One impeached, the other indicted, they posed as honest brokers with a common vision of a mythical Middle East peace.
US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu both have strong political reasons to use their "deal of the century" to distract from their parlous domestic plights, and as a tool in looming elections. But unlike the ceremony nearly 30 years ago that enshrined the land-for-peace era of Middle East diplomacy that the two leaders are now closing, there was a party missing at the White House on Tuesday -- the Palestinians.
The Trump plan is really neither a deal nor a peace blueprint: It strongly favors Israel and would force Palestinians to cede their aspirations for a state in the West Bank and Gaza drawn around Israeli settlements patched together by bridges and tunnels. The plan's major historic contribution seems to be to clear the way for Israel to annex lands long-considered illegally occupied by the UN and international community, and to align US policy closer than ever before to the most right-wing influences in Israeli politics.
Masterminded by Jared Kushner, it is another example of the real estate school of diplomacy that he and his father-in-law — both property magnates — keep trying to apply to the most nettlesome global disputes.
A similar approach to a "deal" has been tried unsuccessfully with Iran and North Korea. It involves the US adversary agreeing to a set of conditions -- on missiles, nuclear weapons, or Jerusalem, for instance -- that would signify near total capitulation. In return, the other side gets the promise of a massive cash infusion.
When he first met the young North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Trump showed him a corporate-style sales video of gleaming skyscapes -- offering real estate development fantasies in exchange for North Korea's nuclear arsenal.
On Tuesday, the President promised Palestinians $50 billion in investment. "Much-needed hope, joy, opportunity and prosperity will finally arrive for the Palestinian people" if they sign his deal, he promised.
But the Palestinians are not buying it -- pointing to the flaw in Trump's method of putting potential riches before principle. "All our rights are not for sale," Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said.