What Trump Has Done: The Entire US-Middle East Political Framework Just Collapsed

Now that US President Donald Trump has fully adopted the Israeli rightwing political discourse on Palestine, the Palestinian Authority is in a very tough spot.

“I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” Trump said in Washington on Wednesday. The embattled president has done what many had asked him not to do. But the truth is, US foreign policy has been bankrupt for years. It was never fair, nor did it ever intend to be so.

Trump merely pulled the plug, not only on the so-called peace process, two-state solution, "land-for-peace formula" but also all the other tired clichés that have been long dead and decomposing.

But Trump’s announcement has also laid to rest the illusion that the US was ever keen on achieving a just and lasting peace between Israel and its neighbors.

What is left to be said by those who have placed the Palestinian national project of liberation on hold for nearly three decades, waiting for the US to fulfill its self-designated role of an "honest peace broker"?

The Fatah movement of President Mahmoud Abbas declared a "day of rage" in response to Trump’s announcement. Way to deflect attention from the real crisis at hand: the fact that the PA has miserably failed by leasing the fate of Palestine to Washington, and, by extension to Israel as well.

Some are arguing that the two-state solution is not a US property to keep or give away, and that Palestinians can continue to advocate what seems to them to be the sane and possible solution.

However, the unpleasant truth is that the "two-state solution" in its current form was itself an American formulation, part of a larger framework that was championed mostly by the US as it pushed Israelis and Palestinians to the "negotiation table" since the Madrid Talks in 1991.

Surely, there will be others who will attempt to continue playing that role, but what difference can Paris and London, for example, make if Tel Aviv and its powerful Washington benefactors have no interest in the subject whatsoever?

Trump’s announcement should not come as a complete surprise, though.

Between the hasty American withdrawal from Iraq, "pivot to Asia", "leading from behind" doctrine throughout the so-called "Arab Spring", and failure to press Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on freezing the illegal settlements in Occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank, US policies were growing bankrupt and futile.

This paved the road for a new type of thinking, one that moves away from pandering to Israel, while paying lip service to peace, to wholly embracing the Israeli political discourse and future outlook.

In fact, Trump’s recent announcement from Washington was a tamed version of his statement before the Israel lobby last year.

In March 2016, Republican presidential candidate Trump delivered his famous speech before the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Of the many false claims and dangerous promises Trump made, a particular passage stood unique, for it offered early clues to what the future administration’s policy on Israel and Palestine would look like.

“When the United States stands with Israel, the chances of peace really rise and rises exponentially. That’s what will happen when Donald Trump is president of the United States,” he declared.

“We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem,” he announced. The mixed cheers and applause were deafening.

Now that Trump is president, he inherited a failed Middle East policy from his predecessor, a policy that Trump finds of no benefit to his administration. What truly matters to the new president is the support of the very constituency that brought him to the White House in the first place. The rightwing, conservative, Christian-evangelical constituency remains the foundation of his troubled presidency.

So, on December 4, Trump picked up the phone and began calling Arab leaders, informing them of his decision to announce a move that has been delayed for many years: relocating the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Arabs fumed, for such a move would surely create further destabilization in a region that has been taken on a destructive course for years. Much of that instability is the outcome of misguided US policies, predicated on unwarranted wars and blind support for Israel.

Recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is the last straw in an ailing discourse. The US Middle East political framework of the past is collapsing to the confusion of US allies in the region, and, of course, the pleasure of Israel.

In fact, Trump’s decision constitutes a total US reversal in its approach towards the entire Middle East, considering that Palestine and Israel have been at the center of most of the region’s conflicts.

There are factors that made this embassy move an attractive option for the Trump administration:

The US is currently experiencing unprecedented political instability. Talks of impeaching the president are gaining momentum, while his officials are being paraded before Department of Justice investigators for various accusations, including collusion with foreign powers.

Under these circumstances, there is no decision or issue that Trump can approach without finding himself in a political storm, except one issue, that being Israel.

Being pro-Israel has historically united the US’s two main parties, the Congress, mainstream media and many Americans, lead among them Trump’s political base.

Indeed, when the Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995, Trump’s interest in politics was quite haphazard and entirely personal.

The Congress has gone even further. Attempting to twist the arm of the White House, it added a clause, giving the administration till May 1999, to carry out the Congress’s diktats or face a 50 percent cut in the State Departments’ budget allocated to “Acquisition and Maintenance of Buildings Abroad.”

To avoid violating the Congress’ public law, and to maintain a thread, however thin, of credibility, every US president has signed a six-month waiver; a loophole in the law that allowed the White House to postpone the relocation of the embassy.

