As usual, Trump made the announcement of recognizing Israel’s claim to the Golan Heights without any consultation with any of the relevant administration officials:
President Donald Trump’s tweet on Thursday recognizing the Golan Heights as Israeli territory surprised members of his own Middle East peace team, the State Department, and Israeli officials.
U.S. diplomats and White House aides had believed the Golan Heights issue would be front and center at next week’s meetings between Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House. But they were unprepared for any presidential announcement this week.
No formal U.S. process or executive committees were initiated to review the policy before Trump’s decision, and the diplomats responsible for implementing the policy were left in the dark.
Even the Israelis, who have advocated for this move for years, were stunned at the timing of Trump’s message.
After more than two years of watching Trump’s impulsive and reckless “governing” style, it doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone that he makes these decisions without advance warning. There is no evidence that Trump ever thinks anything through, and so he probably sees no reason to tell anyone in advance what he is going to do. Trump almost never bothers consulting with the people who will be responsible for carrying out his policies and dealing with the international fallout, and that is probably why so many of his policy decisions end up being exceptionally poor ones. The substance of most of Trump’s foreign policy decisions was never likely to be good, but the lack of an organized policy process on major decisions makes those decisions even more haphazard and chaotic than they would otherwise be.
There is absolutely no upside for the United States in endorsing illegal Israeli claims to the Golan Heights. It is a cynical political stunt intended to boost Netanyahu and Likud’s fortunes in the upcoming election, and it is also a cynical stunt aimed at shoring up Trump’s support from Republican “pro-Israel” voters and donors. Whatever short-term benefit Israel gains from it, the U.S. gains nothing and stands to lose quite a bit in terms of our international standing. There has been no consideration of the costs and problems this will create for the U.S. in its relations with other regional states and beyond because Trump couldn’t care less about the long-term effects that his decisions have on the country. Once again, Trump has put narrow political ambitions and the interests of a foreign government ahead of the interests of the United States. That seems to be the inevitable result of electing a narcissist who conducts foreign policy based on which leaders flatter and praise him.
Trump’s bad decision can be traced back to Bolton’s visit to Israel earlier this year:
Administration officials said that National Security Advisor John Bolton was instrumental to the decision, after visiting Israel in January to assure officials there that the United States would not abandon them in Syria despite Trump’s sudden withdrawal of troops from the battlefield.
Nervous Israeli officials saw an opportunity. “It was an ask,” one Israeli source said, “because of the timing — it suddenly became a relevant issue about Iran.”
Bolton is usually the culprit responsible any destructive and foolish policy decision over the last year, and his baleful influence continues to grow. We can also see the harmful effects of the administration’s Iran obsession at work. In the end, the Syria “withdrawal” hasn’t happened and apparently isn’t going to, but Trump nonetheless gives Israel whatever it wants in exchange for nothing so that they will be “reassured” of our unthinking support.