerly with The Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail – wrote in Toronto’s National Post referring to my previous piece: “Tom Gross, probably Europe’s leading observer of the Middle East...”)

 

UPDATE

Now also here on JNS:

https://www.jns.org/opinion/pressure-on-democrat-presidential-candidates-unnerves-many-jews

 

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Netanyahu heads for record fifth term, but may invite Gantz to join him

April 10, 2019

 

Below is my initial analysis of the Israeli election results, published this morning in The Spectator. For those who don’t have time to read it all, here are some extracts:

So do the results mean Netanyahu is going to form a “very right wing government” (as other media are predicting) with little prospects for peace? Not necessarily.

As I argued last week, Netanyahu knows this may be his last term, and geostrategic conditions lend themselves to peace initiatives – especially since much of the Arab world is already quietly establishing ties with Israel. (A few days ago even Hamas-supporting Qatar played the Israeli national anthem and raised its flag when an Israeli gymnast won gold – which would have been unthinkable a year ago.)

Despite his hardline pre-election rhetoric, I believe Netanyahu will accept the forthcoming Trump peace plan, which, even if it leans towards Israel, will still require significant Israeli concessions.

I have followed Netanyahu’s career closely ever since I first met him as a teenager before he entered politics – the publisher George Weidenfeld, myself, and my father had a lengthy breakfast in New York when Netanyahu was a diplomat at Israel’s UN mission there in the 1980s. And I know some of Netanyahu’s key advisors today.

So contrary to the views of many, I think Netanyahu may try to form a broader collation with Gantz as his defence minister or deputy PM. He will then be in a much stronger position domestically to swallow concessions that Israel will be asked to make under Trump’s plan, without relying only on hard right coalition partners.

 

NETANYAHU HEADS FOR RECORD FIFTH TERM, BUT MAY INVITE GANTZ TO JOIN HIM

Netanyahu heads for record fifth term, but may invite Gantz to join him
By Tom Gross
The Spectator
April 10, 2019

spectator.co.uk/2019/04/benjamin-netanyahu-has-defied-his-critics-again

With 97 percent of votes counted, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks poised to secure a remarkable record fifth term.

Pundits had said Israel’s election was too close to call, and in many ways it was. Both Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party and its main rival, the centrist Blue and White alliance look set to gain 35 seats in the 120 seat Israeli parliament, the Knesset. But Netanyahu has a much better chance of forming a coalition with the smaller right wing and religious parties.

Nothing is decided for sure yet. Most of the remaining three percent of the votes are those of soldiers and diplomats who don’t live in their home voting districts. These will take until this afternoon to count and could still influence which of those smaller parties hovering around the threshold of 3.25% under Israel’s proportional representation electoral system make it into the Knesset. Nevertheless it is likely that these votes will lean right and only further boost Netanyahu’s chances of forming a government.

It is now up to Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, to choose who has first crack at putting together a coalition. Even though Rivlin personally dislikes Netanyahu (the two are bitter political foes from within the Likud) and Rivlin has on many occasions during his presidency criticized the prime minister, with Likud on 26.3 percent of the vote, and Blue and White on 26 percent, it seems that Rivlin has little choice but to turn to Netanyahu.

The results are a remarkable achievement for Netanyahu. It is his party’s best result since the 2003 election (when it won 38 seats under Ariel Sharon), and its best under the now 69-year-old Netanyahu. In the outgoing Knesset the Likud has 30 seats so Netanyahu has increased his vote significantly – and this despite a generally very hostile Israeli media and pending corruption charges which many Israelis dismiss as a left-wing plot to try and oust him from office (in much the same way as many Americans think the Russian collusion allegations against Trump are a media-driven concoction to try and drive him from office).

Why did Bibi (as both his detractors and admirers often call the Israeli PM) do so well? Those hostile to Netanyahu dislike him intensely, they deplore his personality, his sometimes inflammatory style and his language.

But for most Israelis, the answer is simple: The Israeli economy is thriving; the security situation is generally good (despite ever present concerns) and very few Israelis have died from terrorism compared to past years; Netanyahu’s diplomatic achievements are considerable (he has formed close working relations with the leaders of the US, Russia, India, China, Japan and Brazil, among others – including, crucially, several Arab leaders); and outside the very often dissatisfied Israeli leftist elites, things are looking up.

Israel is the 13th Happiest country in the world, according to the newly released UN World Happiness Report 2019. (By contrast the UK is 15th, the US 19th and France, Spain and Italy are further down the list.) Last month Israel was ranked tenth in the “Healthiest Country Index” (America is No. 35). And last week, in the most thorough study of its kind, the Lancet medical journal found Israelis now enjoy the healthiest diet in the world, ahead of France, Spain and Japan.