Fast forward to Trump’s AIPAC speech. His pledge to move the embassy then seemed merely frivolous and opportunistic.

That was the wrong assessment, however. Collusion between the Trump’s team and Israel began even before he walked into the Oval House. They worked together to undermine UN efforts in December 2016 to pass a resolution condemning Israel’s continued illegal settlement in the Occupied Territories, including Jerusalem.

Chosen to lead the "peace" efforts was Trump’s son-in-law and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s good friend, Jared Kushner. Trump’s dedication to Israel was clearly not fleeting.

Trump has finally decided to shed a mask that every US president has worn for decades. And by doing so, the US will, oddly enough, negate the paradoxical role it carved for itself in the last 50 years – that of "peacemaker".

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His forthcoming book is The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story (Pluto Press, London). Baroud has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and is a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, University of California Santa Barbara. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net.

18 thoughts on “What Trump Has Done: The Entire US-Middle East Political Framework Just Collapsed”

  1. I know this is hardly politically correct but I still think that Muammar Gaddafi came the closest to a viable solution with his Isratin proposal-

    -Creation of a binational Jewish-Palestinian state called the “Federal Republic of the Holy Land”;

    -Partition of the state into 5 administrative regions, with Jerusalem as a city-state;

    -Return of all Palestinian refugees;

    -Supervision by the United Nations of free and fair elections on the first and second occasions;

    -Removal of weapons of mass destruction from the state;

    -Recognition of the state by the Arab League.

    Think about it.

    1. I guess also for everyone especially Muslims to stop being soo religious, I mean, why is a “holy” city such an important topic? I don’t see any fighting over Kalingrad

      1. It seems to me it’s the Israelis who hide behind a facade of religion. A complete facade. Most of them have little use for the Bible or for Torah (preferring the totally rabid Talmud). What most people refer to as the “Star of David” is more properly translated as the “Shield of David” (“Magen David”), which is much more appropriate. So-called “religion” is only used to deflect criticism.

        1. This isn’t a “religion” problem so much as a government policy conundrum. We must be clear that being Jewish or worshiping Judaism is not the issue here. It is Israeli government continuing to occupy Palestinian land, stifling dissent, creating massive surveillance apparatus,and actively discriminating against Arab, and to a lesser degree, Christian,citizens. It’s very interesting that these behaviors, when practiced by the US government, are condemned by many, whereas the israeli government gets a free pass,and more US federal tax dollars to occupy more land and build more “settlements” and spread wars all over the Middle East..

          1. Palestinian Christians are also Arabs and they’ve gotten the ugly side of the Zionist stick just as much as their Muslim brothers. Most of them still languish in the camps in Lebanon.

          2. Firstly, I agree with the problem being the Zionist Israeli thug government. It almost seems as if the Zionists have morphed into the very Nazis that once terrorized the Jewish people.

            It does seem to me that many misuse the term “Anti-Semitic”.

            Relating to or denoting a family of languages that includes Hebrew, Arabic, and Aramaic and certain ancient languages such as Phoenician and Akkadian, constituting the main subgroup of the Afro-Asiatic family.
            Relating to the peoples who speak the Semitic languages,
            especially (both) Hebrew AND Arabic. ◄
            Free Palestine.

          3. Morphing into Nazi beliefs and mores is the theme of “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” which got re-named ‘blade runner’. I found my first read of it because somebody returned it to the wrong place on the shelf and the title just pulled me in. The author Philip K Dick said in an interview that he had the Nurenburg trials as an inspiration, Nazis were killed for not having any empathy so the Allied judges had to suspend empathy toward the Nazis. Trouble with that is Empathy doesn’t repair itself. The opposite of empathy is socio or psychopathy. The latter two can be taught in a relatively short time. Empathy takes effort. Too bad they made that movie. They should have left it As Is.

            Once you cross over it’s almost impossible to change back You have to WANT to enjoy the happiness and well being of others.

            As to why Jerusalem became the religious icon in the shape of a city, it’s along a (THE) trade route between Egypt and Mesopotamia You want to go over land between the two you have to pass right by Jerusalem. Whoever controlled Jerusalem controlled the traffic Like a State Highway in a tiny little county where the speed limit arbitrarily goes from 55 to 25 abruptly so the sheriff can exploit the speed trap. To be fair, the wild roads in the region couldn’t be made safe. Jerusalem has a fortress aspect and whether the temporary owners wanted to protect the caravans is immaterial. People went that way because they didn’t want to be cut up, fed to the buzzards and since they would no longer be needing it all their cattle, merchandise and beasts of burden would just be taken.

