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Trump’s Embrace of Netanyahu Will Haunt the Middle East for Years

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For Israelis, the questions had been hovering for months.

Would the right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claim victory and a fifth term, moving his far-right Likud government coalition even further right? Or would the supposedly “centrist” challenger, former army chief of staff Gen. Benny Gantz, ride to victory amid corruption allegations against Netanyahu?

Netanyahu faces three—and potentially as many as five—separate indictments for various scandals. If his Likud party forms the new government, which now seems likely, will it pass a new law prohibiting the indictment of a sitting prime minister?

Those questions remain central to Israeli political discussion. But among Palestinians, there was little need to ask about what the election meant for them: Whatever government emerged seemed guaranteed to maintain current Israeli positions in support of occupation and apartheid, against international law, for war with Iran, for full-throated alliance with the US president and US military aid, and against human rights for Palestinians and equality for all.

During the campaign, Netanyahu not only vowed to annex illegal Israeli West Bank settlements in violation of international law, but also expressly disavowed the state of Israel’s obligations to its Palestinian citizens. Yet his challenger Gantz was little better, running ads bragging about how many Palestinians he’d killed bombing Gaza “back to the stone age” while commanding Israel’s 2014 military assault.

Whatever the specific composition of the new government taking power in coming weeks, the horrific conditions of Palestinian life will remain. While Netanyahu’s political career may have survived an anxious moment, the system of occupation and apartheid he has overseen for decades was never in any danger.

Support from Trump

And that, it should be said, is fine by President Trump.

It’s been clear for a while that Netanyahu’s power is thoroughly bound up with his up-close and personal alliance with the US president. Trump’s list of gifts to Netanyahu goes back a long time.

First was the unilateral US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, a longstanding Israeli demand, despite the unanimous agreement of US intelligence agencies that Iran remained in compliance with the agreement’s terms. Next began the leaks of what Trump’s “peace plan” (orchestrated by his settlement-financing son-in-law Jared Kushner) would look like—a list of harsh conditions imposed on the Palestinians with no Israeli concessions required.

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