Earlier this month, President Trump announced that he intends to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Numerous pundits and analysts have declared Trump’s announcement to be the worst possible thing that could happen for peace in the Middle East. (The Washington Free Beacon has a good rundown of all the doomsday predictions.) There was an instance of a Red Crescent ambulance providing transport for rioters. There was also Mahmoud Abbas calling for an Orwellian-like “Day of Rage,” and Hamas saying that Trump’s announcements open up “the Gates of Hell.”
None of this is a new development. Plus, if other nations’ responses are any indication, this Jerusalem announcement ultimately won’t be a big deal.
Identifying Real Threats
The idea that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel has been around for thousands of years. The idea that Jerusalem is the capital of some state called Palestine has been around for, at most, 50 years. This idea was built on a false interpretation of the geopolitical facts before and after 1967’s Six Day War.
Because this historic misnomer is popular, Arab countries will likely continue to issue statements of displeasure in public. However, they ultimately won’t do more than just posture. This is because Arab countries simply have more important things to worry about than Jerusalem.
Countries like Saudi Arabia are much more concerned about Iran than they are about whether Palestinians should have a state. Saudi Arabia, of course, toed the Arab party line in its official statement on Trump’s Jerusalem decision. However, considering the predictions that came from champions of the “peace process,” the response from Arab governments has been underwhelming. These nations view Iran as the greatest threat to peace and stability in the region, and now feel they have an anti-Iran ally in Washington.
The crux of the matter is that Israel is not a threat to the Arab World, but Iran is. After making some noise, Arab leaders will realize that they need the United States’ assistance to tackle more pressing problems. In the world of realpolitik, addressing true threats that is all that matters.
Moving Toward Cooperation
In a twisted and backwards way, Barack Obama’s policy toward Iran actually worked. It did more to bring Israel and its Arab neighbors together than any State Department or UN peace initiative could. Despite its statement, the New York Times reports that Saudi Arabia–yes, that Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam; not the United States and not Benjamin Netanyahu–proposed to Abbas that:
The Palestinians would get a state of their own but only noncontiguous parts of the West Bank and only limited sovereignty over their own territory. The vast majority of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which most of the world considers illegal, would remain. The Palestinians would not be given East Jerusalem as their capital and there would be no right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants
Further, the public position Saudi Arabia took in the annual meeting of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation is no different from the European Union’s. (However, Saudi Arabia did not comment on West Jerusalem.)
The idea that a country the size of New Jersey can produce all of the Middle East’s problems was always ridiculous. Trump’s Jerusalem policy proves just that. The biggest threat to peace and stability in the Middle East will continue to be terrorism, whether that be Sunni elements such as ISIS or Al-Qaeda and or Iran and its Shia proxies.