It’s almost become tradition for an outgoing US president to make one final, bold move via-à-vis Israel either to make a statement, secure a legacy or even to restrict the Middle East policies of his successor.
Bill Clinton was engaged with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict up until the final day of his presidency, when he sent a letter to both sides that kicked off the Taba Summit the following week, after George W. Bush had already been inaugurated. A month earlier, Clinton had published the “Clinton Parameters” outlining his recommended path to peace.
In his final month of presidency, Barack Obama shocked Israel by departing from traditional US policy and declining to veto UN Security Council Resolution 2334, thus allowing the motion to pass. Resolution 2334, like so many others before that had been vetoed by Washington, condemned Israel for letting Jews live in Judea, Samaria and on the eastern side of Jerusalem.
It’s hard to think of what Israel could ask from Trump, considering that he’s already:
- recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,
- moved the US Embassy,
- recognized Israeli sovereignty in the Golan,
- exited the US from the Iran nuclear deal,
- sidelined an intransigent Palestinian leadership, and
- facilitated normalization between Israel and several Arab states.
And yet, knowing Trump, he’s likely to do something bigger than all of his predecessors with his remaining time in the Oval Office. So it’s in Israel’s interests to make sure that “one big thing” truly benefits the Jewish state.
The Netanyahu government reportedly has several ideas as to what it’d like to ask of Trump:
- An increase in defense aid, including new weapons, though Israel could likely get the same or similar from Biden, so that might be a “small ask”;
- Pressure on more Arab states to quickly make peace and normalize relations with Israel. This is another one that Biden might also be willing to do, but many feel he lacks the “bulldozer” mentality of Trump that’s often necessary to get the Arab regimes to move;
- Heavy sanctions on Iran, and there’s already talk of a plan including new weekly sanctions up until Biden’s inauguration. Thought it’s difficult to see what that would accomplish in such a short period if Biden’s just going to remove said sanctions;
- Support for the immediate annexation of parts of the West Bank. This would certainly tie the hands of the incoming US administration, and its a move Netanyahu has long promised to his constituency, though one he’ll only ever be able to deliver with Trump in office. At the same time, it is a very drastic step that will certainly earn Israel the ire of the international community, including the incoming US administration.
There’s no telling what the coming weeks and months might hold, and that has never been more true than it is under Trump. Accordingly, Israel is bracing itself for any eventuality.
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