Ex-US envoy questions Netanyahu motive for praising Trump wall

In string of Twitter posts, Dan Shapiro suggests president ‘squeezing’ PM as part of ‘quid pro quo’ involving Iran deal, settlements or relocating embassy

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with departing US Ambassador Dan Shapiro in Jerusalem on January 19, 2017 (Haim Zach/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with departing US Ambassador Dan Shapiro in Jerusalem on January 19, 2017 (Haim Zach/GPO)

Former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro blasted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday night for praising US President Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall along the US-Mexico border, and suggested that it may have been prompted by a “quid pro quo” agreement between the two leaders.

“PM Netanyahu’s top aide’s told me a key goal in Trump’s era was keeping bipartisan support for Israel. Now this?” began Shapiro in a lengthy string of Twitter posts that speculated on the prime minister’s true motivation for diving into a subject of such controversy in the US.

“Hard to explain this intervention on a hotly debated issue in domestic US politics,” he tweeted. “Unless this endorsement is Trump’s demand of Netanyahu for something Netanyahu wants, the quid pro quo. But for what?”

Shapiro proposed three possible explanations as to why Netanyahu expressed his support for the wall: Relocating the US embassy to Jerusalem, expansion of the settlement blocs or canceling the Iran nuclear deal — all policies that Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama opposed.

The former ambassador went on to speculate that the new president “is already squeezing Netanyahu hard,” and referenced Trump’s famed book on business, “The Art of the Deal.”

Netanyahu took to Twitter earlier Saturday evening to welcome Trump’s praise for Israel’s security barrier, writing that the US president “is right” about walls preventing illegal immigration.

Referring to the recently built fence along Israel’s border with Egypt, the prime minister said the measure had been a “great success” in keeping out migrants, who mainly came from African nations.

“President Trump is right. I built a wall along Israel’s southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great success. Great idea,” Netanyahu wrote in English on Twitter, Trump’s preferred method of communication. The prime minister ended his tweet with emojis of the Israeli and American flags.

In an interview with Fox News on Thursday, Trump appeared to be touting Israel’s West Bank security barrier as an example of a successful deterrent to unlawful entry into a country. Israel built the barrier — a combination of fence, concrete wall and sophisticated sensors — in response to the massive wave of deadly Palestinian terrorism that hit the country during the Second Intifada at the start of the millennium, with suicide bombers traveling the short distances into Israel to carry out murderous attacks, and it saw a dramatic fall in suicide bombings.

“The wall is necessary,” Trump said. “That’s not just politics, and yet it is good for the heart of the nation in a certain way, because people want protection and a wall protects. All you’ve got to do is ask Israel. They were having a total disaster coming across and they had a wall. It’s 99.9 percent stoppage.”

The barrier along Israel’s Egyptian border is not a concrete wall akin to the one Trump is planning to build on the US-Mexico border, but rather a system of wire fencing and sensors.

Shapiro, who served as Obama’s Middle East advisor before becoming his ambassador to the Jewish state, remains in Israel until the summer so that his children can finish out the school year. Trump has tapped Jewish American lawyer David Friedman to replace Shapiro.

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