On 6 December 2017, Donald Trump, the US president, made an announcement officially recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. With vice-president Mike Pence, Trump’s conduit to the evangelical Christians, a key constituency of his political base, standing right behind him, it was an announcement designed to please this significant portion of the American electorate and, simultaneously, to claim fulfilment of his campaign commitment.
Curious, though little noticed and little commented upon, was the fact that, just as he made his proclamation, he also signed a national security waiver enabling him to avoid moving the US embassy to Jerusalem for another six months – thus acting against his assertion that he was standing by his campaign pledge. Senior aides said that it would take years to build the embassy in Jerusalem, with the likelihood of triggering new waivers by the president. Had he really wanted to follow through with his campaign rhetoric, though, he could have instructed the US embassy staff to move into a recently constructed US consular facility in West Jerusalem.
All the bourgeois commentators, and following them what passes for the ‘left’ in the centres of imperialism have characterised Trump’s proclamation as reversing 70 years of US policy on the question of recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The truth is at variance with this assertion, for the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has been the policy of the US ruling class since at least 1995. This policy is enshrined in the Jerusalem Embassy Act, passed with bipartisan support in 1995, which mandated that the US embassy in be moved to Jerusalem. It has been typical of the cynicism and hypocrisy of the US ruling class that, while recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, it has avoided acting on this, through presidential waivers, signed at 6-monthlly intervals so as to maintain the pretence of the US being an ‘honest broker’ in the non-existent peace process. Let it be said that Trump is not the first US president to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – so did Bill Clinton and Barack Obama without, however, making any grandiose proclamations.
Trump’s proclamation has rightly provoked anger all over the world, especially among the occupied and oppressed Palestinian people, who have long suffered under the jackboot of Zionist colonialism, armed to the teeth by its imperialist patrons – notably the US.
Trump’s ritualistic announcement, far from doing any good to Zionism, actually serves to accelerate the opposition to US imperialism and hasten the process of disintegration of the imperialist camp. In the words of Martin Indyk, twice US ambassador to Israel and US envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations: “When Israelis read the fine print about where recognition does not apply and realise the embassy is not going to be moved anytime soon, many of the right may feel duped.” He added: “And that’s where the speech will end up being too clever by half. Too little to fulfil the expansionist appetite of Israel’s right wing and its American evangelical supporters; too much to assuage the anger of Palestinians and their Arab and Muslim supporters” (‘Trump’s Jerusalem move may prove too clever by half’, Financial Times, 8 December 2017).
Mr Indyk’s penetrating observation has already been confirmed in practice. There have been violent protests in Palestine and elsewhere, and the US role in the so-called peace process has been rendered near-redundant, with president Mahmoud Abbas of Palestine calling off his long-awaited meeting with Trump.
Trump’s move has created serious problems for US imperialism’s Middle East flunkeys, especially Saudi Arabia and other medieval relics, who have been forced to condemn it. To say the least, Trump has lit a fire under his regional minions. It has put Saudi Arabia and the UAE Emirates in an embarrassing position at the very moment when they were increasing their security and intelligence cooperation with Israel in an effort to counter Iran’s increasing influence in the region. Having lit the fire under them, Trump has left his flunkeys to deal with the blaze. In the process, Trump’s announcement has served to increase the prestige of Iran – the very country targeted by the combined forces of US imperialism, Israel and the medieval Gulf autocracies which all found themselves on the same side condemning Trump’s decision.
Mohamed Javid Zaraf, Iran’s foreign minister, in a social media post, wrote: ”If half of the money spent by some regional rulers to encourage terrorism, extremism and sectarianism against neighbours was spent to liberate Palestine, we wouldn’t be facing this American arrogance”. Though he named no ruler, clearly his finger was pointed at Saudi Arabia and the UAE despots.
Even a Qatar-backed newspaper wrote: “The Trump administration would not have dared to take this step, which violates the rights of Palestinians, if it didn’t receive green light from the Arabs, or at least guarantees of silence by some Arab countries” (Al-Araby al-Jadeed).
Most compromised will be the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia (MBS) and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Zayed al-Nahyan, both of whom have formed strong ties with Trump
Trump’s latest escapade in the field of foreign policy has further complicated the already strained relations between the US and Turkey, one of the pillars of the warmongering neo-Nazi Nato alliance. President Erdogan has strongly condemned Trump’s decision as have all the members of the Islamic Cooperation Council.
On top of all of this, Trump, by his foolhardy decision, has caused dissension, disarray and mayhem in the imperialism camp. At a recent UN Security Council meeting, a resolution condemning Trump’s decision failed to pass only thanks to the US veto – all other 14 members, including its imperialist allies such as Britain and France, voted for it!
In parallel, the General Assembly of the UN passed by an overwhelming majority a resolution condemning Trump’s decision.
The US thus finds itself totally isolated. No other country – not even Britain – would agree to move their diplomatic missions to Jerusalem – in all likelihood not even the US will do so
Trump’s decision would turn out to be all sound and fury, signifying nothing. Its net effect would be to harm the interests of imperialism, especially US imperialism, its allies in the Middle East, while strengthening its opponents and exposing the duplicity and hypocrisy of the US ruling class.