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Trump, Netanyahu and Israel’s Capital

When considering United States President Donald Trump’s decision to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, we learn many things about him:

+ He is desperate to hold onto his base, which includes so-called Christian fundamentalists, who unquestioningly support Israel;

+ His interest in ‘the ultimate deal’ between Palestine and Israel is non-existent;

+ He has no regard for the opinions of the U.S.’s closest allies;

+ His knowledge of international law is limited, at best;

+ He holds the safety of U.S. personnel abroad in disdain;

+ His understanding of the complexities of the Middle East are far beyond his interest or ability to comprehend, and

+ His belief in human rights is selective.

The list of nations whose leaders expressed their extreme displeasure prior to Trump’s announcement includes both important allies, and countries the U.S considers ‘enemies’. Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Russia, the Vatican, Turkey, Germany, France and the European Union all have condemned the move. Even U.S. government experts have cautioned of the potential of increased violence around the world, especially in the Middle East, as a result.

What, one might ask, is the advantage to anyone other than Israel of making this change? Without exception, experts say this decision will only exasperate current tensions, increase the risk of violence, make the goal of a two-state solution even more difficult, recruit anti-U.S. terrorists, alienate allies and reduce the U.S.’s already tattered reputation on the world stage. Only in Israel is this seen as good news.

And what of international law? Israel declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel in 1980, which the United Nations Security Council condemned, calling it a violation of international law. That resolution has never been revoked or changed. So Trump, by agreeing with Israel’s 1980 declaration, is putting the U.S. firmly in violation of international law.

Bowing to pressure from the various Israeli lobbies, the U.S. Congress in 1995 voted to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but included in that legislation the ability of the president to sign a waiver every six months, delaying the move. Every president since then – George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama – have signed the waiver every time, citing security concerns. Trump has not said anything to indicate that those concerns are no longer valid, yet he is proceeding with this ill-advised move.

Trump, like his Israeli counterpart, Prime Murderer Benjamin Netanyahu, is not in an enviable position. A special prosecutor has indicted some of Trump’s former campaign officials, and his former National Security Advisor pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. Netanyahu is under investigation for a variety of potential crimes. Trump’s approval rating is consistently below 40%. For both of these corrupt, egotistical men, this move serves as a temporary distraction, one that will excite and motivate their base. For Netanyahu, this is the rabid, racist Zionist population of Israel. For Trump, it’s the racist fundamental Christians who believe God is a real estate agent, granting certain properties to Jews.

This embassy move has long been sought by Israel’s leaders; Netanyahu may see it as his crowning achievement. Since it had such importance to Israel, why did Trump not demand major concessions in exchange? An immediate cessation of all settlement construction for a period of five years; the end of the blockade of the Gaza Strip; removal of all checkpoints in the West Bank are all demands the U.S. could have made, but didn’t. Trump has repeated, ad nauseam, that he is the ultimate deal-maker. When, one wonders, will he ever realize that Netanyahu has made a complete fool of him?

What happens next is anyone’s guess. It’s unfortunately possible that other nations may decide to please the U.S. by moving their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Their leaders may feel that, with the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, it’s to their advantage to do the same. This would be a new tragedy for the Palestinians. Yet other countries’ respect for international law may preclude this action.

But other moves may not be so disadvantageous. It is also possible that some Arab nations that are currently working with Israel on business ventures and anti-Iran intelligence will eliminate these connections, or greatly reduce them. These initiatives are vitally important to Israel, not only for military and financial purposes, but also for public relations reasons. These advantages to Israel could be lost.

Violence against U.S. personnel and facilities may erupt, which would cause Trump to once more condemn Muslims, but would also be a public relations nightmare for the U.S. The source of these potential incidents would be traced directly to the U.S. president; they would have been caused solely because of his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

This decision only underscores not only Trump’s gross, innate incompetence, but also his belief that, despite all evidence to the contrary, he knows best. His own advisors, and the opinions of allies throughout the world, mean nothing to him.

The United States was never an honest broker between Palestine and its brutal occupier, Israel. Perhaps now other nations will step forward to bring justice to the Palestinians. Doing so doesn’t require negotiations; it simply requires Israel to abide by international law, which means removing all Israelis from lands stolen any time after 1948, dismantling all checkpoints, ending the blockade of the Gaza Strip, granting all Palestinian refugees the right of return, and opening the border between Egypt and Palestine. There are many nations whose leaders could step forward and accomplish what the U.S. has never wanted: justice for the Palestinians. Now is the time for those leaders to act, and assure their place in history.

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Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press).

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