News Analysis: In Trump, Netanyahu Sees an Ally Who Helps Him Push the Envelope

Politics

In Israel, meanwhile, Mr. Netanyahu suggested that he had the tacit backing of Mr. Trump to annex Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The prime minister told Israeli news media over the weekend that the White House was aware of his plans and said that he hoped to “do it, if possible, with American support,” though he added that he would not change his position, regardless of how the United States reacted.

There was little in Washington’s silence to indicate that Mr. Netanyahu would face pushback. At every step of the prime minister’s hard-fought campaign to stay in power, Mr. Trump has tried to help him. The president’s announcement on the Golan Heights last month came at a critical moment, when Mr. Netanyahu faced a rising opponent and damaging new disclosures in the corruption cases against him.

Even Mr. Trump’s announcement on Monday that the State Department would designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps a foreign terrorist organization paid dividends for Mr. Netanyahu. On his Hebrew-language Twitter feed, Mr. Netanyahu thanked Mr. Trump for “keeping the world safe from Iran aggression and terrorism.”

Mr. Trump has wrapped Mr. Netanyahu in a warm embrace from the beginning of his presidency, even as he has voiced mild support for a two-state solution. “That’s what I think works best,” he said last fall during a meeting with the prime minister at the United Nations General Assembly.

While Mr. Trump’s moves have been unstintingly pro-Israel, some could also be interpreted as a way to pressure the Palestinians to come back to the bargaining table. The administration cut off aid to Palestinian groups, closed its diplomatic office in Washington and ended funding for a United Nations agency that helps Palestinian refugees.

None of that persuaded the Palestinians to reopen a dialogue with the United States that was cut off after Mr. Trump announced the embassy move in late 2017. The threat of annexation, experts said, might be the last form of leverage the United States has over the Palestinians. Unless they agree to a peace deal, the United States could give Mr. Netanyahu a green light to claim territory.

“The one issue that clearly opened a Pandora’s box was the Golan Heights announcement,” said Ghaith al-Omari, a former Palestinian negotiator. “Once they broke that particular taboo, they opened the door for all the annexationists in Israel to say, ‘Now go for the West Bank.’”

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