An Israeli settlement leader has reportedly warned the Trump administration not to pressure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu too strongly on peace — or risk his downfall, Channel 2 television reported Monday.
According to the report, Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan told White House officials, “If you press Netanyahu too much, he’ll fall.”
Netanyahu’s government currently commands 66 seats out of 120 in the Knesset; the Jewish Home party, a settlement-supporting coalition partner, holds eight seats.
The report followed Netanyahu’s own warning to his fellow Likud lawmakers Monday that “anyone who thought Israel has a blank check from the Trump administration is wrong,” and that the US is keen to see the start of a new peace initiative.
“There is warmth and understanding, but not an automatic adoption of our positions,” Netanyahu said during the weekly faction meeting in the Knesset.
US President Donald Trump reiterated on his May 22-23 visit to Israel that he seeks to broker an Israeli-Palestinian accord. While Netanyahu highlighted his skepticism about Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s readiness for a deal, he did tell Trump that “for the first time in many years — and, Mr. President, for the first time in my lifetime — I see a real hope for change.”
For his part, Trump was adamant in his final speech at the Israel Museum on Tuesday that Abbas and the Palestinians “are ready to reach for peace.”
Channel 2 news reported Friday night that with Trump pushing for peace progress, Netanyahu is again looking to widen his coalition by bringing in politicians from the center-left.
Netanyahu is working to broaden his coalition because he wants room to maneuver, should direct Israeli-Palestinian talks resume, said the TV report, which was not confirmed.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog denied there had been any discussion of the Zionist Union, which he leads, joining the coalition.
“If there is a [peace] process and it is serious, ask me about supporting the initiative from the opposition, not from the government,” he said.
Senior ministers were quoted in the Channel 2 report saying that it was clear that Trump will be pressing Israel for compromise, and that celebrations on the right because Trump did not refer to Palestinian statehood during his visit, and did not criticize the settlement enterprise, were misplaced. “We’re all dancing on the Titanic,” an unnamed top minister was quoted as saying.
The Channel 2 report quoted Israeli ministers who met with Trump and his team saying that the US president and his key advisers drew three conclusions about peacemaking from their trip: that progress on the Israel-Palestinian front is central to progress elsewhere in the Middle East; that Abbas, with whom he has now met twice, is a viable partner; and that the notion that Netanyahu can’t make compromises because of the constraints of his right-wing coalition is false, since the center-left would support him.