'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 Benjamin Netanyahu displays a US State Department map of Israel showing the annexed Golan Heights as part of its territory, at a hotel in Jerusalem on May 30, 2019. AFP
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu displays a US State Department map of Israel showing the annexed Golan Heights as part of its territory, at a hotel in Jerusalem on May 30, 2019. AFP

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!'"

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds up a proclamation signed by US President Donald Trump recognising Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, at the White House on March 25, 2019. Bloomberg
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds up a proclamation signed by US President Donald Trump recognising Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, at the White House on March 25, 2019. 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.

Published: May 31, 2019 04:14 PM

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