For Netanyahu and Israel, Trump’s freebies held

JERUSALEM – The American decision to allow Jonathan J. Pollard, the American convicted of espionage for Israel in the 1980s, to complete his parole on Friday freed him to settle in Israel and ended one of the most vindictive and long-standing disputes between the two allies.

It also capped off what has been an extraordinary four-year period in relations between the two countries, during which President Trump’s treatment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been nothing short of lavish.

Mr. Trump abruptly broke with the approaches of his predecessors to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, siding with Israel over the status of Jerusalem, settlements in the West Bank and other occupied territories. His Middle East team exerted enormous pressure on the Palestinians in an unsuccessful attempt to get them to consider an unbalanced peace proposal, then negotiated historic normalization agreements for Israel with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan – agreements that have broken half a century of Arab solidarity behind the Palestinian cause.

The United States and Israel teamed up to confront Iran and global diplomatic bodies they saw as biased against Israel. And Mr. Trump has presented Mr. Netanyahu with other political awards, some of which have helped him in three consecutive re-election campaigns – most vividly in March 2019, when the U.S. president recognized Israeli sovereignty over the long disputed Golan Heights.

Here are some of the most remarkable gifts Mr. Netanyahu has received.

After nurturing Palestinian hopes by talking early about reaching the “ultimate deal” to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Mr. Trump dashed them when he recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. It fulfilled a campaign promise of great importance to evangelical Christians and to many Jews.

Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital, but Palestinians view East Jerusalem, which Israel seized in the 1967 war, as the capital of their own future state.

The US policy before Mr. Trump was that the status of Jerusalem should be resolved through peace talks. Congress had repeatedly called for the embassy to be moved, but previous administrations kept it as a bargaining chip to induce Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians.

There was more to come to Jerusalem, largely provocative, as when the US Ambassador to Israel, David M. Friedman, swung a hammer to open an archaeological tunnel under a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem that was dug by a group leading efforts to support Israeli claims to sovereignty in that country.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo added his own stunt last month, change passport rules to allow Americans born in Jerusalem to indicate “Israel”, rather than “Jerusalem”, as their place of birth. A long-standing policy had avoided identifying the city as part of Israel.

The Palestinian response to the embassy’s decision was to boycott the White House. The White House responded with a series of punitive measures.

Seeking to force Palestinians to abandon their demand for millions of their refugees so they can return to what is now Israel – a demand Israel has consistently rejected – the Trump administration cut all funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which provides aid to Palestinian refugees across the Middle East.

He regularly cut all other aid: $ 200 million in support to the Palestinian Authority across the United States International Development Agency, about $ 60 million in aid to Palestinians security forces, $ 25 million for East Jerusalem hospitals and $ 10 million for Israeli-Palestinian coexistence efforts.

Led by Mr. Friedman, a longtime supporter of the settlements, the administration has repeatedly applauded those who see the entire West Bank permanently in Israel’s hands.

Ambassador publicly endorsed the idea of ​​Israeli annexation of West Bank territory, which Mr. Netanyahu made the centerpiece of his re-election campaigns, and Trump peace plan envisaged the Israeli annexation of no less than 30% of the West Bank.

Annexation was finally suspended in exchange for normalization of ties with the United Arab Emirates – with the Trump administration proposing to sell the Emirati’s coveted F-35 fighters as a sweetener. Likewise, the administration courted Sudan in remove it from a list of states that sponsor terrorism.

But many other administrative steps have helped normalize Israel’s plans for the land Palestinians want for a future state.

Mr. Friedman urged to remove the term “occupied” from official State Department references in the West Bank and adopting the territory’s Israeli name, Judea and Samaria, which underscores the biblical roots of the Jewish people there. In 2018, he broke the previous one and attended an event in the industrial colony of Ariel.

Last year, Mr. Pompeo, claiming that the United States “recognizes the reality on the ground” and using the phrase “Judea and Samaria”, quashed a 1978 State Department memo claiming settlements were incompatible with international law.

At the end of October, Mr. Friedman and Mr. Netanyahu signed agreements authorize US government grants go to Israeli research institutes in occupied territory. The only such institution is Ariel University, funded by Sheldon adelson, the casino billionaire who backs both Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu.

Thursday, Mr. Pompeo visited a Jewish colony near Ramallah, becoming the first Secretary of State to do so. It also issued new guidelines for imports from the West Bank, requiring that products made in areas under full Israeli control be labeled as products of Israel. The move could require dates or olives grown by Palestinian farmers to be labeled “Made in Israel” to reach American consumers.

After clashing with President Obama over the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, Mr Netanyahu found Mr Trump an approving audience for his too lenient denunciations of the agreement: Mr Trump withdrew from the deal in March 2018.

Mr. Pompeo articulated a strategy of “maximum pressure” against Tehran through severe economic sanctions, and established a 12 point set of requirements of its leaders that could have been drafted by Mr. Netanyahu.

Seeking to repel Iran’s expansionist movements in the Middle East, Israel has launched a campaign of airstrikes against Iranian forces and their proxies in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq while, with the encouragement of the Trump administration, make common cause with Saudi Arabia, the Emiratis and other Gulf States against Iran.

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