Secretary of State Mike Pompeo paid a visit to his great friend, who has just begun a new cycle of the so-called “Israeli democracy.” Meanwhile, President Donald Trump is—perhaps—beginning to understand the tragic results of his appalling performance in the face of the virus. The figure of more than 83,000 dead in this pandemic is leaving him with only one reliable ally for the upcoming elections: Evangelicals.
The electoral worries of a U.S. president who hardly seems distinguishable from a tin-pot dictator are a source of danger. The unbelievable Trump, who months ago called the pandemic a disease “like the flu,” who later came to suggest people should ingest disinfectants and who continually contradicts experts, has to deal with a health system that works well only for the rich and with an economic disaster that has already plunged tens of millions of people into unemployment and misery.
Pompeo arrived in Israel with three objectives that reflect the dangers of Trump’s policy: to support, in moderation, Benjamin Netanyahu’s intentions regarding the annexation of the occupied Palestinian territories, to continue to stoke tensions with Iran and—no less important—to try to stem China’s economic penetration into Israel.
What else can the Americans do if—as Trump claims—China attacked them with a virus produced in a laboratory? Like the Jews throughout history, the Chinese are now a scapegoat, considered to bear the guilt for the pandemic. Trump has begun a campaign that only heralds further racism.
Even before the coronavirus, the Israeli government received frequent US messages against the growing Chinese presence in various infrastructure projects in Israel, especially in a new port in Haifa. There is renewed insistence now that the works are nearing completion, with the US calling for “security measures” to control the Chinese presence.
What seemed to be Trump’s new gift to the Israeli extreme right, the annexation of the Occupied Territories, has become a two-sided message: yes, Israel can do what it wants with regard to annexation, but it must take into account a number of related issues. In the ambiguous language that allows the good Evangelicals to say “we stand with the Israeli right,” the United States are also pointing out the need to slow down to a certain extent to avoid too-negative reactions from allies. Jordan’s opposition and the interruption of all dialogue with the Palestinians could influence Washington’s weakened partners, while the sharp fall in oil prices is also causing jitters in Saudi Arabia.
The press conference that concluded Pompey’s brief visit sent out a clear signal that annexation would not be appropriate at this time. The electoral pact preliminary to the swearing in of the new coalition says that Netanyahu may suggest to his new allies to postpone the annexation to a later phase, after July 1.
The new Israeli coalition is a sad confirmation of the quagmire into which Israeli “democracy” has sunk. After three rounds of elections that produced no clear solution, it has become evident that the “opposition” to Netanyahu lacks a true ideology capable of embodying a political alternative. The opposition had 62 seats, the Prime Minister’s coalition had 58—however, 15 seats belonged to the Unified List, the Arabs, which both sides dismissed as “enemies” who want to destroy them.
Gantz sold out cheap by agreeing to a shameful alliance with the premier, while the dreaded coronavirus became the main topic of conversation: we are in emergency, we must fight together, etc. These and similar clichés led to the current crisis government, with 32-36 ministers and 10-16 deputy ministers and many made-up portfolios.
However, it doesn’t really have anything to do with the war on the virus. It is in fact a government for the salvation of Netanyahu himself. In ten days, the trial against the Prime Minister—accused of corruption and misappropriation of funds—will begin in Jerusalem. Attacks on the prosecutor have become a commonplace, and a corrupt government will support its corrupt leader. Meanwhile, millions of Palestinians will remember the 1967 war that turned them into subjects without political, national and human rights, under Israeli occupation.
The House of Lords in London has sent out a strong message against possible annexation, and there was a meeting of the EU foreign ministers on Friday with this item on the agenda. It is to be hoped that the pandemic, and the circumstance of a wildcard US President, will succeed in creating a clearer European policy on this issue than the circus of deceit and lies that has served as substitute so far. Real peace requires a real Palestinian presence—it cannot come merely from the brutal force of the occupier.
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