Trump may no longer be the gift that keeps on giving for Netanyahu
Analysis by Oren Liebermann, CNN
Updated 0628 GMT (1428 HKT) September 16, 2019
Netanyahu says he'll annex parts of West Bank if re-elected 02:13
Jerusalem (CNN)Just as the Sabbath was ending on Saturday night in Israel, US President Donald Trump made one more foray into Israeli politics from Washington, DC.
Trump said on Twitter that he had spoken to Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "to discuss the possibility of moving forward" with a defense pact between the two countries.
Judging by his Twitter response, Netanyahu was giddy with excitement. He thanked Trump and said Israel had never had a better friend in the White House.
Never mind that Trump's tweet was hedged with cautious wording. There was no announcement of a defense pact. They would discuss the possibility of a pact. There was no promise of action, merely a suggestion that it was something to talk about.
And never mind that some of Israel's security experts have examined -- and rejected -- the idea of a mutual defense pact.
Netanyahu says Israel will annex parts of West Bank if he's re-elected内塔尼亚胡表示，如果他再次当选，以色列将吞并约旦河西岸部分地区
Amos Yadlin, the director of Israel's Institute for National Security Studies, said the statement was "clearly about election propaganda."
Yadlin, who piloted one of the planes that dropped bombs on Iraq's nuclear facility in 1981 and later served as the head of the Israel Defense Force's military intelligence unit, said a defense pact has benefits, but they are outweighed by the costs, limiting Israel's freedom of action in instances when it feels it needs to defend itself.
Such a pact may also require Israel to fight in American wars that have little to do with Israel's security, Yadlin said.
以色列国家安全研究所(Institute for National Security Studies)所长阿莫斯·亚德林(Amos Yadlin)表示，这份声明“显然是关于选举宣传的”。
A giant Israeli Likud Party election banner hangs from a building in Tel Aviv showing Netanyahu shaking hands with Trump, with a caption above reading in Hebrew "Netanyahu, in a league of his own."
But there's another question arising from Trump's Saturday intervention: Is that it? Is that all Trump is willing to do for Netanyahu this time around?
Before April's election, Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, overturning decades of US foreign policy.
He had Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visit the Western Wall, accompanied by Netanyahu. Such a move was unprecedented, since foreign dignitaries generally visit alone because of the diplomatic sensitivity of the Old City of Jerusalem.
And Trump also designated Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terror organization, for the first time putting a foreign governmental body on the list.
Benjamin Netanyahu's campaign has an air of desperation as Israeli election polls tighten
Netanyahu glowed in the spotlight of Trump's decisions. And he was thrilled to plaster posters of the two leaders shaking hands all over Israel.
Meanwhile, his opponents could only stand silent in awe. They supported -- generally -- the announcements Trump had made. And anyway, Trump's popularity in Israel meant there was little to be gained electorally by coming out against him.
But the defense pact suggestion was different. It wasn't only security experts who criticized it. Even politicians felt bold enough to call it into question.
Moshe Ya'alon, who once served in Netanyahu's Likud party and is now a senior figure in the opposition Blue and White party, wondered on Twitter whether every Israeli operation would have to be approved by Washington and if Israeli soldiers would have to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The underwhelming gesture from the White House, and the disapproval it provoked, begs a question that even a few weeks ago would have seemed crazy: In terms of his impact on the political fortunes of Benjamin Netanyahu, have Israelis passed peak-Trump or are Israelis past peak-Trump.
摩西·亚阿隆(Moshe Ya'alon)曾在内塔尼亚胡的利库德集团(Likud party)任职，现在是反对派蓝白党(Blue and White party)的要人。他在Twitter上质疑，以色列的每一次行动是否都必须得到华盛顿的批准，以色列士兵是否必须在阿富汗和伊拉克作战。
In Netanyahu's hour of need, Trump is nowhere to be seen
The US President remains incredibly popular in Israel -- far more popular than he is in the US. Until recently, only the most left-wing of political parties in Israel were willing to criticize him. Just last month when Trump said Jews who voted Democrat were showing "great disloyalty to Israel," most mainstream politicians in Israel remained silent.
But the willingness of centrist politicians to criticize the defense pact plans suggests that voters too are no longer ready to accept that everything Trump does or says is good for Israel.
And that must give Netanyahu cause for concern.
He has already had to come to terms with two other moves made by the President last week.
The firing of US national security adviser John Bolton was a loss to Netanyahu; the two men saw eye-to-eye on Netanyahu's favorite talking point: Iran. Bolton's departure from the White House may indicate a softening of the Trump administration's position on Iran, which would be bad news for Netanyahu.
Not just that, though. An hour after Netanyahu revealed Monday night that Israel had found a new secret nuclear facility in Iran, Trump said he'd be willing to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. That hardly sounded like a ringing endorsement of Israel's claim to be unveiling further evidence of Iran's lies.
And the firing of Bolton the following day had the added effect of blowing out another of Netanyahu's big pre-election announcements -- his intention to annex part of the West Bank if he won.
Trump, it suddenly seems, has stopped walking in lock-step with Netanyahu.
It is of course possible -- and perhaps inevitable -- that Trump will toss a few tweets Netanyahu's way on election day. But it feels like we might have moved beyond the point where, from Netanyahu's perspective, the US President is the gift that just keeps on giving.
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