This week, President Trump made a step other presidents did not dare to take since the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act came into force, stating that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and should remain a united city, with the US Embassy moved there from Tel Aviv. Instead of another waiver, the president signed an executive order to comply with the law. Donald Trump was well aware that the move would cause indignation in the Islamic world and anger the allies. But there was method to his madness.
Is the president pro-Jewish, acting as Israel’s agent? Certainly, not, otherwise the media outlets backed by Jewish lobby would not attack him. The prominent Jewish leaders in America are not pro-Trump. So, it’s not about being pro-Israel, simply the US president does what he can – he is raising stakes, bluffing and exerting pressure. With his background as a businessman, he perceives foreign policy as the art of making deals. His statement, like the statements he has made on North Korea, results in rising tensions. The exacerbation of the situation on the Korean Peninsula puts pressure on China, pushing it to make concessions on a number of issues in different areas. Pyongyang is still hot on the agenda but somehow the new North Korea’ launches and constant exchange of hostile statements has become routine – something the world has gotten used to. Donald Trump can’t exploit the issue further as efficiently as he did before because the situation has reached an impasse.
It’s not the only impasse in the Middle East. No progress has been achieved in Israel-Palestine peace talks after many years of trying. The process is stalled. The United States is losing its position in the region. It does not appear to be the key actor in the region anymore against the background of Russia making huge gains.
Moscow is seen as the one who calls the shots in the Middle East. It has won in Syria having joined together with Turkey and Iran. Much has been said about the importance of its rapprochement with Egypt. It has close ties with Saudi Arabia, including military cooperation. Russian President Putin enjoys good personal relationship with Jordanian King Abdullah and the relations with Israel are excellent. Friendly with everybody, Moscow is well suited to mediate between Israel and Palestine. If progress is made, Russia’s clout in the region will grow immensely to dwarf that of the United States.
The Washington’s influence in the Middle East has been greatly reduced as a result of its failures in Iraq, and Afghanistan. Muslims do not view favorably its interventions in Libya and Somalia and support of Israel. The Trump’s stance on migration poured more fuel on fire. Can this trend be reversed?
By recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the embassy there, President Trump has come into the focus of attention. Yes, he is under fire at present but it will die down as time goes by. The president is seen now as a resolute leader able to stick to his guns and not succumb to fear or hesitation. He believes that Arab countries will look to the US again, hoping Donald Trump will use his influence to make Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agree to revive the negotiation process.
It serves the purpose to read attentively Trump’s statement. He points out that, despite the frustration with settlement efforts, the decision “is not intended, in any way, to reflect a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace agreement.” And he wants a deal. As the president put it, “We want an agreement that is a great deal for the Israelis and a great deal for the Palestinians.” According to Mr. Trump, “a peace agreement that is acceptable to both sides,” remains to be the goal. The president emphasized that the US is “not taking a position of any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of contested borders. Those questions are up to the parties involved.”
So, Donald Trump is talking about the status of Jerusalem to be negotiated. He does not state the US recognizes East Jerusalem as part of Israel. It fact, the United States recognizes West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, which is viewed as Israel’s territory by international community anyway. There is nothing new in this approach. In the statement, the president never said which Jerusalem, East or West, he is talking about. And he did it on purpose.
Israel’s leaders took the Trump’s bait. Now they cannot say no to the US president known as the great defender of Israel. The only thing president Trump has to do is wait till the dust settles.
The hopes may be dashed and the plans to pursue the hidden agenda may backfire. Moscow can initiate the revival of Israel-Palestine dialogue. It has already made known its readiness to mediate and host the meetings.
It’s worth noting here that in April Russia said it viewed West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, calling for Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem. “We reaffirm our commitment to the UN-approved principles for a Palestinian-Israeli settlement, which include the status of East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state. At the same time, we must state that in this context we view West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The Moscow’s stand on the issue is still at odds with the Israel’s position as it claims the entire city as its eternal united capital.
With Palestine turning away from the US and Russia’s clout grown as a result of Syria’s victory, the chances that Moscow could step in to head the peace effort have significantly grown. If it succeeds, the US will be rolled back.