Another Foreign Policy Unforced Error: Jerusalem

Trump Maladministration

Following Trump’s slurred announcement that the U.S. Embassy in Israel would be moved to Jerusalem, the State Department updated its Worldwide Caution alert to be sure Americans traveling abroad know there are Terrorists Out There. Of course.

Trump had absolutely no idea why the move to Jerusalem might be problematic.

President Trump did not completely grasp the ramifications of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, several advisers told The Washington Post.

Trump wanted to seem “pro-Israel” and focused on “making a deal,” two advisers told the Post.

According to the newspaper, some administration officials voicing their support for the decision included Vice President Pence and adviser Jared Kushner, who is also Trump’s son-in-law.

Others, though, advocated against the move, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis.

Trump on Wednesday recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announced plans to relocate the U.S. Embassy there.


The decision to shake off warnings from senior officials such as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and align himself instead with prominent proponents of the move, including Vice President Pence and major donor Sheldon Adelson, underscored the president’s determination to break with past policy and keep a key campaign pledge — despite the potential risks to U.S. interests in the region and the goal of Middle East peace.  …

… Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, had supported the move from early in Trump’s candidacy, and Pence, who is to visit Israel this month, told Trump that his base would love the decision, something the president liked to hear.

An important outside voice advising Trump to make the leap was [Sheldon] Adelson’s, according to several people familiar with the two men’s conversations. At a White House dinner earlier this year, Adelson made the issue a main topic, one person said. In the months that followed, Adelson periodically asked others close to Trump what was causing the delay and expressed frustration, these people said. …

… “It’s insane. We’re all resistant,” said one Trump confidant who recently spoke to the president about it. “He doesn’t realize what all he could trigger by doing this.”

While Trump appeared to have made up his mind, he continued to solicit input, two White House officials said, even asking random acquaintances about the Middle East in recent months. Several advisers said he did not seem to have a full understanding of the issue and instead appeared to be focused on “seeming pro-Israel,” in the words of one, and “making a deal,” in the words of another.

The WaPo article goes on to say that the announcement had nothing to do with any peace process, but rather was mostly about Trump wanting to keep a campaign promise. Of course, it was a stupid promise because moving our embassy to Jerusalem helps neither Israel nor the United States.

Presidents need to be able to play multi-dimensional chess. Trump can’t manage one-dimensional tic-tac-toe without screwing it up.

Juan Cole:

Some sections of the crazy quilt that makes up the Trump administration want to push Iran back out of the Arab world and weaken it, in support of Israel and Saudi Arabia. Those actors have just been handed a big setback by Trump’s slurred and crazed announcement that he will move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and recognize it as the capital. …

… It isn’t that everyone doesn’t already know that Washington is on board with screwing over the Palestinians and humiliating the Arabs. But Trump just flaunted it in everyone’s face.

But let us consider the Saudi cold war with Iran. Given the open Saudi signals of cooperation with Israel against Tehran and given the Al Saud’s embrace of Trump, Riyadh is implicated in the Jerusalem decision whether they like it or not. In the propaganda wars between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Iran just got a big boost.

Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani called up Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan and the two agreed that Jerusalem is the permanent capital of Palestine. Turkey is majority Sunni, while Iran is a Shiite republic. Any attempt to block Iran’s influence would have to aim at instigating bad relations between these two, among the most populous and wealthy countries in the Middle East.

Trump managed to bring Turkey and Iran together by what they called his “wrong” and “illegal” action. In fact, Rouhani called for all 56 Muslim-majority countries to make a stand against the US. Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that Jerusalem will always be Arab and Islamic. The country’s Leader, Ali Khamenei, also weighed in, pledging to organize the Muslim world for a response. So now the Iranians (not Arabs) are the champions of Arab nationalism, while Saudi Arabia and Egypt are supine. So Trump is helping make Iran a leader of the Muslim world. Good job.

Charles Pierce:

People who believe that the president* is a dealmaking genius—or, more precisely, the people who are paid to tell him they believe it—likely will see this move as a clever ploy to shock both sides into serious negotiations. Sensible people, however, will see this move as a man who fingerpaints with botulism. World leaders, of course, are basically aghast. Even Jared Kushner’s new pals, the Saudis, consider this a reckless idea. From Haaretz:

“Any U.S. announcement on the status of Jerusalem prior to a final settlement would have a detrimental impact on the peace process and would heighten tensions in the region,” Saudi Ambassador Prince Khalid bin Salman said in a statement. “The kingdom’s policy – has been – and remains in support of the Palestinian people, and this has been communicated to the U.S. administration.”

