JERUSALEM – The US decision to allow Jonathan J. Pollard, the American convicted of espionage for Israel in the 1980s, to complete his parole on Friday cleared him to move to Israel and ended one of the most heated and protracted disputes between the two allies.
It also capped the exceptional four-year tenure in the two countries’ relations, during which President Trump’s treatment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was downright lavish.
Mr Trump broke sharply with his predecessors’ approaches to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and represented the Israeli side on the status of Jerusalem, the settlements in the West Bank and other occupied territories. His Middle East team put tremendous pressure on the Palestinians to get them to consider a unilateral peace proposal, and then brokered historic normalization deals for Israel with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan – deals that half a century of Arabs did shattered solidarity behind the Palestinian cause.
The US and Israel have teamed up to confront Iran and against global diplomatic forums, which they viewed as biased against Israel. And Mr Trump awarded Mr Netanyahu other political awards, some of which helped him in three direct re-election campaigns – most vigorously in March 2019, when the American President recognized Israeli sovereignty over the long-disputed Golan Heights.
Here are some of the most notable gifts Mr. Netanyahu received.
After strengthening Palestinian hopes with the early talk of an “ultimate deal” to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Mr. Trump shattered them when he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This fulfilled an election promise that is of great importance to evangelical Christians and many Jews.
Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital, but the Palestinians view East Jerusalem, which Israel conquered in the 1967 war, as the capital of their own future state.
American policy before Mr Trump had been that the status of Jerusalem should be resolved in peace talks. Congress had repeatedly pushed for the embassy to be moved, but previous governments kept it as a negotiating tool to get Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians.
More was to come in Jerusalem, in large part provocative, when U.S. Ambassador to Israel David M. Friedman brandished a sledgehammer to open an archaeological tunnel under a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem that was excavated by a group The efforts made there to strengthen Israeli claims to sovereignty.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo added a stroke of his own last month and changed passport rules to allow Jerusalem-born Americans to name “Israel” as their place of birth instead of “Jerusalem”. Longstanding politics had avoided identifying the city as part of Israel.
Pressure on the Palestinians
The Palestinian response to the embassy relocating was to boycott the White House. The White House responded with a series of punitive measures.
To force the Palestinians to drop their demand for millions of their refugees to return to Israel today – a demand Israel has always denied – the Trump administration cut funding for the aid agency of the United Nations to Palestinian refugees in the Middle East.
All other relief efforts have been continuously suspended: $ 200 million for the assistance of the US Agency for International Development to the Palestinian Authority, about $ 60 million for the Palestinian security forces, $ 25 million for hospitals in East Jerusalem and 10 million US dollars for coexistence between Israel and Palestinians efforts.
Support Israel’s ambitions in the West Bank
Under the leadership of longtime supporter of the settlements, Mr. Friedman, the government has repeatedly cheered those who envision the entire West Bank permanently in Israel’s hands.
The ambassador publicly endorsed the idea of Israeli annexation of the West Bank, which Mr Netanyahu made the centerpiece of his re-election campaigns, and the Trump peace plan envisaged the Israeli annexation of up to 30 percent of the West Bank.
The annexation was eventually suspended in order to normalize relations with the United Arab Emirates. The Trump administration offered to sell Emiratis’ coveted F-35 fighters as a deal sweetener. Similarly, the government has wooed Sudan by removing it from a list of states that support terrorism.
But many other administrative steps have helped normalize Israel’s plans on land that the Palestinians want for a future state.
Mr. Friedman urged that the term “occupied” be removed from the State Department’s official references to the West Bank and that the Israeli name be used for the territory of Judea and Samaria, which underscores the biblical roots of the Jewish people there. In 2018, he broke a precedent by attending an event at the Ariel industrial estate.
Last year, Mr. Pompeo, who said the United States “saw the realities of the ground” and used the phrase “Judea and Samaria”, overruled a 1978 US State Department memo that the settlements were incompatible with international law .
In late October, Mr. Friedman and Mr. Netanyahu signed agreements that allow US government grants to go to Israeli research facilities in occupied territory. The only such institution is Ariel University, funded by Sheldon Adelson, the casino billionaire who supports both Mr Trump and Mr Netanyahu.
On Thursday, Mr Pompeo visited a Jewish settlement near Ramallah and became the first Secretary of State to do so. He also issued new guidelines for imports from the West Bank, according to which products made in areas under the full control of Israel must be labeled as products of Israel. The move could require dates or olives grown by Palestinian farmers to be labeled “Made in Israel” in order to reach American consumers.
After a conflict with President Obama over the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, Netanyahu found Mr Trump’s supportive audience to be too lenient for his termination of the deal: Mr Trump withdrew from the deal in March 2018.
Mr Pompeo formulated a strategy of “maximum pressure” against Tehran through severe economic sanctions and set out a 12-point series of demands from its leaders that could have been formulated by Mr Netanyahu.
To fend off Iran’s expansive moves in the Middle East, Israel launched an airstrike campaign against Iranian forces and their proxies in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq and, with the encouragement of the Trump administration, made common cause with Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and others Gulf States against Iran.