In Trumpland, there is no such thing as a free lunch - not even for Netanyahu
Analysis: While the US president has handed the Israeli prime minister Jerusalem and the Golan and walked away from the Iran deal, the day is approaching when the bill for such goodwill has to be paid - and Trump is determined to push through his 'deal of the century' in the Mideast
Two weeks before the Knesset elections, Benjamin Netanyahu landed in Washington with the greatest gift of all from the US president – recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights – already in hand.
The issue will be at the center of their meeting on Monday morning, part of which will be open to reporters. This will happen at the exact same time as Blue and White leader Benny Gantz undergoes his first baptism of fire - delivering the keynote address at the annual AIPAC conference.
Cunning timing, if it was planned so, for Gantz must know that given the choice, the media would undoubtedly prefer to report from the White House than his speech in a conference hall for a pro-Israel lobby.
Netanyahu could not have wished for a greater gift from Trump: Just days before Israel goes to the polls, the president has handed him the Golan Heights – allowing Netanyahu to present himself not only as a great statesman who knows how to operate on the world stage and can develop a friendship with the American president, but also as a zealous guardian of Israeli security who only wants to ensure that the north will not suffer once Hezbollah and the Iranians have established themselves in Syria.
When Trump meets Netanyahu, he intends to sign a document that makes this recognition of Israeli rule on the Golan a fact. Given that the House of Representatives is controlled by Democrats, it is likely that Trump will use a special presidential order instructing the State Department to change its policy without requiring congressional approval.
Monday morning's meeting is likely to be a display of mutual love. Trump will lavish words of praise on the prime minister, and Netanyahu will no doubt trot out every expression of gratitude and appreciation for the president who gave him Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the American exit from the nuclear agreement with Iran.
Trump most probably does like Netanyahu, who he sees as the political yang to his yin. Both are under investigation, both have displayed public contempt for their respective justice systems and claim that the left and the media have joined together to force them out of office. But Trump is also a shrewd businessman who operated in the world of New York real estate — he does not do free lunches, and certainly not free gifts. Everything has a price in Trumpland and the day of reckoning will certainly come for Netanyahu.
The current US president cannot hide his desire to prove to the world that he can do better than his predecessor, Barack Obama, and has promised that he has the "deal of the century" to bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians. He is determined to do it, not only to prove that he is better than his predecessor, more creative and better at sealing the deal - he also needs it like he needs air to breathe.
Trump has been unable to notch up any achievement in US foreign policy. He has fought with the whole world and damaged America's global influence. His attempts to reach an agreement with North Korea have collapsed – for all his flattery of the tyrant from Pyongyang, all he got in return was a raised middle finger. After two televised summits that led nowhere, Trump has realized that Kim Jong-un has no intention of carrying out the nuclear disarmament that the American president wants.
If Trump does manage to bring about a peace treaty in which other Arab countries are involved, he can claim a spot among the greats, present himself as a statesman with real achievements, and start dreaming again about a Nobel Peace Prize.
And in order for this to happen, he must have his desired outcome in the elections in Israel. If Netanyahu is indeed re-elected and form the next government, Trump will obviously exert pressure on him in order to obtain the concessions that will bring the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.
After all, Trump gave Netanyahu so many gifts, including reelection, that he is certain that he deserves this payback from the prime minister. And while his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, hailed Trump as a modern day Queen Esther sent by God to save Israel, it's not likely that Trump even knows who Queen Esther was or what she did.
What he does know, however, is he would never agree to be a sucker, not even for his friend Bibi, whom he will anoint this week with oil and make every possible gesture to help him win in the elections.