'Very nice': Netanyahu shows off latest gift from Donald Trump

Israeli prime minister receives updated US map showing Golan Heights as part of Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Banjamin Netanyahu displays a map of Israel indicating the Golan Heights are inside the state's borders, signed by US president Donald Trump and handed over to him by the president's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner during the same day, as he speaks in a hotel of Jerusalem on May 30, 2019. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was confronted with one of the biggest defeats of his political career on May 30 after failing to form a coalition and opting instead to hold an unprecedented second election. / AFP / Thomas COEX

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, embroiled in political chaos after failing to assemble a governing coalition, attempted on Thursday to divert public attention with his signature strategy: political theatre.

Addressing a nation bewildered by the prospect of an unprecedented second election campaign in the same year, Mr Netanyahu brandished an official State Department map that had been updated to incorporate the long-disputed Golan Heights as part of Israel, on which US President Donald Trump had scribbled "Nice!".

He said that Mr Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner gifted him the map during his visit to Israel. Mr Kushner and other architects of the Trump administration's Middle East peace plan are traveling the region to build momentum for the long-awaited proposal.

"This map had not been updated since the Six Day War," said Mr Netanyahu, referring to the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, after which Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria, and later annexed it in a move not internationally recognised. "Well, it has been updated, it just got an update. ... That is to say, there are very important developments here."

He pointed to a note scribbled on the map, which he called President Trump's personal handiwork. "Here is the signature of Trump, and he writes 'nice'. I say, 'very nice!'"

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, holds up a signed proclamation while speaking with U.S. President Donald Trump, left, after a meeting at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, March 25, 2019. Trump officially recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights Monday in a ceremony with Netanyahu, delivering a symbolic boost to the Israeli prime minister just two weeks before he faces a re-election vote. Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg

Mr Netanyahu has a penchant for props, which he pulls out in moments of political desperation. Last year, he hauled part of a downed Iranian drone to a European security conference to warn of accelerating Iranian entrenchment in Syria. In 2012, he brought a cartoonish diagram of an Iranian bomb to the UN General Assembly to drum up global concern about Iran's nuclear programme.

During his race for re-election, Mr Netanyahu consistently leveraged his close friendship with Mr Trump to win votes, touting various political gifts from the White House as evidence of his foreign policy prowess. His crowning achievement came on the campaign trail when the Trump administration recognised Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan, which upended decades of US policy.

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