American and Israeli Political Commentary
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
One thing is sure about the Trump White House, it is absolutely in synch with Israel politics. With Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu facing and/or about to face three major criminal indictments, the President decided to boost Netanyahu’s electoral chances by choosing this moment to announce American support for Israel’s right to sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Strategic and regional reasons aside, Trump justified his right to immerse himself into the midst of a highly contested foreign election of one of America’s most loyal allies.
Netanyahu has already used his personal relationship with Trump as part of his campaign advertisements. Posters even have been mounted in Israel of the two leaders. From Netanyahu’s perspective, he is once again aggressively pushing to change the historic bi-partisan American support for Israel. While there are voices especially on the left in Congress who have grown less enthusiastic in their backing of Israel, Trump and the Republicans will not always be in control of the White House and the Senate. While President Trump may well be able to play politics with Israel, in the long-run Israel is being ill-served by Bibi’s blatant backing by the President.
Not only is Prime Minister Netanyahu scheduled to address the AIPAC Conference on Tuesday morning, his four day visit to Washington during the final weeks of his own election campaign, includes a meeting with President Trump on Monday and a White House dinner on Tuesday. While he will be holding meetings as well on Capitol Hill, the pictures of his White House meetings undoubtedly will dominate Israeli news. Although some of his electoral opponents are also in Washington, their presentations are unlikely to get more attention in Israel than the sports and weather.
Given the weakness of the Syrian Government and the growing replacement of Iranian and Hezbollah forces along the Golan Heights, there has been a declining likelihood of a possible permanent, bi-lateral agreement between Israel and Syria. Israeli sovereignty had become a virtual fiat accompli even before the civil war now raging in Syria for more than nine years. From the perspective of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and towards Israel in particular, however, it is unclear what the U.S. is receiving from the Netanyahu Government for Trump’s announcement about the Golan. While there are clear domestic political benefits on both sides, on a geopolitical level the paybacks remain unclear.
For those who seek reasons to criticize Democrats, a new calculation was introduced in time for this year’s AIPAC National Policy Conference which began today. A headcount was developed of how many announced or probable candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination were or were not in attendance. Those Trump supporters and/or anti-Democrats delighted in recognizing that at least six of the announced aspirants were not attending thus confirming President Trump’s repeated recent assertion that Democrats were anti-Israel and anti-Jewish.
The problem with the charge was that historically speaking 18 months before a presidential election, rarely have many potential presidential candidates attended the policy conference. Next spring’s conference, six months before the election would be the time when all remaining candidates would make a point of attending the AIPAC policy conference. This striking charge against the Democrats is only a further attempt to confirm the allegation that supporters of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship are no longer Democrats. Although the Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer were all scheduled to speak, railing out against the Democrats continues to persist in some circles.