There is a buzz in the air. Tiny Israel has just become only the fourth country (after Russia, the US and China) to send a rocket to the moon. And Madonna announced on Monday that she would perform two songs at the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest next month in Tel Aviv – the first time a star of this magnitude has agreed to perform at Eurovision.

But the election results are also a remarkable achievement for Benny Gantz, the former army chief who entered politics in December. (Gantz retired from the army in 2015, and by Israeli law there is a three-year moratorium during which ex-generals cannot enter politics.) Gantz gave his first political speech in late January and his Blue and White coalition was only formed on February 21.

This was a devastating night for the Israeli left. Labour – the party of many past prime ministers, including Nobel peace prize winners Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres – gained only six seats (down from 19 in the outgoing Knesset). But many of its supporters voted tactically for the centrist Gantz only because he had a better chances of replacing Netanyahu and they may well return to Labour next time.

So do the results mean Netanyahu is going to form a “very right wing government” (as other media are predicting) with little prospects for peace? Not necessarily.

As I argued last week, Netanyahu knows this may be his last term, and geostrategic conditions lend themselves to peace initiatives – especially since much of the Arab world is already quietly establishing ties with Israel. (A few days ago even Hamas-supporting Qatar played the Israeli national anthem and raised its flag when an Israeli gymnast won gold – which would have been unthinkable a year ago.)

Despite his hardline pre-election rhetoric, I believe Netanyahu will accept the forthcoming Trump peace plan, which, even if it leans towards Israel, will still require significant Israeli concessions.

I have followed Netanyahu’s career closely ever since I first met him as a teenager before he entered politics – the publisher George Weidenfeld, myself, and my father had a lengthy breakfast in New York when Netanyahu was a diplomat at Israel’s UN mission there in the 1980s. And I know some of Netanyahu’s key advisors today.

So contrary to the views of many, I think Netanyahu may try to form a broader coalition with Gantz as his defence minister or deputy PM. He will then be in a much stronger position domestically to swallow concessions that Israel will be asked to make under Trump’s plan, without relying only on hard right coalition partners.

And what of the Palestinians? The highly intransigent Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (now in his 15th year of a four year term) has been refusing even to speak about peace for over a decade and has turned down all previous peace plans.

But a new poll released yesterday evening by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Center (a Palestinian-run organization with a good track record in polling) revealed that 87 per cent of Palestinians want Abbas to call elections, 89 per cent want him out of office, and only 6 per cent support the even more intransigent Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. So Abbas – if he wants to stay on as leader – may have little choice but to accept the Trump plan, and improve the lot of his people even if it doesn’t deliver everything he wants.

(Tom Gross is a former Mideast correspondent for the Sunday Telegraph.)

 

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Parties neck and neck as Israel goes to the polls (& Madonna again gives backing to Israel)

April 09, 2019

 

TO CLOSE TO CALL

[Note by Tom Gross]

Israel goes to the polls today in a general election. Six parties have now dropped out, so voters are left with 41 parties to choose from, representing every conceivable opinion and demographic. Among the parties expected to cross the 3.25 percent threshold and enter the Knesset are communists, Arab nationalists and those advocating the legalization of cannabis. Turnout in early voting is reported to be high. So democracy hasn’t ended in Israel as some prominent western news headlines claimed yesterday.

 

ISRAELI NATIONAL ANTHEM PLAYED IN QATAR, ON EVE OF ISRAELI ELECTIONS

For those interested, I attach two short news interviews:

BBC senior International affairs correspondent Lyse Doucet interviews Tom Gross on the eve of Israel’s national elections (BBC News 24 channel)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5W6_dxKvqU

Israel & Arab states bypass Palestinians to make peace: Tom Gross on BBC World

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYjecl-F-_s

 

(There were many anti-Israeli guests on the BBC’s various TV and radio stations yesterday too; and the untruths told about Israel also extended to the lead item on the BBC religious program, which doesn’t usually cover politics. Prominent local radio hosts, such as this one, also broadcast lies that Israel had plans to push Gazans into the sea; and the BBC news website wrongly claimed Hamas rule in Gaza had ended five years ago.)

 

 

DEFYING BOYCOTT CALLS, MADONNA WILL PERFORM AT EUROVISION IN TEL AVIV

American pop superstar Madonna (photo at the top of the page) announced last night that she would perform two songs at the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest finals next month in Tel Aviv. It is the first time a pop star of this magnitude of celebrity has agreed to perform at Eurovision (since Abba won the contest).

