Dana Milbank: Israel builds Trump a Potemkin village

Washington • Finally, the long-anticipated Trump Middle East Peace Plan is taking shape.

Under terms of the proposal, President Trump agrees that Israel gets whatever it wants: all of Jerusalem, all of the Golan Heights, the West Bank, Gaza — you name it. In exchange, Israel agrees to name a village after Trump.

And not even a real village. More like a sign marking where a village might be. Someday.

This week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to thank Trump for supporting Israel's claims to the occupied territories by naming a village after him in the Golan Heights: Ramat Trump, or Trump Heights.

Netanyahu, the U.S. ambassador and other dignitaries met on a barren patch in the middle of nowhere, rolled out a strip of artificial turf and erected a sign with the U.S. president’s name just as he likes it — in gilded letters.

Naturally, Trump was pleased. "Thank you PM @Netanyahu and the State of Israel for this great honor!" Trump tweeted.

But it quickly emerged that the Israeli government had approved no such plan, had dedicated no funds to it and had established no specific location. The cabinet resolution says the place will be called Trump Heights "if it is founded."

The founder of the Golan caucus in Israel's Knesset called the whole thing an "Israbluff" and compared it to a well-known Israeli satire. The Haaretz newspaper called Trump Heights "a mythological town that exists only in the imagination."

Now, a week after we learned that the "friendship tree" the French president gave Trump has died, we discover that the Israeli prime minister has given Trump a Potemkin village?

This was a shrewd move by Netanyahu, who correctly recognized that Trump can be bought with just a bit of ego-stroking. No substantive concessions necessary!

North Korea's dictator sends Trump love letters and is allowed to keep his nuclear program. Saudi Arabia spends millions of dollars at Trump properties and is allowed to buy U.S. weapons and to murder a Washington Post contributing columnist. Japan's prime minister nominates Trump for a Nobel Prize and is largely spared in the trade war.

Trump is running what might be called the vanity-license-plate presidency. He gives medals to people he likes (Arthur Laffer on Wednesday, Tiger Woods before that) and pardons other favorites (former sheriff Joe Arpaio). Foreign governments and lobbyists pour money into his hotel and golf properties. And he has attempted to turn various holidays — Veterans Day, Memorial Day, D-Day and now Independence Day — into celebrations of him. Visiting Mount Vernon with the French president, Trump reportedly said George Washington should have "put his name on it," because "you've got to put your name on stuff or no one remembers you."

Unfortunately for Trump, people are currently taking his name off things — six Trump Place buildings in New York have all shed his name — so Netanyahu's gesture should be particularly welcome. At the naming ceremony, Trump's ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, announced that the designation was "well deserved" by Trump. Friedman boasted that the only other sitting president to have an Israeli town named for him was Harry S. Truman (but Truman's town actually exists).

Israel's resolution proposing Trump Heights specifically mentioned the desire to strengthen ties with the United States. (Like Trump, it makes no distinction between things that honor him and things that honor the United States.) Therefore, it might wish to construct Trump Heights with features that will please its eponymous president.

Netanyahu should subsidize construction of a Trump International Hotel and Spa at Trump Heights and commit to funneling enough official Israeli government business to the property to keep it at 90 percent occupancy. The prime minister should also launch construction of the Trump National Golf Club at Trump Heights, with a bylaws provision stipulating that Trump will be declared winner of its annual golf tournament every year. Merchants in Trump Heights will be required to sell Trump wine and any remaining odd lots of Trump mattresses and steaks and Ivanka Trump clothing.

Netanyahu had better hurry, lest others out-flatter him. I hear China is already negotiating an agreement under which the United States would import all Chinese goods tariff-free in exchange for China naming a section of its Great Wall the Donald J. Trump Great Wall of China. And Iran has already floated a plan under which the United States would allow it to develop nuclear weapons. In exchange, Tehran's landmark structure, Milad Tower, would be renamed Trump Tower.

Royalties to the Trump Organization would be paid — in barrels of cash.

Dana Milbank | The Washington Post

Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.