At a first glance, the recent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by US President Donald Trump looks like an empty gesture, if not an irrational and unwanted declarationa, which fomented violence.
Russia recognized west Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and east Jerusalem as a Palestinian capital, before Trump’s announcement.
Trump did not move the US embassy in Tel Aviv, and in fact gave nothing to Israel, other than increased Palestinian rioting, after being warned not to go ahead with this announcement. Israel’s gains are nowhere to be seen.
This, at least is according to the Western utility-based view, which weighs all steps by their costs and gains.
Yet there are more successful ways of viewing such developments. The Russian strategic thinking, for example, does not focus on end state production logic, which dominates Western thinking. In the Western mindset, there is no room for emerging phenomena. Russian thinking, by contrast, is non-linear and non-predictive.
Western decision makers look at events that ‘veer off course’ as accidents that need to be fixed and studied, much like engineers investigating why a rocket blew up at the launch stage. Yet rocket engineering takes place in a closed system, while strategy is an open system – a fact that Trump understands, due to this business background. The economy is also an open system.
Strategy is based on the assumption of marching into the unknown.
Instead of setting a main purpose and then calculating all steps from start to finish in line with the goal of reaching it, the correct path is to realize that in strategy, one operates in a changing environment.
Planning every stage, step by step, leaves no ability to respond to changes.
Instead, taking a step and then stopping to see what has changed, before reassessing and moving again, is the correct approach. This is the Russian doctrine. It still rests on an end vision, but lacks a start-to-finish plan on how to get there. Action is designed to deliver shocks to the system, causing it to reorganize itself. On this basis, a new system is created, which is then studied. A chain of campaigns follows.
Russia’s approach is to create friction, to become a part of the eco system, and then influence the rearrangement of the system.
Trump’s calculated jolt
Trump appears to be thinking in a similar way. He has abandoned the idea of pursuing the same dead end peace plans promoted by his predecessors, US Presidents Barack Obama, George Bush, and Bill Clinton. Instead, he sought to shake up the system in a highly calculated manner, and march into the unknown.
Yet Trump did not jump over a cliff. He left one stable leg on the ground. Trump did not explicitly abandon the two-state solution, nor did he recognize Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria.
Trump, in essence, realized that the current situation is leading nowhere, and threw a rock into the water to muddy it and see how the system would rearrange itself.
He left himself an exit point, saying he was merely recognizing what de facto already exists in Jerusalem – Israel’s parliament, high court, and the seat of government.
This delivered a shock to the system, which is currently responding. The way in which events unfold can form a basis for the next step.
This is similar to a military tactic seeking to get an enemy to give up its position, by sending a forward reconnaissance unit, provoking enemy fire, and mapping out its position.
As a result of Trump’s declaration, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held a conference with Jordan’s King Abdullah and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to push back against Trump – yet Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi attempted to stop Abbas and Abdullah from attending, underlining a crack.
The Palestinian Authority and Hamas are each responding to the declaration, and the Palestinian arena is united on this issue at least, that any scenario that does not include Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine is intolerable.
The Israeli interest
Ultimately, these events serve Israel’s interests of maintaining a united Jerusalem – a need that was recognized by former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who declared this in a speech to the Knesset in 1995 prior to his assassination. Rabin’s goal was to provide Israel with stability, which the Palestinian Authority was designed to provide.
Only later, from the time of the 2000 Barak – Clinton proposals onward, did the idea of splitting Jerusalem appear as an Israeli government position.
Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s offer was repeated by the ex premier Ehud Olmert, and Abbas demanded that the next Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, use Olmert’s offer as the starting point of future negotiations.
Netanyahu has rejected this demand.
Trump understood what his predecessors did not. After the mass terrorism of the second intifada, and the conversion of Gaza into an enemy Hamas territory after Israel’s withdrawal from it, Israeli society no longer believes in the idea of giving land for stability, or in the ability of the US to supervise and guard this stability.
Trump therefore proceeded with a recognition of Jerusalem, assisting Israel’s position, which holds that even if a Palestinian state is formed, it will not be based on the Barak – Olmert parameters of dividing Jerusalem.
By doing so, he closed the door to future blackmail and demands from the Palestinian side, which is welcome news indeed for Israel.
Edited By Benjamin Anthony
Notice: The views expressed above do not represent the views of the IDF or the Foreign Ministry. They are reflective solely of the views of the author.