Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel did not come as a surprise, except to those who either lack political logic or are complicit and thus content with what has happened. There was no use for the hesitant statements that warned Trump against making such a move, which ironically will have severe consequences on US interests in the region. Trump would not have dared to make such a decision if he wasn’t convinced that the Arab leadership would do nothing to stop it, other than perfunctory condemnation in order to save face in front of their people. This keeps them from having to take any practical measures.
We cannot blame Trump for what he did, nor can we blame Israel for its elation over its unprecedented achievement, for which it worked hard, after guaranteeing the official Arab world’s silence. The US President did nothing more than keep his election promise that he made, particularly to the religious right, a year ago. He is well aware that he has increased his political and electoral credibility within such circles. In his speech at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual meeting before the presidential election last year, Trump vowed to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US Embassy to the city; he wanted electoral support from the influential pro-Israel lobby. Hence, he has simply kept one of his electoral promises, albeit at the expense of the Palestinians. His boast about being the only US President to act on this issue will stand him in good stead for the next election, unless he is impeached before he even gets there.
We can say with confidence that his move was inevitable, given that in 1995 the US Congress decided to acknowledge Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. That decision was made in the midst of the so-called peace process. Since then, no US president has dared to implement the resolution out of fear of its consequences on negotiations and US interests in the region.
The embassy move could take two years to implement, according to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Trump made his decision without taking the repercussions into consideration, including those affecting US interests. He appears to have gone ahead only after guaranteeing the backing of Arab and Muslim leaders; this was reported by the New York Times a few days ago. He certainly tested the waters, and a deal of sorts has been hinted at by local and international media recently. No one expects these leaders to speak out against Trump’s foolish decision or ask him to reconsider, as they were involved with him in making it, based upon their own calculations and links with Washington. As such, while some may appear to condemn Trump’s decision publically, they are actually supportive; all that Trump had to do was declare Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Some of the Arab leaders did not disappoint us with their weak and hesitant positions, especially the big countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, who have sunk to a new level of failure and disappointment. The worst reactions, though, came from those who did not condemn Trump, but rather warned against radicals exploiting the situation in order to justify violence. That was the position of Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri at an Arab League meeting.
If anything is worse than Trump’s decision, it is the degenerate state of Arab intellectuals who, instead of rejecting the Jerusalem move actually attacked the Palestinians and blamed them for what happened. Such claims were based on the false narrative that the Palestinians surrendered and sold their land to the Israelis, as illustrated by a tweet posted by a well-known Saudi intellectual. Another writer explicitly accused the Palestinian resistance movements of losing Jerusalem, in a clear example of how reality has been distorted.
All of this demonstrates that the only real advocates of the Palestinian cause are the people who have flocked to public squares across the region in a show of solidarity that neither Trump nor his Arab lackeys expected. Nevertheless, we face a new Arab failure over a cause that we used to believe was the most just and legitimate, not only in the Middle East, but in the whole world.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.