Having arrived at the point of a possible thermonuclear showdown with North Korea, Donald J Trump has now turned his attention to blowing up the middle East.
That may be too harsh. The conflict between Shia and Sunni Muslims, the rise of ISIL terrorism, the Syrian problem, the Kurdish question and any number of other tinder boxes already in one stage or another of explosion can continue to “blow up” the Middle East apart from anything Donald J Trump does.
But what Trump did today was certainly a huge set back in eventually eliminating another of those tinder boxes, namely the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
What he did sounds so reasonable, almost innocuous but far from it.
He said: “I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel…Today we finally acknowledge the obvious. This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality.”
Reality in that Israel does occupy Jerusalem and claims it as it’s Capital. But that is not a “reality” recognized by the Palestinians and Arab Nations throughout the Middle East. This difference of views is one of the major sticking points that has prevented a peace settlement since the State of Israel was born.
In 1978, at Camp David, President Jimmy Carter, Egyptian President Anwar el Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin took a giant step toward agreeing on a set of Accords as a frame work for an overall peace settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
But disagreements within those accords continued. One was over a freeze on building new Israeli settlements on the West Bank. Another was the status of the city of Jerusalem.
Begin said Jerusalem was Israel’s Capital, Sadat said Arab interests within at least a portion of the city must be protected (as the Capital of a Palestinian State) and Carter said the United States was not going to side with either position believing that the final status of Jerusalem must be negotiated between the parties.
Ever since, U S policy has been to act as an “honest broker,” helping the parties try to reach agreements on the issues that separated them – including Jerusalem. Sure, over the years the U S has proposed various formulas for the parties to consider as they wished, pointing out where “trade offs” might work, but never taking one side against the other as U S policy.
Today Trump did that. Backed Israel on one of the major sticking points.
Or has he?
He also said today: “We are not taking a position of any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, (Bolding added) or the resolution of contested borders. Those questions are up to the parties involved,”
He says, in effect, I declare that Jerusalem is the Capital of Israel, lock stock and barrel unless, of course, the parties agree otherwise. Come on, Donald J Trump, you can not mean both parts and although F Scott Fitzgerald famously postulated “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function” I think both sides will fail to discern an intelligence and only call that “Gobbledygook.”
If all this “mumbo jumbo” is meant to make it look like he’s fulfilling a campaign pledge when he’s really not, does he really think he can fool the Israelis and their strong supporters here in the U S? They’re not stupid!
But there’s more.
Having convinced many people that he really meant the first part – Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu certainly seems to believe it – Trump added this to today’s announcement:
“The United States remains deeply committed to helping facilitate a peace agreement that is acceptable to both sides. I intend to do everything in my power to forge such an agreement. ”
Trump is saying he still believes he can be an “Honest Broker” whom both sides can trust despite the fact that he has sided with Israel on Jerusalem.
But who else will believe that? And if the United States has now become an advocate for one side’s position rather than a mediator to help facilitate agreement forged by the two sides, who will take our place as a mediator in this up-to-now intractable and deadly dispute?