Bolton Revelations Cast Unintentional Harsh Light on Trump-Netanyahu Alliance – and Annexation

The pre-publication excerpts from John Bolton’s new book “The Room Where It Happened” have so far included only one tidbit pertaining to Israel. Bolton claims Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was doubtful about the appointment of presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner as czar of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Given that Kushner is now portrayed as the last remaining obstacle to Netanyahu’s plan to annex territories in the West Bank, the prime minister deserves credit for his prescience.

Nonetheless, and even before it is published in full on Tuesday, Bolton’s book indirectly illuminates the problematic Trump-Netanyahu alliance and raises troubling questions about its essence. Bolton claims that most of Trump’s foreign policy moves are driven by their perceived contribution to his re-election in November. Perhaps he hasn’t decided yet whether the all-out, in-your-face occupation advocated by U.S. Ambassador David Friedman will garner more votes and contributions than Kushner’s more restrained approach.

– LISTEN: How Netanyahu could fudge annexation, hoodwink Gantz and cling on to power

LISTEN: How Netanyahu could fudge annexation, hoodwink Gantz and cling on to power

Trump’s foreign policy is transactional, claims Bolton. Perhaps the give and take served him well as a real estate mogul in Manhattan, Bolton observes, but it’s no way to handle international affairs of state. Netanyahu has effusively praised Trump’s “give” – Jerusalem, the Golan, Iran nuclear deal and now annexation – but he has been more reticent about the “take” he expects to receive in return. Perhaps the debt will be at least partially repaid in Netanyahu’s intervention on his behalf in the upcoming election campaign.

Some Washington observers believe the exchange is more financial in nature: Behind Trump’s unyielding support for Israel stands Sheldon Adelson, they suggest, who is said to have pledged to break his previous records for generous donations to GOP candidates in the upcoming November elections. If we take such not-completely-unfounded speculation one step further, one can posit that the dispute within the administration over the scope of the proposed Israeli annexation could be resolved in a bidding war between Adelson and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who is also in hock to the president.

Bolton asserts that Trump’s support for MBS in the wake of the October 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul was actually meant to divert attention from reports that Ivanka Trump used a private email account for official U.S. government business, a la Hillary Clinton. A Middle East brouhaha over annexation could theoretically fulfill the same purpose; God knows that Trump could use a little distraction from his current woes.

Whether or not Bolton’s full manuscript deals at length with Trump’s policies on Israel – the former adviser’s support may have constrained his candor – the book sows doubt not only about the proposed July 1 annexation but also about the staunch Trump-Netanyahu alliance as a whole. Trump, according to Bolton, is a complete ignoramus in world affairs: He didn’t know that Britain is a nuclear power or that Finland isn’t actually a part of Russia.

It seems safe to deduct that Trump knows very little about the fundamentals of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that he presumes to settle. It’s doubtful he’s ever read Kushner’s “Prosperity to Peace” plan from cover to cover. It’s an open bet, in fact, whether Trump can find the West Bank – or Israel itself – on a map.