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Why is Trump moving on Jerusalem now?

US President Donald Trump at the white house on 28 November 2017 [Samuel Corum/Facebook]
US President Donald Trump at the white house on 28 November 2017 [Samuel Corum/Facebook]

In comparison to the focus on opposition to the move and its possible ramifications, relatively little has been said about why Donald Trump’s administration has decided to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and signal its intent to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv.

For example, one widely-shared piece of analysis does not really answer the question in its title, namely, “Why is Trump undoing decades of US policy on Jerusalem?”

I believe there are three main reasons, none of which are mutually exclusive.

First, US domestic politics. Today’s announcement plays well with Trump’s base amongst right-wing Christian evangelicals, as well as with the likes of influential individuals like Sheldon Adelson. “Hallelujah!” proclaims alt-right site Breitbart’s main splash today, welcoming the news.

The fact that such constituencies are already committed to Trump does not rule out the fact that policy steps can be taken as a gift to the converted; Trump-ism has never been about building wide coalitions, or reaching out across various divides, but about energising and mobilising a base.

Read: The legal, political and popular consequences of Trump’s plans for Jerusalem

Don’t forget, of course, that a pledge to move the US embassy to Jerusalem was part of Trump’s election campaign; for a president who has struggled to fulfil his promises, a win is a win.

Second, Benjamin Netanyahu, along with other senior Israeli officials, might well have done a good job in persuading the Trump administration to make such a move – something that the likes of Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and US envoy to Israel David Friedman would be personally amenable to anyway.

For Netanyahu – and this is already evident in remarks made this morning – such a shift in American policy fits nicely with his narrative about a confident, nationalistic Israel expanding its diplomatic ties, the warnings of international isolation from his political enemies shown to be hollow threats.

Whether Trump’s decision on Jerusalem is actually in the best interests of Netanyahu, or his coalition, is a separate matter; but misguided or otherwise, Netanyahu would appear to have been urging the Trump administration to take such a step.

Read: Palestinian leaders should stop discussing Jerusalem within the context of negotiations

Third – and this is perhaps where many commentators are missing a trick – the Trump administration might well envisage, and justify, the Jerusalem shift in the context of its much-heralded efforts at securing the “deal of the century”.

At first glance this can seem counter-intuitive, since everyone from Jordan to the European Union has criticised the Jerusalem announcement as detrimental to efforts at advancing so-called Israeli-Palestinian “peace” and a “two-state solution”.


In fact, the Trump administration is more likely to view, and present, the Jerusalem move as a gesture to Israel that will create the expectancy or pressure for a corresponding “gesture” in return, such as economic-focused measures in the occupied West Bank.

Whether or not this calculation quite adds up, is another question – though Mahmoud Abbas and his team have, over the years, demonstrated a notable capacity for giving US efforts “one more chance”.

In other words, rather than being an inexplicable spanner in the works of the Trump administration’s wider efforts at birthing the “ultimate deal”, the White House – and perhaps Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman too – may well see the move as part and parcel of that very project (hence the weak response, thus far, from Riyadh).

On the ground, meanwhile, the reality for Palestinian residents of what is an apartheid city remains unchanged: home demolitions, municipal discrimination, brutal raids, and settler-driven displacement. This is Jerusalem’s grim reality that, by their long-standing inaction, Israel’s allies have played a crucial role in facilitating. Trump thus joins a crowded field of the complicit.

ArticleAsia & AmericasDebatesIsraelMiddle EastOpinionPalestineUS
  • nooraza othman

    This TERRORIST ZioNAZI Trump is Lucifer’s DEMON!!!!!!

    • nooraza othman

      Terrorist US-Trump/ISrael Zionist DEMONS never have any right to colonize PALESTINE and the Indigenous Palestinian Muslims/Orthodox Catholics, nor Al Quds/Baitulmaqdis/Jerusalem!

      • Kaminoyona

        Arabs are not indigenous to that region,like Islam they are the invader.

        • Jn Githinji

          You are spot on!

          • nooraza othman

            ZioNazi PSYCHOS tend to lick each other’s FILTH!

        • nooraza othman

          The real INVADERS are uZionist PSYCHO mass murderers/rapists/robbers/organ-tissue traffickers in sewer ISrael hole there – who are actually the greatest COWARDS in the world, who can only murder unarmed or less-armed INDIGENOUS Palestinian/Iraqi/Syrian uslims/Orthodox Catholics!

        • Barzini

          That’s not true at all……the Arab invasion only brought a change in aristocracy, the farmers tilling the land remained unchanged (ie the Palestinians)

          The Palestinians have been there since the beginning and converted to Islam either by choice or force

          Similarly, England was invaded by the Romans and the Normans – but the people living there barely changed at all

          Ashkenazis, on the other hand, come from Europe and have no ties of any kind with the Middle East

    • Kaminoyona

      No such thing as demons or the myth “lucifer”…

      • nooraza othman

        Which evil planet are you from, uZio DEMON?

        • Ld_Elon_Postman_RoyalMale

          They are of planet waste land.

      • Ld_Elon_Postman_RoyalMale

        You tell him no such thing as entity with zero point energy … = purely energetic {black} beings that feed {absorbe/consume of data} on the photonic being.. =0
        YOU tell him pleb.

  • H Mokhbat

    The declaration of Tramp is going to be the end of Israel soon, why? Because Al-Aqsa mosque is the only issue which is going to unite the Muslims allover the world excluding Egypt, United Arab Emirate and Saudi Arabia.

    • Ld_Elon_Postman_RoyalMale

      Don was happy to sign this.
      Was a good plan all along.
      >Not to be recognised.

      You should cheers the death by, la fuhrer.
      Benny will be reeling in the pain @ this moment …
      So cucked.

  • bonami

    Sounds like Israel called in a favor with Trump to balance off the UN vote that has received no coverage in the US’s MSM. Last Thursday the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to disavow Israeli ties to Jerusalem as part of six anti-Israel resolutions it approved on Thursday in New York. The vote was 151 in favor and six against, with nine abstentions. Only six countries out of 193 UN member states fully supported Israel’s ties Jerusalem: Canada, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, the United States and Israel itself.

  • Ld_Elon_Postman_RoyalMale

    Golden bullet – last card play >Its the legal distractive way.
    YOU wus distracted from the REAL news, spin.