Jared Kushner is, of course, dumber than a bag of hammers, and the fact that this walking tribute to privileged cluelessness is in charge of our Middle East policy ought to scare the stuffing out of all of us. Politico reports that Kushner — who pushed for the move of the embassy — has no clue why this would jeopardize his good relations with the Saudis or threaten any negotiations regarding the Palestinians.

With the exception of Benjamin Netanyahu, world leaders have expressed strong condemnation of Trump’s move. And, truly, it was an unforced error. I’m not aware of any pressure being put on Trump to mess with the status quo. He did it because he wanted to.

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  1. Dan  •  Dec 7, 2017 @4:32 pm

    The "making a deal" thing is a total canard.  Trump made no deal, giving away in the process a valuable bargaining chip to no benefit and Yuge obvious detriment to US foreign policy.

  2. Swami  •  Dec 7, 2017 @8:33 pm

    I'm not at all surprised..This is the same guy who claimed he was going to "fix" Congress. And I don't think he meant it in the same sense that you would use fix if you said you were going to fix somebody's wagon. Although it is possible that's how he did mean it because he's causing a situation where the Congress critters are left to explain to their constituents why they tolerate the antics of such an ignorant jerk.. Like, why don't you do the right thing and impeach the idiot? His unfitness for office is abundantly clear.

  3. c u n d gulag  •  Dec 7, 2017 @8:40 pm

    I don't want to give tRUMP and conservatives too much credit, but if you take a longer view, this helps our "Christian" Reich-WIng and their corporatistFascist enablers.

    Right atfter "our" POTUS made his announcement, there was a call from some Middle Eastern Muslim groups for a "Day of Rage" tomorrow.

    Afterward a few weeks/monthsk of rage over there, I'm sure that Muslim terrorist groups will encourage members to go the the US to committ acts of terror here.

    Terror, HERE!
    This plays right into the conservatives hopes, dreams, and desires.

    In rhe name of security, this will enpower tRUMP and his Fascist backers, supporters, and base, to approve of measures which will severely clamp down on the rights of ALL OF US!

    Security will "trump" freedom and liberty – which won't prevent the Republicans in power from naming this clamp-down "The Most FreeDUMB-est and LiberTEA-est American Rights Program in HISTORY!!!!"

    And of course, how to pay for all of this extra security?
    Raise the taxes on the rich, you say? Or at least nullify the lastest "Tax Reform Bill," you beg. If you think that, I want whatever you're drinking, snorting, inhaling, chewing, shooting, etc.

    Ssecurity and freedom demand that the old, the sick, and the poor have to sacrifice, "too (like the rich and powerful will have any sacrifice).

    They will threaten to end Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.
    And if/when people protest, they'll say, "Ok, ok. Then let's keep them, but privatize them!"

    And so, the final steps will have been taken to make us into a full-fledged Banana Republic.
    And, with global warming, we may soon be able to grow actual banana's in places like NY, OH, ND, etc.

    Sure, there's some over-exageration in what I wrote. 
    But not too much, I fear………………………………………………

  4. c u n d gulag  •  Dec 7, 2017 @8:48 pm

    Also too –

    And as for keeping his campaign promises, I hope our POTUS (spit 3 times while crossing self), Orange U.N. Idjit, will keep the ones where he said he'd protect Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, from the raving maniacal nihilists in his own party, who want to take them apart with chainsaws, strong acid, and dynomite!  *

    Ghoul Ryan and Mitch McConman are not only drooling at those prospects, they have to keep changing their Depends because they're constantly wetting themselves just thinking about it.

    * But, I know THAT ain't gonna happen.



  5. Doug  •  Dec 7, 2017 @9:01 pm

    Sheldon. Now it makes sense. We don't have a secure site in jerusalem. We may have to build one considering security issues -not trivial. So in two years with Trump gearing up for reelection and unexpected delays… the only way it can be completed his if Trump is reelected. Hint hint Mr deep-pockets Sheldon.

  6. csm  •  Dec 8, 2017 @1:11 pm

    Doesn't surprise me that Kushner is not the brilliant intellect his public persona makes him out to be.  As a son-in-law, this apple certainly didn't fall too far from the tree.

  7. aj  •  Dec 9, 2017 @12:54 pm

    Adelson gave trump 20 million. 

  8. Procopius  •  Dec 12, 2017 @4:23 am

    Sorry I'm so late coming to this, but all the commentary so far has been about what a crazy, counterproductive, dangerous idea this is, or about his slurred speech, but what about his "blessings" at the end? What's this about, "God bless the UNIVERSAL SHURSH." ?