How Worried Should Israel Be About Trump’s Latest Remarks?
Trump has been unprecedented in his friendship toward Israel, but might also make unprecedented demands
That US President Donald Trump devoted a portion of his Charleston, West Virginia rally on Tuesday to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process suggests that he intends to very soon unveil his Mideast peace plan, dubbed by Trump himself as the "deal of the century."
During the remarks, Trump reiterated that Israelis will be none-too-pleased by the demands made of their nation.
Ever since last December, when Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel, and especially since May 14 of this year, when the US Embassy was moved to the Holy City, Israelis have feared there would be a steep diplomatic price to pay for the American leader's unprecedented gesture.
On Tuesday, Trump validated those fears in no uncertain terms.
Trump told the crowd that he had fully gotten behind the Israeli position by taking Jerusalem "off the table," a reference to Israel's demand that the city remain united under Israeli sovereignty as part of any final status peace deal.
"In past negotiations, they never got past Jerusalem," noted Trump. "Now Israel will have to pay a higher price, because it’s off the table. The Palestinians will get something very good, because it’s their turn next."
It's that "something very good" that has Israelis concerned, because most of the Palestinian red-line demands pose very real existential threats to Israel's future as the Jewish state.
Of course, if Trump doesn't intend to meet some top-tier Palestinian demand, such as flooding Israel with millions of so-called Palestinian "refugees," and instead just wants to give them a pile of cash or some other economic incentive, he's as unlikely as past presidents to achieve Palestinian compliance, and Israel can therefore breathe easy.
Furthermore, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has already painted himself into a corner on the Jerusalem issue. Trump, never one to be intimidated into accepting another's position, has resolutely declared that Jerusalem is "off the table." But, Abbas has spent decades insisting that unless the eastern half of Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount, is surrendered to the Palestinians, there can be no peace.
One of these two men must back down, and neither has ever before demonstrated a willingness to do so. For Trump, it's a matter of pride. For Abbas, there's pride, but there's also the fact that his rule, and perhaps his life, would be endangered by giving up on Jerusalem now.
The bottom line is that Trump's plan, regardless of how groundbreaking it might be, has very little chance of being accepted as-is by the Palestinian Authority.
Then again, this president has already proved capable of shoving through seemingly impossible agendas by sheer force of will. So, who knows? Maybe Israel should be worried.
PHOTO: There were warnings that pushing Trump to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem could bear too high a cost. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)