Amidst all the concern over Israel’s military confrontation with Iran in Syria this past weekend (see above), a different kind of clash took place between Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and the White House that offers a new view of the U.S.-Israel relationship in the Trump era.
In addressing his Likud party, the prime minister sought to put the brakes on a move toward annexing Jewish communities in the West Bank. Apparently concerned about upsetting the administration, he said that such a bill should be coordinated with the U.S., adding: “I can tell you that for a while now I’ve been talking about it with the Americans.” The statement raised eyebrows because it was the first time as prime minister that Netanyahu voiced support for annexing part of the West Bank, and it implied that he’d been in conversation with the Trump administration on the issue for some time with no one’s knowledge.
The White House reacted swiftly and bluntly, saying that “reports” of U.S.-Israel discussions on annexation plans “are false,” and that the U.S. and Israel “have never discussed such a proposal.” President Trump’s “focus remains squarely on his Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative,” it said.
Shortly after that the prime minister’s office issued a statement acknowledging the misstatement.
One could conclude that for all of its backing of Israel, the White House is not prepared to let the government have free reign. President Trump said in an interview with Israel Hayom this week he’s not sure Israel is interested in peace and that West Bank settlements “complicate” the peace effort. A dose of reality may be beneficial in focusing all parties on the path toward peace.