JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, embroiled in political chaos after failing to assemble a governing coalition, attempted Thursday to divert public attention with his signature strategy: political theater.
Addressing a nation bewildered by the prospect of an unprecedented second election campaign in the same year, Netanyahu brandished an official State Department map that had been updated to incorporate the long-disputed Golan Heights as part of Israel.
He said that U.S. President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner gifted him the map during his visit to Israel. Kushner and other architects of the administration’s Mideast 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 Netanyahu, referring to the 1967 Middle East war, after which Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria, and later annexed it in a move not internationally recognized. “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!'”
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 U.N. General Assembly to drum up global concern about Iran’s nuclear program.
During his race for re-election, Netanyahu consistently leveraged his close friendship with 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 recognized Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan, which upended decades of U.S. policy.