On June 23, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unveiled a plaque with the words ‘Trump Heights’ declaring the renaming of a settlement in Golan Heights after the US President Donald Trump. This was the latest in a series of moves by the Prime Minister to display his close friendship with US President.
With the Israel legislative elections right around the corner in September, Netanyahu is partly depending on riding Trump’s popularity wave in Israel, straight to a victory at the polls. For this reason, he has plastered his posters depicting him and Trump shaking hands all over Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
The similarity between the two has not gone unnoticed, US media even labelling Netanyahu as ‘Mini-Trump’. Both are far right politicians who trust just their close family members for campaigning, both have a disdain for the media, criticising it for spreading ‘fake news’, as well as derision towards their own law enforcement agencies, claiming that they are on a ‘witch hunt’. Apart from this similar vocabulary, their behaviour to their respective political opponents is also mirrored.
The recent honour Netanyahu bestowed on the US president in the form of ‘Trump heights’ is part of Golan heights, a highly disputed region. The Israelis had captured it from the Syrians in 1967 in the Six-Day war and annexed it later in 1980s. However, the international community has not accepted Israel’s claim over Golan Heights, as it feels that doing so would encourage annexation by force. This was until Trump on 21st march 2019 tweeted out saying, “ After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!”
After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 21 March 2019
Trump’s tweet is not an isolated incident. There is a history of reciprocity of Netanyahu’s obsession with Trump. Trump on his part has shifted the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, acknowledging the latter as the capital of Israel. In a bid to appease Netanyahu, Trump has also cut off $60 million in aid for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The US has always tread carefully with their policies regarding Israel and the Jerusalem dispute so such a direct involvement in Israel’s politics by the US is definitely without precedent. Trump again made a bold move in support of Netanyahu when he tweeted, “Hoping things will work out with Israel's coalition formation and Bibi and I can continue to make the alliance between America and Israel stronger than ever. A lot more to do!”
The tweet has been viewed as meddling by senior leaders of the opposition he opposition Blue and White Party in Israel’s election process as they are yet to form a coalition that would potentially form the government.
Hoping things will work out with Israel's coalition formation and Bibi and I can continue to make the alliance between America and Israel stronger than ever. A lot more to do!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 27 May 2019
This appeasement of Netanyahu is aimed at delegitimising the Jewish democrats who could stand against him in the upcoming 2020 presidential elections. So whether it is Netanyahu’s bid for a fifth term or Trump’s bid for a second one, both need each other to further their political ambitions.