Donald Trump’s imminent arrival in the White House has become a source of anxiety and panic. For certain, there are many things to be worried about including his pledge to create a Muslim database and to ban Muslims from entering the US. Though his pledges alone are of grave concern, they are far from being the most disconcerting.
Trump will in all likelihood push America towards dangerous levels of illiberalism and intolerance. Not only will he make life for minorities in the United States extremely difficult, he will also embolden reactionary forces within the US that will continue to play a prominent role in US politics years after he has gone.
However, the gravest threat posed by Trump is not domestic, but international. President Obama, despite his many faults, couldn’t be accused of being ignorant of the Middle East or the nature of the threat posed by terrorism. Trump on the other hand is the complete opposite; one might even say he is delusional about the problems of the Middle East as well as being delusional about his ability as president to solve them.
Trump’s lack of knowledge isn’t of course the main problem – it’s also his temperament. Trump’s eccentricity has become a cultural meme. A cocktail of Trumps brashness, bravado and impenetrable confidence is a toxic mix, which if inhabited by a person about to occupy, what still remains the most powerful position in the world, will prove disastrous.
It’s not too much of an exaggeration to suggest that Trump suffers a personality disorder to match the mythical Greek character Narcissus himself. The self-obsession of Narcissus, from which comes the word and illness of “narcissism”, resulted in his own death.
Trump regularly shows that the only thing more dangerous than an ignoramus with power is an ignoramus with power enthralled by his own “achievement” and self-belief. Only yesterday, he called for the expansion of the United States’ nuclear capabilities until the world “comes to its senses”. Putting aside the obvious peculiarity of an incoming president announcing policy over Twitter, most will agree that it is he who needs to come to his senses.
Mr Trump’s worldview is informed by misinformation, lies and conspiracies. He has not only surrounded himself with conspiracy theorists, he is known to have pushed 58 conspiracies while he was on the road to the White House. His record is only matched by other extremist reactionary forces of this world that also view the world through a lens of misinformation, lies and conspiracies.
Despite his election victory – which capitalised on fear not facts – Trump does not actually speak for the vast majority of Americans. His entire political campaign and initial pledges is that of a man locked in battle with extremist and reactionary groups. He is in a symbiotic relationship with militants like Daesh that need a Trump-like figure to support their propaganda that the West is at war with Islam, just as Trump needs Daesh to justify his crazy policies and appease his own extremist constituency. In doing so, the next President of the United States will be fuelling the dangerous narrative of a clash of civilisations, which is exactly what Daesh will be hoping for. The depressing consequence will be more terrorism not less.
This alone should give us pause for concern. However, Trump would not be Trump if he did not attempt the challenge that has eluded so many previous US presidents – the Palestinian question. Here, too, Trump is attempting the unthinkable; to legitimise Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem by pledging to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to occupied Jerusalem.
The consequences of this move are extremely grave to say the least. Trump will not only be going against the position of previous US administrations, the international community and undermining international law, but he will also be setting himself against 1.6 billion Muslims and 50 Muslim majority countries in the world. It’s a recipe for disaster that will plant the seeds of conflict for generations to come.
While many would agree that the status quo can no longer be sustained, a unilateral move to relocate Washington’s diplomatic mission to Jerusalem will encourage more occupation, colonisation and suppression of human rights and is therefore terribly misguided and dangerous. However, knowing what we already know about Trump, this kind of gung-ho approach to the Middle East should not surprise us.
Informed by a cabinet that is the least educated but wealthiest in US history, Trump will have very little knowledge about the history of the conflict and the consequences of his actions. His designated ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, makes Netanyahu look like a left-wing dove. Friedman, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, hails from the Israeli camp that opposes the two-state settlement, has denigrated Obama as an anti-Semite, supports settlements and advocates annexation and questioned the citizenship of Israeli-Arabs. The article concludes that “he is not an ambassador that a rational US administration would send if it had any plans whatsoever to advance the peace process.”
It goes without saying that Trump has acquiesced to Israeli propaganda and believes that an “undivided Jerusalem” should be the capital of Israel. It is also clear that Trump completely disregards history and international law. As another article neatly summarises, Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem is not recognised by the international community and goes against international law.
Israel’s annexation is strictly forbidden in the UN Charter and subsequent treaties and instruments, including the Rome Statute that created the International Criminal Court. Moreover, military occupiers may not radically alter the way of life of the people they occupy (see the 1907 Hague Agreement and the 1949 Geneva Accords for examples). Israel’s occupation of the Palestinians has become illegal because of extensive apartheid policies.
Trump also seems to not be perturbed by the consequences of this unilateral move. The Secretary-General of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), Saeb Erekat, has warned that the PLO will revoke all previously signed agreements with Israel as well as the PLO’s 1993 recognition of Israel if Trump follows through on his pledge to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Before warning that “any hope of peace in the future will just vanish,” he said that such a move would indicate the US’s acceptance of “Israel’s illegal annexation of East Jerusalem.”
Trump has flung himself onto the international stage without a life vest. While he may not drown, he will certainly pull everyone else down to survive. His machismo approach to politics will be disastrous for the region and the international community. The President-elect would be best advised to rethink everything he knows about the Middle East and reconsider his approach towards Muslims and Palestine. The least he should do is not make things worse, which unfortunately for everyone else seems very unlikely.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.