Yet another comical scene in the farce that is Trump-era American politics: the Prime Minister of Israel heard that his nemesis, the Foreign Minister of Iran was heading for a meeting at the G-7. He feared that Donald Trump would take a meeting with Javad Zarif, at the behest of Emmanuel Macron, who has made no bones about the fact that his ultimate goal is to broker a meeting between Trump and Hassan Rhouani, and this could have been the first step. No way Benjamin Netanyahu was going to stand for that. He frantically telephoned the White House — and Trump wouldn’t take his call. Then Netanyahu had his office phone a number of senior advisers to Trump (Jared, maybe?) and still Trump didn’t pick up the phone. Axios:
Between the lines: The Israelis were worried that Trump — who loves making a deal and relishes the drama of an unconventional meeting (think Kim Jong-un) — would let French President Emmanuel Macron talk him into holding an unscheduled meeting with Zarif.
The Israelis feared that a Zarif meeting could have made Trump more likely to agree to a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani — leading to a showy summit and a long, open-ended diplomatic process that would take the pressure off of the Iranian regime.
Why it matters: Netanyahu’s urgent attempts to get Trump on the phone showed the deep nervousness in Israel about possible renewed talks between the U.S. and Iran.
Netanyahu saw Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal as a signature foreign policy achievement — and one that remains essential to Israel’s security. Any loosening of Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran could create tension with America’s closest ally in the Middle East.
And don’t lose sight of the fact that the same weekend as G-7, Netanyahu launched an airstrike over it’s northern border into Syria, purportedly to knock out an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps special unit that, according to Israeli officials, was plotting drone attacks against Israeli targets. Pundits were quick to point out that the fact that Netanyahu may have really been trying to look good ahead of Israel’s September election, could have been a motivating factor for the maneuver.
Netanyahu ultimately spoke with Vice President Mike Pence and Pompeo.
What we’re hearing: U.S. officials said Trump decided not to meet Zarif regardless of Netanyahu’s messages, and they told the Israelis of Trump’s decision on Sunday. They said when Trump finished his G7 meetings that day, administration officials asked the Israelis if they wanted to connect the call with Netanyahu, but there was no need because Trump had already decided not to hold the meeting.
- Senior Israeli officials said that although Trump didn’t meet Zarif, they think direct talks between the U.S. and Iran are just a matter of time – and not a lot of time.
- The Israeli officials said they are concerned that a meeting between Trump and Rouhani could take place as soon as the UN general assembly opens in New York at the end of September.
Netanyahu is not pleased with these new developments, as he undoubtedly told Pompeo and Pence, the Mutt and Jeff of foreign affairs, along with Mr. Lego Batman, Mnuchin, who was also in attendance at G-7. This isn’t over. Watch for Netanyahu to do everything he can to block a Trump meeting with Rhouani. He needs to keep up an appearance of Israel being strong in the world community and also being in control of the crisis with Iran, especially between now and his election day, September 17. He needs Trump to play ball with him and Trump meeting with Rhouani is Netanyahu’s worst nightmare. Al-Monitor:
This is bad news for Netanyahu — the worst he has ever received apart from the criminal charges he faces. The appeasing tones that have suddenly emerged from Trump’s mouth regarding Iran can morph into Israel’s ultimate horror scenario as described here in earlier articles: Iran can turn into a new North Korea. In fact, Trump could turn out to be a sort of demon who changes forms overnight, replacing his campaign against Iran with a sizzling love affair.
Israel does not collect intel on US territory or spy on its greatest friend of all; it learned its lesson from the Pollard affair. That doesn’t mean that Israel doesn’t try to understand American policy, analyze the administration’s moves and congressional influence or elaborate various theoretical scenarios for future American moves. Israel’s best brains are involved in these analyses that are very important to Israel’s national security. But today, the best of the analyzers is at a loss vis-a-vis reality. Evidently, it is harder to predict Trump’s moves than to understand the secret of creation.
Once upon a time, members of the Israeli intelligence used to say that the only thing they absolutely must know at any given moment is what is going on in the head of the neighboring Arab ruler: What is he thinking; what are his plans. Today in Israel, the focus is more on Trump’s head. Is it possible to predict his policies? Is he rational? Emotional? Impulsive? Is there some secret formula that would allow us to understand where he’s heading?
Welcome to our world, Benjy. And remember the axiom, everything that Trump touches dies.