Photo Credit: Avi Ohayon / GPO
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump at White House joint briefing on Feb. 15 2017

{Originally posted to the JNS website}

US President Donald Trump’s address at Masada during his upcoming May 22-23 visit to the Jewish state is becoming a subject of increasingly anxious speculation among Israeli officials, a leading political analyst told The Algemeiner on Friday.


“The Israeli government is worried about what he’ll say at Masada, they’re worried about the president shooting from the hip,” Professor Jonathan Rynhold — a senior researcher at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan — said.

The concern over the Masada speech comes amid broader uncertainty regarding what to expect from Trump’s regional foray, with an Israeli media outlet reporting on Friday that US Ambassador David Friedman has urged Israeli officials to cooperate fully with Trump as he tries to make the “ultimate deal” to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians.

Friedman’s advice to the Israelis, Haaretz reported, “was to refrain from getting into confrontations with the president and to help him implement his Middle Eastern policies.”

Trump’s peacemaking ambitions have created a shared dilemma for both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and the Palestinian Authority (PA), Rynhold noted.

“The president is committed to getting a peace deal, and he believes it’s possible — nobody else does, but he does,” Rynhold said. “That puts everybody under pressure not to be the one who says no. So both [PA President Mahmoud] Abbas and Netanyahu are terrified of being the one who blows it. Each of them, for his own reasons, wants to give Trump something.”

Among those highly skeptical that a final peace agreement is possible, according to Haaretz, is Friedman himself. The paper quoted an anonymous Israeli official as saying that Friedman and others whose opinion Trump respects had told the president “it will be very hard, perhaps even impossible” to broker a deal “but so far, he hasn’t changed his mind.”

According to Rynhold, the Israeli government’s nervousness about Trump is based entirely on the president’s reputation for unpredictability, rather than a fear that he will pursue goals that run counter to Israel’s interests.

“The ideological right in Israel was delusional about Trump, but that was never the case with Prime Minister Netanyahu,” Rynhold said.


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Ben Cohen writes a weekly column for on Jewish affairs and Middle Eastern politics. His writings have been published in Commentary, the New York Post, Haaretz, The Wall Street Journal and many other publications.