Madonna said she would spend several days in Israel next month, accompanied by a 65-person entourage.

She has previously performed in Israel in 1993, 2009 and 2012, when she made a point of opening her world tour in Israel, in defiance of other pop stars whom she has criticized for singling out the Jewish state for boycott.

Madonna has also made a number of private visits to Israel.

Tens of thousands of European tourists are expected to visit Israel next month for the Eurovision final.

 

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Might Donald Trump’s Mideast peace plan actually work?

April 04, 2019

Implacable foes have made peace before, against expectations: Egypt’s Anwar Sadat and Israel’s Menachem Begin.

It might sound implausible but Trump may have a better chance of delivering peace – or at least a non-belligerency agreement – than previous presidents, even if those chances do still remain low.

 

COULD TRUMP UNEXPECTEDLY TRIUMPH IN HIS BID FOR PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST?

Could Donald Trump unexpectedly triumph in his bid for peace in the Middle East?
By Tom Gross
The Spectator (UK)
April 4, 2019

https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2019/04/could-donald-trump-unexpectedly-triumph-in-his-bid-for-peace-in-the-middle-east/

Could Donald Trump unexpectedly win the Nobel Peace Prize? He would be following in the footsteps of his predecessor but unlike Barack Obama in 2009 his award could be for something significant: helping to bring an end to one of the world’s most intractable conflicts – the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.

It might sound implausible but Trump may have a better chance of delivering peace – or at least a non-belligerency agreement – than previous presidents, even if those chances do still remain low.

Trump’s Middle East peace envoy (and ex-real estate lawyer) Jason Greenblatt, who I met recently, says that the Trump team will soon unveil their plan – the “deal of the century”, as Trump has dubbed it. It could even come a day or two after next Tuesday’s Israeli elections. The election results will be known the same evening and the coalition that is then formed may be greatly influenced by the content of the plan.

Israel’s election has been closely fought. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party has for weeks been running slightly behind the new centrist “Blue and White” party of former general Benny Gantz in the polls. But under Israel’s complex proportional representation system, Netanyahu – even if his party wins fewer seats – is still more likely to gain a record fifth term in office; he has a better chance of building a coalition with smaller parties.

But whether Netanyahu survives or not, why might Trump succeed where others have fallen short? For years, diplomats have tried – and failed – to bring about peace. Offers of an independent Palestinian state made to the first Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat by then-Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak (under the guidance of Bill Clinton) in 2000 and 2001 fell on deaf ears. So, too, did the proposal by Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert in 2007-8 that gave the Palestinian Authority pretty much everything it supposedly wanted. US secretary of state John Kerry also implored Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to accept the secret peace offer put on the table in 2014-15. He refused.

So what is different now?

Firstly, the American team. The vast majority of western Middle East specialists think the Trump plan has no chance of success, in part because it is being formulated by non-diplomats. Jared Kushner has a real estate background and Greenblatt and David Friedman were both lawyers for the Trump Organisation. But my experience of observing and meeting western diplomats over many years is that most are misguided as to what might work in the Middle East – the region perhaps doesn’t need statesmen, it needs hard-nosed deal makers.

This view is shared by senior figures I have met from various Arab governments, who privately say they are already far more impressed by Trump and his team (in part because they are unabashedly pro-American and sympathetic to America’s allies) than they were by Obama and his – including his two secretaries of state, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton.

Secondly, the Arab states have changed. Utterly tired of Palestinian intransigence and the refusal to even negotiate publicly for a decade now – and far more concerned about the increasing Iranian threat across the region – they are favourably disposed to Israel as never before. They also know that their economies can benefit greatly from Israeli expertise.

In recent months, ties between members of the Netanyahu government and leaders from across the Arab world have been made increasingly public. In the space of just ten days last October and November, several right-wing Israeli cabinet ministers were publicly welcomed in separate visits to Gulf states with whom Israel has no official relations. Netanyahu himself was hosted in October by the Sultan of Oman, who later broadcast the visit on state TV for his people to see. More recently, in February, Yemen’s foreign minister was photographed alongside Netanyahu at a summit in Warsaw.

There have also been growing ties with Muslim-majority countries in Africa. Netanyahu went to Chad in January, renewing diplomatic ties cut off since 1972. Closed-door meetings between senior Israelis and leaders throughout the Arab world have also been taking place. The Palestinians are, in effect, being bypassed by much of the Muslim world; they may realise they have little choice but to also improve relations with Israel.