            It’s almost extortion, call it Extortion Lite. And money IS the religion of the world.

        2. Very true. And the most devout Jews tend to be the least Zionist in nature. The ultra Orthodox folks in the US often mock the secular Zionist types for trying to make up for their lack of “Jewishness” with uber-macho displays of anti-Arab bombast.

      2. Religion matters a lot to people who have nothing else to hold on to. It’s about maintaining a sense of pride beneath the yoke of Western Imperialism. You don’t have to be a person of faith to respect their resolve.

    2. Having thought about it I’d conclude Gadaffi was not a general, historian, political scientist, or psychologist.

      Essentially, the Zionists have no material reason to give up their gains or back down on their ambitions.

      They have nukes, a modern army and a fanatical religion-inspired international base of support cutting across national and ethnic boundaries and through social strata from commoners to elites.

      These are people who have sold their souls and willing to sell out their non-believing neighbors and countries for Israel’s benefit, within narrowly defined materialist parameters for no other reason than personal ‘salvation’. Materialism and spirituality in sync, exempted from morality as morality itself.

      A real tyrannical dictator would have understood and appreciated what cornering that kind of ‘can’t prove a negative’ cultism means to accruing and keeping political power.

  2. It’s gotten to the point where the government/corporations don’t give a hoot about how or what they are doing is being perceived by observers anymore. It’s down to bare knuckles and peaked-out resources.

    The Israeli government has become an effective bellwether for US policies of surveillance, endless war, invasion and occupation of increasingly more land with more military..

  3. There is an automatic assumption that Trump’s base is Christian evangelical, and thus pro-Israel, and pro-Zionist expansionism. Wrong. These presumably pro-Israel base does not truly exist any more. Their self appointed leaders are certainly being loud and their media, including presumably pro-Trump Fox, keep on repeating ad-nauseum the same old canard. Fact is, Trump is losing his base, he is demoralizing his base, depriving them even of voice, with the exceptions of some web sites that are not giving up. If neocons think they can turn the clock back to the good old days when Republicans tamed Tea Party, and shut down disgust the base feels towards the growing war drums emanating from rabid neocon trumpets — they are wrong. People across mid-West, South, the working people of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — voted for Trump, the one who will end the wars, end the ravages that these Israel inspired wars inflicted on the economies of many American regions. The celebration of Wall Street will not change one bit what happens in those devastated regions. Just the opposite — neocons will punish them for endangering their control of the government.
    Even if there is such thing as hard core Zionist among Christian evangelicals, it is tiny compared to the number of people who know who is instigating wars, and what these wars have done to America.

    So, any attempt at reviving the blind, obedient Christian evangelicals and shoving them back into Zionist supporters, is dead on arrival. Republicans are trying to turn the ship back, to be the good old stupid cousin of clever and vicious Democratic neocon establishment, are over. People may be stupid, but not this stupid. They see reality around them, and they realize that Trump is now totally controlled, and does what told.

    But even when doing what told, or at least doing enough to get the vicious neocons off his back, he still has the capacity of wrecking their goals. Now, the landscape of Middle East has changed, and neocons are HOPING to turn this to their advantage — convincing stupid Americans that this rage is anti-American, not anti-Zionist — there is not turning back. US finances are at peril. Are we to blame the whole world? Is everyone indeed wrong, and our neocons the only one right? We are now more isolated then ever, and neocons love it this way. All they want is to have the stupid Americans again wave American flags for THEIR wars.

    1. “There is an automatic assumption that Trump’s base is Christian evangelical”

      Not exactly. One in four voters in the 2016 election identified as white evangelical Christians, and 80% of those voters voted for Trump. So of votes cast, white evangelicals accounted for 20% of Trump’s 47.23% of the total popular vote. That’s a significant component of his base. Whether or not it made the difference in his victory (which depended on 80,000 Rust Belt votes) is a different question.

      “and thus pro-Israel, and pro-Zionist expansionism”

      Polls seem to indicate that more than 2/3 of evangelicals match that description, but that the numbers are falling among millennials.

      It would be interesting, but very difficult, to get completely to the bottom of what role Zionism played in Trump’s vote totals. But it seems likely that that factor was at least a full order of magnitude larger than the factor of those who fooled themselves into believing that Trump had any intention of implementing a less interventionist foreign policy.

  4. Guatemala, the puppet dictatorship which is so hated by the people the Marines are called in to reinforce the political establishment. The pejorative Banana Republic was for Guatemala specifically. So is the term “Send in the Marines”…. They backed the play of their Wall Street master. You would think that puppet dictators around the world would be running to be next in line to kiss the Don’s ring.

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