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Our “Friends” Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump

The campaign to re-elect the prime minister of Israel and his supporters in the Knesset on March 2 has gone global. Seemingly worried about the outcome, Netanyahu has engaged world leaders to bolster his candidacy.

Last week, President Vladimir Putin of Russia was in Israel to show us how important it is to keep our current prime minister in power. As an added contribution to the campaign, Russia may release the Israeli backpacker sentenced to 75 years for allegedly smuggling drugs into the country.  Putin demanded a steep price for his favors and Netanyahu delivered: he sided with his visitor’s interpretation of World War II against Poland. He also gave Putin a church in Jerusalem that hitherto had not been in the possession of the Russian government.

Today and tomorrow Netanyahu will be received in Washington by President Trump and given a so-called peace plan that may underwrite the agenda of all the right-wing parties in Israel. The visit to the White House will not only offer a program which, we’re told, the Palestinian regard as a travesty, but the timing of the visit may also help to torpedo Netanyahu’s effort to prevent the Knesset from rejecting his request for immunity from prosecution for criminal offences for which he has now been indicted.

The parallels between Netanyahu and Trump are uncanny. Both are facing ignominy: the former by the Israeli courts the latter by Senate impeachment. And both are facing elections and thus the need to appease the public: Netanyahu by courting the Israeli right-wing parties, Trump by making nice with the evangelicals.

There’s even an attempt to engage the Leader of the Opposition in the Knesset in the charade, which Benny Gantz may have succeeded to sidestep by meeting Trump alone today to be able to fly back to Israel in time for the immunity debate and the likely rejection of the prime minister’s plan.

Had this only been another political game one would have good reason to admire Netanyahu’s skill and his way of charming world leaders. But this is serious. Israel’s very existence is at stake. Therefore, those who care for historic accuracy, good relations also with states that aren’t clients of Putin and Trump, and, most important, peace with the Palestinians have good reason to be alarmed by what’s going on.

In Israel, much depends on the voters. Defeating Netanyahu and his party could bring Israel back on an even keel and save it from becoming the tool of ruthless Putin and devious Trump. Optimists believe not only that this can happen, but that it will happen. They hope that the Israeli public will realize that the future of Israel depends on a Palestinian viable state by its side, not by Trump’s fantasy scheme. Their opponents have another vision. They dream of one state in which Jews dominate and Palestinians serve.

Jerusalem 27.1.20                                                                                                          Dow Marmur

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