Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

An enormous amount has been written about President Trump’s announcement about the U. S.’s moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Almost all of it has been completely predictable and I haven’t learned a great deal from it other than that Tom Friedman is a terrible negotiator.

The one piece that I liked was Shadi Hamid’s piece at the Atlantic. He opens with something that is obvious but, judging from the opinion pieces I’ve read, may come to many as a bolt from the blue—other Arab leaders don’t give a darn about the Palestinians:

Most Arab countries won’t care much about Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which might seem counterintuitive. The official announcement, though, comes at an important and peculiar time, when Arab regimes—particularly Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt—find themselves more aligned than ever with Israel on regional priorities. They all share, along with the Trump administration, a near obsession with Iran as the source of the region’s evils; a dislike, and even hatred, of the Muslim Brotherhood; and an opposition to the intent and legacy of the Arab Spring.

and he closes with an expression of bewilderment or, possibly, rhetorical opposition:

To be sure, Arabs are preoccupied with their own domestic problems, and the centrality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has always been overstated. But the status of Jerusalem, Islam’s third holiest site, has a way of resonating and sharpening divides. Why even test the proposition? Trump’s move on Jerusalem isn’t the end of the world or even the end of the peace process—which has been a fiction for some time now—but why give extremists or even non-extremists another way to stoke anti-American sentiment? Why further undermine an already undermined Palestinian Authority? If only there were Arab governments that were confident, cared about actual Muslims, and could reflect and convey the frustration that no doubt many Arabs will be feeling in the days and weeks ahead. That Arab world, as we’ve been reminded this week, does not exist.

Why, indeed? What does Trump want to accomplish by the move? Maybe, as his detractors could claim, it’s just another irrational tropism by Trump. Just for fun let’s assume it isn’t.

I tend to believe that domestic politics is always the best explanation of an American president’s actions whether in domestic policy or foreign policy. In the U. S. Israel is a wedge issue, dividing some Jews and evangelicals on the one hand from other Jews and progressives on the other. The Republican Party has been expressing unswerving support for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Likud for some time. The move may just be another step in that direction.

What message if any would the move send to the Chinese? It might be that Trump isn’t Clinton, Bush, or Obama.

I continue to have no opinion on this issue but the implications of this story for American politics and policy does interest me.

This post was originally published at The Glittering Eye.