Trump announced U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital earlier today. His remarks did nothing to allay the suspicion that he and his advisers don’t know what they’re doing:
I’ve judged this course of action to be in the best interests of the United States of America and the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. This is a long overdue step to advance the peace process. And to work towards a lasting agreement.
This is either profoundly cynical or hopelessly out of touch with reality. What Trump did today won’t advance “the peace process.” There may not be much of a process to be advanced in any case, but this definitely snuffs it out for the foreseeable future. There will be no “work towards a lasting agreement” when a major power unilaterally decides to break with its existing policy and severely disadvantages one of the parties in any future negotiations. If one wanted to destroy confidence and trust in the U.S., this is the sort of thing one would do.
Trump describes what he did as proof of his “fresh thinking,” but there is nothing more stale and tired than having our government fully taking the Israeli side in this conflict. He can insist all he likes that the decision “is not intended in any way to reflect a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace agreement,” but the action proves that there is no such commitment. It will be interpreted as proof of our government’s bias and bad faith, and it is ridiculous to expect other nations to interpret it any other way.
The best that can be said about Trump’s remarks is that he has to be delusional if he thinks that today’s announcement is compatible with making progress in securing a negotiated settlement. Any goodwill the Trump administration might have enjoyed with the Palestinians has been squandered for no reason, and Trump has now made it politically impossible for any Palestinian leader to be seen cooperating with the U.S.
Worse still, U.S. officials somehow imagine that abandoning decades of U.S. policy and doing something that the entire world opposes will earn Trump international respect:
White House officials think Trump’s decision to follow through on his campaign promise — even if only partially — strengthens his credibility around the world as a someone who stands by his word, isn’t intimidated by threats, and doesn’t cave to international pressure.
Trump’s willingness to follow through on destructive campaign promises gains the U.S. nothing. Other leaders won’t respect a decision that they regard as deeply flawed and unnecessary, and they aren’t going to give Trump credit for doing something they consider folly. Trump’s decision will reinforce the impression that he is reckless and irresponsible, and it will show both allies and adversaries that he gives no thought to the possible negative consequences of his actions.