Unforced Error

6 December 2017


Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

Trump Moving US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem


When it comes to advice in international politics, the best is don't panic. The situation may be incredibly grave, but emotional reaction is not going to make things better. So, as President Trump prepares to announce that he is tearing up a lifetime of policy with regard to Israel and is moving the US embassy there to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, keeping emotions in check is vital. The truth is that this dumb move is going to get people killed but not as many as a decade ago. While it may also undermine the peace process, peace is not really that much closer than a decade ago either.

First of all, this is a symbolic move designed to make the ultra-orthodox nationalists in Israel feel good and to make the fundamentalist Christian Taliban in America happy. It does not actual affect the nuts and bolts of diplomacy. It will annoy the bejesus out of the Palestinians and their supporters, but they don't vote for Mr. Trump and his team.

Second, however, this move is stupid because it gives away a card in America's hand in exchange for nothing. Withholding American recognition of Jerusalem's international status always gave Washington a little room to maneuver in the Middle East. It was both a carrot and a stick when dealing with truculent Israeli prime ministers. Mr. Trump does not seem to have gotten anything in return.

Third, the reaction by the hotheads on the Palestinian side is almost certain to result in violence. One freely admits that a people or person can be abused only so long before resistance to further abuse occurs. The Palestinians have been on the receiving end for decades, and this will encourage some to plant bombs, drive cars into crowds and go on stabbing sprees in shopping malls.

Fourth, this policy is easily reversed. Estimates are that it will take 3-4 years to construct a new embassy in Jerusalem. The move to the new quarters could happen under a new president, who would be able to decide not to use the building. And of course, construction delays and other diplomatic disruptions to the schedule are easy to create.

Fifth, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict just is not as important to the region as it used to be. When there was a Muslim bloc against the Jewish state, resolving the problems between the two peoples was seen as the key to regional stability. Today, regional stability is a function of the Sunni-Shi'ite proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Al Qaeda, ISIS, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah as well as the war in Yemen would still go on if Israel and Palestine made a peace that everyone was happy with. The stakes are lower now.

So given all of that, this is an unhelpful move that doesn't further the interests of anyone save a few for whom this is a matter of personal pride. Some people may well get killed over this. At the same time, this is not a big deal relative to how it would have been received in 2005. This is an unforced error on the part of the Trump administration, and it can not afford many of those. By the same token, it will only be lethal for a few.

© Copyright 2017 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.

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