The unfortunate Donald Trump Administration decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel serves no visible American interest, in spite of what some of the always-loyal-to-Israel punditry has been suggesting. Israel is already moving to exploit the situation in its usual fashion. Immediately after the announcement was made, Israeli Ambassador in Washington Ron Dermer suggested that the decision on Jerusalem could now be extended to include other disputed areas, most particularly Syria’s Golan Heights that were occupied in 1967. And the decision on Jerusalem itself will quite likely prove elastic as the Israeli government has already prepared legislation to incorporate large chunks of settlements into the city limits, far beyond the historic boundaries.
The currently popular among Zionists argument that recognizing Jerusalem will somehow perversely accelerate a drive for a final peace settlement with Israel as it will demonstrate to the Palestinians just how hopeless their cause is has little merit as desperation is more likely to lead to increased violence than a political solution. A more intriguing reading suggests that Israel, the United States and Saudi Arabia are conniving at squeezing even more Palestinians into a slightly enlarged prison-camp in Gaza, leaving the rest of the West Bank open for absorption by Israel. Again, such an outcome is not very likely as the 2.5 million Palestinians remaining in the region will likely have some say regarding the issue no matter how much pressure is exerted by the Saudis and Jared Kushner for them to submit.
Nothing good will come out of the Trump decision as the situation in the region is already starting to unravel. The Turks are talking about opening an Embassy to Palestine in East Jerusalem and the 56 other Muslim countries in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation might follow suit. Israel, which has physical control of the entire city, would use force to prevent that, creating some interesting new points of conflict in the Middle East. The U.S. would, of course, become involved given its role as Israel’s patron and protector. The evolving situation is likely to develop into Israel and the United States versus the rest of the world, with unfortunate consequences as the conflict will spill over into normally unrelated issues like trade and otherwise innocuous international agreements, while American travelers and businesses will increasingly become targets for terrorism.
If you want to understand the reason why the United States cannot pursue sensible objectives in the Middle East or anywhere else, one has to look no farther than the all too often Israel-centric neocons who have become adept at advising nearly everyone in the government from the White House on down regarding what should be done, particularly in foreign policy. The Trump Administration’s slowness in filling senior positions has meant that there are many vacancies, which has opened the door to eager neoconservative-leaning nominal Republicans to re-enter government. At the State Department Brian Hook of the neocon John Hay Initiative is now chief of policy planning, courtesy of Margaret Peterlin, Tillerson’s chief of staff. They have recently hired David Feith, the son of the infamous Pentagon Office of Special Plans head Doug Feith, to head the Asia desk. And Wes Mitchell, whose policies are largely indistinguishable from his predecessor, has replaced Victoria Nuland as Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs. While Elliot Abrams, Eliot Cohen, the Kagans and other prominent neocons have been blocked, second-tier activists carrying less political baggage have quietly been brought in.
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