Netanyahu’s 2019 ‘wish list’ looks bound to end in despair, defeat and humiliation

(190108) -- TEL AVIV, Jan. 8, 2019 (Xinhua) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a eulogy during the funeral of former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Jan. 8, 2019. (Xinhua/JINI/Gideon Markowicz)

The Israeli war criminals who head the colonial regime’s apartheid government are in all likelihood deeply disappointed at the way that 2018 came to an end. Since Donald Trump’s election as US president two years ago, Israel has felt pretty smug about the prospect of gaining a foothold at the very core of the White House. Overnight, the fantasy began, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu having extraordinary access to influence and direct US policies towards his own country and the wider Middle East.

Israel’s joyride with Trump in the driving seat saw Netanyahu grinning with glee. Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the “undivided capital” of Israel; the relocation of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; ongoing US military and financial aid without accountability; unconditional leverage at the UN Security Council to protect Israel; and Washington turning a blind eye to the atrocities committed against Palestinians, all added to the free ride enjoyed by Israel at the expense of American tax payers.

Still in the pipeline is the much vaunted “deal of the century”; it is undefined as yet, but all indications are that, as usual, it is tilted heavily in Israel’s favour. This is hardly surprising, because its architects are Israelis and Trump’s Likudnik White House personnel led by his ultra-Zionist son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Trump’s election unmasked Israel’s sneaky conduct within America’s politics and laid bare his undisguised bias against Palestinian rights. Unashamedly — as if to keep displaying his fealty to Netanyahu — Trump shut down the Washington office of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and withdrew funding from a number of UN institutions that are essential for sustaining Palestinian refugees, notably UNRWA.

So, with the world witnessing Trump’s politics of patronage and gratuitous humiliation, all of the lines which under previous administrations had been blurred suddenly came into sharp focus with a foreign policy dictated by Israel. Neither Trump, surrounded as he is by right-wing hawks, nor Netanyahu and his racist coalition have felt any sense of embarrassment at the fact that the ties between the US and Israel are embedded in extraordinary ways, well beyond acceptable diplomatic norms.

However, those who hold the view that the joyride will eventually come to a sticky end cite Syria as an indicator that, sooner rather than later, a clash of policies will tear the relationship apart. Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria, for example, is the first sign that a collision with Netanyahu is on the cards, as it speaks of America’s interest to have its soldiers back home from a war zone which has left Bashar Al-Assad’s opponents in tatters.

The decision to pull out was revealed on Twitter by Trump in his characteristically boisterous fashion. Although it shocked America’s allies in Europe and the Arab world, I’m certain that Netanyahu suffered inwardly more than the others, because the consequences of the US departure are dire for Israel. From Netanyahu’s perspective it conflicts directly and severely with his government’s position. His insistence on an agreement with the Pentagon that any withdrawal of US troops would be contingent on the removal of Iranian troops from Syria appears to have fallen on deaf ears.

Given that there are no bargaining chips left for Israel, and with Moscow, Istanbul and Tehran holding the cards in Syria, all that Netanyahu can do is gnash his teeth in private and wreak vengeance and havoc with his air force. Isolated and marginalised, not only by the Trump administration, but also by the Arab despots who are clambering over each other in a rush to curry favour with Assad, Netanyahu will be deeply frustrated and humiliated.

Does this raise questions about the future sustainability of a colonial project which is dependent on collaboration with dictators and an ill-advised US President surrounded by extremists who extol racist, right-wing practices? Of course it does. And the negative impact on Israel’s future is evident in the body language and words of disgruntled Israeli citizens as well as equally disillusioned pro-Israel lobbyists around the world, including the US and Europe.

Trump is preoccupied with his Mexican wall; a trade war with China; and Korea, as well as the noose tightening around his neck thanks to the investigation into Russia’s influence on his presidential campaign victory. It should be clear to all objective analysts that when he is faced with such formidable challenges, Israel has suddenly become a liability for Trump.

Moreover, the US President is making an extraordinary number of gaffs, so much so that he himself is a liability for the future of his country. It is thus interesting to observe how the impending doom of both administrations — Trump’s and Netanyahu’s — are inextricably linked.

Israel may continue to covet and depend heavily on Donald Trump, but the reality is that maladministration, corruption and contempt for international laws have pushed Netanyahu out onto thin ice. Furthermore, the feted Israel Defence Forces have lost their military deterrence factor, particularly in the Gaza Strip. Israel, in short, is trying to tread water in quicksand. Any “wish list” that Netanyahu may have prepared for 2019 looks bound to end in despair, defeat and humiliation.

Iqbal Jassat is an Executive Member of the Media Review Network located in Johannesburg, South Africa.