Last year, during a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Donald Trump asked the PM quite bluntly if he actually cared about peace, Jonathan Swan reported in Axios late Sunday night.
Swan quoted a senior White House official who told him that “the President has an extremely close and candid relationship with the Prime Minister of Israel and appreciates his strong efforts to enhance the cause of peace in the face of numerous challenges,” which explains the bluntness.
But, according to Swan, the president’s question shocked his aides who had briefed him for the conversation. They had reported that Netanyahu was planning to build new settlements in Judea and Samaria, Just as Trump was in the throes of seeking that elusive Middle East peace deal all his predecessors had failed to deliver. So Trump was concerned that Israeli construction would upset the folks over in Ramallah and ruin the moment – which is why he interrupted his friendly phone conversation with the premier to bluntly inquire what’s Netanyahu up to and does he or doesn’t he genuinely want peace.
Call it the art of the deal or call it simply Trump’s impatience with politeness and protocol – he did pop the question.
Or, as Press Secretary Sarah Sanders put it: “The President has great relationships with a number of foreign leaders but that doesn’t mean he can’t be aggressive when it comes to negotiating what’s best for America.”
Swan points out that Trump rarely refers to scripts and notes. Instead, he “kibitzes with foreign leaders like he does with his Manhattan real estate friends.” Which is why a Trump briefing is completely different from those of his predecessors. He doesn’t want briefing books or long speeches about policy. He wants to know “what are we doing for them and how much are they contributing in return.”
The Jewish Chronicle asked the same question a year ago: “Does Bibi really want a two-state peace deal?” And the answer was: “Jury’s still out.”
Now consider this: is it possible that Netanyahu responded like a friend and told Trump that as much as he wants peace, there are values he cherishes above peace, one of which is not losing the rightwingers’ vote come next elections – which the president then followed up with recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and promptly moving the US embassy there.
Admit it: one lesson you didn’t expect to learn from Donald Trump is “honesty is the best policy.”