The Trump team has been careful not to leak any specifics of the plan, which has been two years in the making, but we have some idea of what it may involve. Jared Kushner told Sky News Arabia that the plan will address all the main issues of Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including borders, and “freedom…of opportunity (and) religion”. He said it would economically benefit the wider Arab region, not just the Palestinian economy. “We want to see Palestinians under one leadership that will allow them to live in dignity,” Kushner said. “We are trying to come up with realistic and fair solutions that are relevant to the year 2019.”

Officially, the Palestinian Authority has refused to speak to the Trump administration for over a year now, but from private discussions I have had, I understand that if Abbas continues to refuse to negotiate, several Arab states – as well as the US – may apply the kind of serious pressure on the Palestinians that previous presidents never employed.

In the past, when Palestinian leaders turned down offers of independent statehood without even agreeing to further discussions (offers of a kind that Chechens, Kurds, Baluchis, Tibetans and dozens of other stateless people would have jumped at), far from being pressured or ostracised, the Palestinian leadership was given even more money and more red carpet treatment by western countries.

Casting themselves as perpetual victims paid off. No longer. Trump has already shown, through his decision to move the American embassy to west Jerusalem, recognise Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights, and cut funding to the Palestinians, that there will be a price to pay for such intransigence.

President Abbas is currently in his 15th year of a four-year term. While the Palestinian Authority has a firm grip on power, Abbas is not immune from public (and international) pressure. There is great discontent with his rule and it may be hard for him to once again turn down an offer of a state – however imperfect the borders may be viewed by many Palestinians. There are, however, rumours that parts of east Jerusalem may be included as a Palestinian capital in the Trump plan.

Palestinians will learn that there will be massive financial investment if they accept. Incentives were offered in the past too, but the Palestinian public was never properly informed. Today, because of very high internet usage, it will be hard for Palestinian leaders to hide from their people what is at stake.

Thirdly, Trump has already said Israel will be expected to make painful concessions. So will Netanyahu accept? Many pundits doubt it. However, if he wins next week’s elections, this will likely be his last term, and I believe he may accept. Although he is an Israeli nationalist, he is also a pragmatist. He knows Israel may never be in a stronger position to reach a deal, with the backing not just of Trump and the Saudis, but the tacit approval of Vladimir Putin, with whom Netanyahu enjoys exceptionally close relations and whom he is meeting again today. Netanyahu has also forged close ties with governments in India, China, Brazil and elsewhere.

Israel has never been stronger. It is now ranked the eighth most powerful country in the world, according to the US News and World Report’s 2019 power ranking – a remarkable achievement for a small country. The economy is thriving. Some 250 multinational companies – including Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Intel, AT&T, AOL, HP, IBM, PayPal, Samsung, Dropbox, SanDisk, Sony, and Yahoo – have established major research and development centres in Israel. Israel has even just sent a rocket to the moon, only the fourth country to do so. Netanyahu – who has long said that peace is best established through a position of strength – knows Israel may never have a better opportunity than now.

Furthermore, he is facing corruption allegations, he says (with, it seems, some justification) because the Israeli liberal establishment, exasperated by lack of peace and his length of time in office, have been scraping the barrel to see what they can pin on him. In order for these charges to be dropped or minimised – or prevent new charges being brought, Netanyahu may wish to form a centrist government, with Gantz as his deputy and also with the Israeli Labour Party, to push ahead with the Trump plan at the expense of the Israeli hard right.

And if Netanyahu fails to win the election? Trump’s plan can still be implemented by a Gantz government. But history has shown time and again that right-wing leaders have a better chance of carrying more of their population (especially nationalists) with them when concessions are being made: think Nixon and China; Reagan, Thatcher and the Soviets; De Gaulle and Algeria; and in Israel itself, when right-wing leader Menachem Begin, 40 years ago this month, forged peace with Egypt, at the time Israel’s most implacable foe.

For sure, Netanyahu would face concerted domestic opposition from the Israeli right to the concessions Trump is likely to ask Israel to make; and there will have to be very sophisticated security measures put in place for some time until a Palestinian state has proved itself not to be hostile, in order to prevent rocket and other attacks.

There are other obstacles, including Hamas in Gaza. But here again there is behind-the-scenes mediation going on between Hamas and the Israeli government, with Egyptian participation, and the problem is not insurmountable.

(Tom Gross is a former Jerusalem correspondent for The Sunday Telegraph and he has written on the Mideast for a range of publications including The Guardian and Wall Street Journal.)

 

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