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15.12.2017 14:28 News >> Analysıs – Jerusalem At The Expense Of American Interests

Analysıs – Jerusalem At The Expense Of American Interests

Nothing in world politics is without its costs, and Trump is sacrificing American interests for his own.

U.S. President Donald Trump signed the document that gave permission to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and announced his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This recognition issue has been pending for more than twenty years. It was first passed in the Congress in 1995. Since then, all U.S. presidents have promised to sign the document. However, for the sake of American foreign and security policy, they were dissuaded from signing it. It has been delayed repeatedly.

From this perspective, Trump was not an exception. During the election campaign, he made the same promise in order to garner the support of the Israeli lobby and secure American Evangelist votes. As a traditional election promise, it had not received so much attention. After the elections therefore, he could easily neglect what he said. In fact, this is the general trend in Trump's presidency. In most foreign policy issues, it has now become clear that Trump has no real strategy.

- No strategy at all

Even though he is not without his passions and perhaps some clues about the kinds of aims he wants to follow, these do not cumulate into a real strategy. There is no clearly articulated strategy and it seems that there will be no efforts to that end. Instead, what the world is observing is powerful rhetoric full of hatred and populism used by a president acting inconsistently and indecisively.

Remember the case of Qatar sanctions. He travelled to the Middle East and "suddenly discovered" that Qatar might be the leading sponsor of "Islamic fundamentalism." Some people tended to attach meaning and importance to these words as if Trump had a clear vision on Qatar or Islamic fundamentalism or fight against terrorism. No, and of course not! He still has no idea about the Middle East in its entirety or the states in that region or the organizations operating in the region. He just felt obliged to make an utterance as if he were the real actor behind the sanction move. By doing so, he just pretended to have been an influential actor behind the scenes in order to conceal his absence and ignorance.

Trump followed exactly a similar path in the case of Iran. During his election campaign, he repeatedly claimed that he would contain Iran's expansion in the Middle East. He has already spent enough time in government but has done nothing serious about it. He also promised that he would cancel the nuclear deal. Even in this concrete issue, Trump chose to delay. This is another example revealing his lack of real interest in Middle Eastern affairs and his lack of an articulated strategy in the region.

Based on these experiences, one could predict that Trump would, yet again, find a way of backing down on another election campaign promise. But, interestingly enough, he suddenly remembered his promise and Jerusalem became his top foreign policy concern. But why? Why not all the others but this one? It is certainly puzzling and requires explanation.

- Explaining the cause

There are those who claim that Trump and Kushner, because of their ideological affinity, are designing a new order and their recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is an important part of that plan. However, such an explanation requires us to, first, make sense of Trump's general lack of concern, repeatedly displayed in the previous cases. Trump might find himself close to Evangelical and Jewish expectations but he is not the only American president to feel such an affinity. Yet all of his predecessors, one way or another, found a way of postponing this symbolic act. Neither Israeli nor American foreign policy stands to gain anything concrete from this decision. It might be important on a symbolic level, but in reality, it is dangerous.

Thinking rationally, one cannot find any reason for provoking others and building large coalitions against the U.S. and Israel. Without coming up with a resolution of the Israeli Palestinian issue, presenting such a fait accompli does not help with the solution. It in fact poisons the peace process and reverts the already negotiated and accepted terms. For instance, Mahmoud Abbas, in his speech at the meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul declared that Palestine will revoke previous agreements because of this decision. Jerusalem is the most sensitive part of the Israel-Palestine issue. Everyone, even Trump himself, could calculate that the pronouncement he made would cause a burst of angry reactions in world politics. Despite that, he proceeded with his plan.

Because of this stubborn insistence, some analysts tend to base their explanations on Trump's personal characteristics. It is implied that Trump is an ignorant leader paying no attention to the outcomes of his behaviors. This might seem like a compelling explanation since it connects several truths, such as Trump's ignorance and damage given to the peace process. However, one should not readily put this act down to irrationality. There must be some degree of rationality behind it mainly because of the timing.

- Gaining support for no cost

Trump signed the document at a time when he needed support in domestic politics and saw no counterbalancing coalition in foreign affairs. His former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn admitted most of the accusations directed against him about his intermingling with Russians and making negotiations during the transition process. And it seems that the Flynn case will be used against Trump. He has several reasons to think that an impeachment process might be around the corner. Rumors about an impeachment have circulated since he was elected. But the situation seems to be getting really serious for the first time.

According to the public opinion surveys held lately, Trump is losing his support even among his own supporters. Therefore, he believes that he needs to rally the support of the certain groups, among which two are critical. For avoiding an impeachment process, first he thinks he needs the support of the Israel lobby, which wields huge power in both the Congress and the media. Trump has already lost the media and is now about to lose the Congress. In order to reverse the situation in the media and gain some leverage in the Congress, he believes that he has found a rich seam to mine in Jerusalem at no cost.

- United Islamic World

Trump is probably convinced that his personal gains out of that decision will be high but the cost will be marginal. According to this logic, the support of the Israeli lobby is something but the reaction of the Islamic world is nothing, which makes this trade appear profitable. And Trump is known never to hesitate in the face of such stakes. He can see the open disunity and chaos in the Arab world. He thinks Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and some other minor actors, such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are under his control. He was planning to silence them and it worked. This would paralyze the Arab world. The situation in which Arab states are struggling cannot deter but rather encourages Trump. Looking at the "Arab Spring" experience, he seems to have inferred that the "Arab street" can no longer easily rise up, and even if they did try to revolt, it can be crushed easily. Under these conditions, Trump thinks that he is going to gain a huge support at no cost.

But the early reactions and the recent developments show that there is tension accumulating. The OIC summit held in Istanbul did produce unexpectedly successful outcomes, thanks to Turkey's leading role. It has achieved two things: it excluded puppet regimes such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt and united all other Islamic countries. The Organization openly declared Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian State. This was certainly more than expected.

- Divided West

Furthermore, Trump's ignorant behavior will more likely deal another serious blow to U.S. foreign policy. It will serve as a starting point for breaking the unity in the Western alliance. France and Great Britain, for instance, declared their divergence of opinion. Since the end of the Cold War, this is the second case where European allies of the U.S. are rejecting the U.S. position.

The first one was the 2003 American invasion of Iraq, and this is the second time. In the first case, it was more difficult for European leaders to criticize the U.S. because it was putting them under high levels of pressure, acting like a hegemon. So, European countries failed to build a counterbalancing coalition. They did not support, but nor did they challenge.

But this time, mainly because of the long years of U.S. strategy of abandoning world politics, American power has become less threating and more tempting. European states can be easily tempted to build new sui generis alliances that would exclude -- but not target -- the U.S.

In any case, the U.S., through the hands of Obama and Trump, has been demolishing a world order that it erected and for a very long time dominated at very high costs.

Nothing in world politics is without its costs, and Trump is sacrificing American interests for his own.

* Opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Anadolu Agency. -



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