Trump-Netanyahu meeting: Tell me what you heard from Trump, and I will tell you what you want

February 15, 2017
U.S. President Donald Trump (R) acknowledges Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a joint news conference at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque


Donald Trump is a political Rorschach test. His press conference with Prime Minister Netanyahu was a Rorschach test.

He killed the two-state solution and buried it, the panelist sitting next to me in a TV studio, a former Israel Knesset Member of the right, concluded.

He asked Netanyahu to restrain settlements, declared the main headline of Haaretz daily.

Trump was speaking, we were all listening, we were all hearing what we wanted to hear.

The president is personally committed to peace. He knows that both sides, Israelis and Palestinians, will have to make compromises. Sounds like Barack Obama in disguise.

The president has no special attachment to the two state solution. He is willing to consider other options. Sounds like Israeli Minister Naftali Bennet.

Tell me what you heard from Trump, and I will tell you what you want.


Still, some things are worthy of attention. The first of which: Trump promised nothing. He did not promise to move an embassy to Jerusalem, nor did he promise to do something about Iran that his predecessor did not do. Yes, he said he will do whatever he can to stop Iran from having nuclear weapons. Go to the archive: there are many such statements by Obama. In fact, Obama even claimed to have achieved this goal by signing an agreement that both Trump and Netanyahu believe is far from satisfactory.

There were many platitudes in the press conference, and the leaders’ body language was relaxed. But what about substance?

The truth is simple: On substance, the dovish camp won with “hold back on settlements.” On nuance, the hawkish camp won with no mention of the two state solution.


Netanyahu can now come back and tell his more hawkish coalition allies: we have to restrain settlement activity.

His coalition allies, dizzy from celebrating the unmentioned two state solution, might listen, or might realize that they were manipulated.


Trump is wiser than Obama when it comes to dealing with Israel.

Obama began his relations with Israel by being critical, and by making demands. Trump is making similar demands – restrain settlements – he professes similar ambitions – bring about peace. But he manages to do all of this without alienating Israel. Count it as an achievement.


I wrote an article last week about Trump, anti-Semitism in America, and Israel’s response to it. I wrote, sometimes Israel is willing to turn “a blind eye to anti-Semitism in exchange for political support. Sometimes this means ignoring the trivialization of Jewish deaths in the Holocaust… Israel sometimes agreed to help other countries and parties whitewash their images. It’s often a trade: We, Israel, will get what we need in the form of money or arms or political support. You will get the right to showcase Israel as proof that you aren’t an anti-Semite”.

I do not disagree with Netanyahu’s strong response to the question about anti-Semitism in America this evening: “There is no greater supporter for the Jewish people and the Jewish state than President Donald Trump. We should put that to rest”, he said.

I agree, and also think it proves my point.

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