Jerusalem just latest bad call by Trump

Editorial | Mary Ma 7 Dec 2017

US President Donald Trump has been criticized by many - from Pope Francis to Arab leaders and other allies in the Western world - for his plans to light a match in the Middle East tinderbox by declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel, along with his intention to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city.

Yes, he's playing with fire, and doing it for a reason.

One year on, the immensely unpopular president has shown himself to be probably the only US politician keen to honor his election promises, however fraught with danger.

Trump tried but failed to repeal Obamacare, even though he knew it would deprive millions of Americans of health care. Then he introduced massive tax cut reforms that would bring an instant windfall to the rich - like himself - while leaving the public to wait for so-called economic benefits to trickle down.

The Jerusalem decision is a continuation of what he's best known for: dismantling the results of years of meticulous work.

Trump's expected announcement will upend nearly seven decades of US foreign policy, and potentially destroy efforts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

It would add greater uncertainty to a world that's already increasingly unsafe. Is the US gaining something significant from it?

Hardly. First, Israel wouldn't desert the US if the status quo is maintained. Tel Aviv, however unhappy in such a scenario, would continue to be Washington's most reliable ally in the Middle East, since the Jewish nation would have nobody else to look to for protection other than good old Uncle Sam.

Then, would a happier Israel bring a substantial difference to its relationship with America? The ties would surely be warmer, but this will mean nothing extra since the alliance is already so close that it simply can't be any closer.

On the other hand, Washington's role in the Middle East will be weakened, after its strong allies in the Arab world are antagonized.

Just as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pops open the champagne, long-time US allies in Saudi Arabia and Jordan will feel betrayed. Trump is particularly creating trouble for both Saudi King Salman and Jordanian King Abdullah.

The State Department has issued travel warnings to Americans heading for the Middle East in anticipation of mass protests. If Palestinians are too insignificant to be a concern for Trump, will protests mushrooming in the region erode the base of regimes that've been friendly to the US?

Clearly, Trump isn't doing what's expected of a friend. Recognizing Jerusalem makes absolutely no sense in terms of maintaining the geopolitical balance.

The decision is clearly born out of partisan, even personal, consideration - to appease a Jewish community that has donated generously to his election campaign and the Republican Party.

Knowing he's unable to appeal to the wider public, Trump is focusing on galvanizing his powerbase. It can be envisaged that his future policies will continue to be dictated by the interests of his supporters - not other Americans, not the Arabs.

A year on, Trump has escalated tensions with North Korea to a dangerous level, and removed the pin from the Middle East grenade.

Where will he play arsonist next?

Search Archive

Advanced Search
October 2018

Today's Standard

Yearly Magazine

Yearly Magazine