Donald Trump’s move shocked all who are used to mentioning “Israel” in the same breath as the word “occupation”, but it has an endgame that much of the European press and political establishment ignores, and that Islamic public opinion on the whole prefers to criminalize, at least for the time being. But in the long run, however, the recognition of Jerusalem in its reality as capital of the State of Israel is destined to positively bring into play first and foremost the dynamic segments of the Palestinian world, and perhaps also most of the Sunni world.
Yesterday, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz confirmed that Trump has just invited Palestinian President Abu Mazen to visit the White House, whereas in the meantime U.S. Vice President Michael Pence is scheduled to visit Israel and the West Bank later this month, and should have met the Rais in Bethlehem. However, Jibril Rajoub – a very important Palestinian figure who never misses an opportunity to demonize Israel as a murderer and a criminal – announced that the meeting was cancelled. What do the Palestinians therefore want to do? Avoid any contact with the American administration? Given the difficulties of the Palestinian Authority at present that wouldn’t be advisable.
However, much depends upon the Arab world’s attitude: for now their statements have been very severe, but the hate speech and violent incitement used by the Iranians defy imagination. The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) sees the U.S.’s decision to recognize “the fake and child-killing regime” as “cheap and foolish”, and promises revenge against “the usurpers of oppressed Palestine”, and assures that it is determined to the cause of liberating the holy Quds” and to “put an immediate end to the criminal regime of Zionists and remove the cancerous tumor of Zionism from the body of the body of the Islamic world.” However, despite numerous protests, there was no such anger among the Palestinians yesterday, but we will see.
Actually, Trump has not made his move without a series of well-considered reasons. First of all, even if now the Saudis and the Egyptians out of honor declare themselves outraged, in the long term it will be difficult for them to not only back out of an alliance with the U.S. that pledges to stand alongside them in the fight against their worst enemy Iran, but also to abandon their common interests with Israel. It’s easier to imagine, instead, that Trump has made up his mind that he’s the guarantor of a future realistic peace deal, which he has declared he wants to reach by rebooting the Saudi peace plan that dates back to 1981, and that his Middle East policy takes into account a division into zones of influence between America and Russia.
Trump’s decision to let Israel determine its own capital like every other sovereign nation, he specified, didn’t mean that Jerusalem’s boundaries were final because that could only be established through negotiations. The U.S. embassy’s move is still a long way away, and it’s mitigated by the request to maintain the status quo in Jerusalem. Trump hasn’t presented himself with arrogance, but his decision has a strategic background: last Tuesday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Taylor Force Act, named after the American citizen who was stabbed to death in 2016 by a Palestinian terrorist in Tel Aviv, which establishes that the $280 million that the U.S. pays to assist the Palestinians will be greatly reduced unless Abu Mazen ceases to pay stipends to convicted terrorists and their families: this is also a pressing invitation to change their narrative of omnipotence, to stop using terror while the world sanctifies them with “two states for two peoples”.
It’s a 360-degree turn with respect to UN Security Council Resolution 2334 that Obama supported with a vote of abstention by declaring Judaism’s holiest places as “territories occupied in flagrant violation under international law”. In addition, it was an angry gesture against Netanyahu who had opposed his policy toward Iran. The Palestinians stagnation, poverty, and the desire to get out of the trap they created for themselves with an Islamist reading of the Israeli presence in the region, could now finally be overcome. Trump hopes that common sense will prevail and that they will eventually jump on the bandwagon.
Still, the slogan “Al Aqsa Mosque is in danger” can induce the same old killing drunkenness. Ideology makes people blind, and it remains to be seen if Abu Mazen will accept the invitation, but this seems difficult.
Trump hopes that the leverage he has used will lead to the Palestinians, along with the Muslim world, to exercise good judgment but ideology makes people blind, and perhaps an American from New York doesn’t fully understand the power of a fanatic religion. This is the great question mark that will be answered in the coming days.
Translation by Amy Rosenthal
This article originally appeared in slightly different form in Italian in Il Giornale (December 9, 2017)