Monday marked the 70th anniversary of the Israeli Declaration of Independence. The United States’ birthday gift to Israel was to finally move the American embassy to Jerusalem.
The decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem was widely condemned by both the foreign policy smart set and foreign governments. However, what Trump did was not radical in any sense of the word. For all the histrionics from the foreign policy establishment, the Europeans, and elsewhere that this destroys years of agreements and precedent, Trump did not comment on what he thought the final status of Jerusalem would or should be in any deal with the Palestinians.
The Ongoing Problem
Trump has a tendency to not care what anyone thinks and just do things on a whim. Sometimes, this gets him into trouble. But in this case, it shined a bright light on an important problem. Politicians of all varieties from seemingly every country have tried to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but it remains unsolved.
If you were to listen to the UN or the EU, you would think that the sole issue facing the two sides was land and land alone. It is the driving idea behind the many Security Council Resolutions condemning Israel.
However, another Palestinian demand is the so-called Right of Return. On Monday, Hamas orchestrated a massive “protest” charging Israel’s southern border. The group’s goal was to infiltrate the country and commit acts of terrorism in support of their “right.”
Of course, Hamas committing acts of terrorism is nothing new. This time, they used the embassy opening as a cover because they know how to manipulate the American and European left. Hamas especially manipulated those who work in the news media, or who spend most of their time around college campuses.
Nobody in the “international community” has the guts to tell Hamas that they govern an autonomous Gaza, and have been for over a decade. Likewise, nobody seems to have the courage to tell the Palestinians that their demands are not workable. No Israeli prime minister, left, right, or center, is going to accept their terms. Not even former prime minister Ehud Barak went that far in 2000. But for the Netanyahu haters, the Clinton Administration is ancient history.
A Strong Example
Trump’s decision to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem was the right thing to do. It was right not only because it acknowledged reality, but also because it exposed flaws in the conventional wisdom surrounding the issue.
For years, Presidents of both parties have believed that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would bring peace throughout the Middle East. The Trump Administration wisely rejects this view. They want a peace deal and are willing, as Nikki Haley told Abbas, “to talk, but we will not chase after you.”
This marks a significant departure from the previous administration. Obama viewed an airtight relationship with Israel as a liability that prevented us from improving relations with Iran.
Trump’s Middle East policy is far more simple. Iran is the greatest threat to peace and stability in the region. Thus, if Iran is another nation’s enemy too, then we can work together. Trump, seeing that Iran has not moderated since the nuclear deal, views Israel as an asset. He also views the Iranian government as being populated with liars and cheats. Thus, Israel provides a significant portion of Trump’s diverse anti-Iran regional counterweight.
This explains the Trump administration’s tight relationship with both Israel and other Middle East nations. Relations with Saudi Arabia are arguably the best they have been since Desert Storm. Relations between Israel and countries such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and even the United Arab Emirates have never been better.
Solving a Local Crisis
In this context, the Israeli-Palestinian issue is a local issue–not the regional issue or obstacle to peace and stability it is often portrayed to be. That obstacle would be Iran, and recent events show that the Arab Gulf States concur in this assessment.
Thus, Trump’s Israel policies make perfect sense. There was no peace deal that would end with a city other than Jerusalem being Israel’s capital. There is going to be no “right of return.”
Those who consider themselves to be champions of the Palestinian need to seriously examine their absolutist list of demands. The Trump Administration is not going to kowtow before them in the way that Obama and Kerry did. In the words of the Saudi Crown Prince, they need to “shut up and stop complaining.”