Coincidences don’t have to be related in order to suggest the face of things to come. In this case, the most reliable pro-Israel official in the White House, National Security Advisor until a few hours ago, John R. Bolton, was let go on the same day the White House, according to a Wednesday morning report in Globes, stopped Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from announcing the imposition of Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan valley ahead of the Deal of the Century.
Everybody and their uncle, on the left but also Ayelet Shaked on the right, teased Netanyahu for his promise of Jordan Valley sovereignty after the elections, asking why he’s not doing it now, why wait? They were obviously suggesting that this was only another Bibi pre-election promise. In fact, some even accused the PM of lying to the Knesset Election Committee, receiving its permission for live media coverage for what he promised would be a dramatic statement.
Turns out Bibi did intend to announce he was annexing the Jordan Valley now, this week, ahead of the election, which could have netted him a huge vote-catch from his adversaries on the right. A real annexation of part of Judea and Samaria could raise Likud to 35 votes, making Netanyahu the leading candidate to be picked by the president to cobble a coalition government.
But according to Globe, in conversation with the White House Tuesday afternoon, administration officials expressed opposition to Netanyahu announcing sovereignty before President trump’s Deal of the Century had been published. Various options were raised in that phone call, until Netanyahu finally agreed to moderate his statement and in fact leave it without any real meaning. Like his promise to consider decriminalizing weed.
Netanyahu’s team then had to decide how to deal with the boss’s promise of a truly dramatic message, which was being promoted with a countdown and all the accoutrement of a major political reality change. They finally decided that the damage from canceling the press conference would be greater than a statement of intent to apply sovereignty without much else.
This anemic turn happened while John Bolton was packing his stuff and calling Uber.
A great deal of media attention was wasted, as usual, on whether it was Bolton who wanted to resign, only to be outpaced by the president. Bolton tweeted at 7:10 PM Tuesday: “I offered to resign last night and President Trump said, ‘Let’s talk about it tomorrow.'” At 6:58 PM, the president tweeted: “I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House. I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration, and therefore…. ….I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning. I thank John very much for his service. I will be naming a new National Security Advisor next week.”
It doesn’t matter, of course. What matters is that the White House has sent away yet another grownup, and in this case a great friend of Israel and the Netanyahu government. Bolton is a foreign policy hawk and an advocate for regime change in Iran, Syria, Libya, Venezuela, Cuba, Yemen and North Korea. He used to have the president’s ear when he repeatedly called for the termination of the Iran nuclear deal. Now, it appears the president feels he badly needs a foreign policy win, which he plans to have in resuming relations with the Islamic Republic.
According to the PBS News Hour, citing a Republican familiar with the disagreements between Trump and Bolton, the advisor’s opposition to a possible meeting between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was a precipitating factor in the dismissal.
Trump has already announced he would meet with President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the UN general assembly this month, “without preconditions.” Clearly, the presidents is looking for ways to convince Iran to agree to a rewrite of the nuclear deal—with additional curbs on ballistic missiles production and on spreading terrorism around the Middle east. The president may be willing to curb his own sanctions on Iran in return. That would mean billions of dollars in recovered oil revenues. Iran is salivating, President Trump desperately needs the win, with his popularity figures hovering between 36% and 39%, the only jarring voice in the choir belonged to you know who. So you know was being kept away from the big kids’ table, which has been occupied by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Bolton’s great nemesis.
This does not mean that with Bolton gone the administration would go back to the bad days of the Obama White House. Pompeo is also a great friend of Israel. But a shift is being felt, a shift that was given a more than subtle expression with the curb on Netanyahu’s declaration of annexation.
In the Deal of the Century, much like with Iran’s nuclear Deal, President Trump needs to score a big and unambiguous win, which could only come at Israel’s expense. Trump also feels he deserves some Israeli give, seeing as he had recognized Jerusalem, moved the embassy, and recognized Israel’s rule in the Golan. He will surely want a form of Palestinian autonomy that exceeds its current status, and he will demand parts of eastern Jerusalem for a Palestinian capital, with an American embassy.
Bolton could have helped cushion some of these blows. Alas, he has just been downgraded to AIPAC appearances, think tanks, and possibly bar mitzvahs. We’ll miss your finger on the scale, Mr. Bolton. And, naturally, that magnificent mustache.