Ron Kronish

The Recklessness and Inconsistency of Trump’s Unnecessary Announcement on Jerusalem

(photo, courtesy of Bonni Schiff)

In an article on the Times of Israel website yesterday (“Trump Touts Jerusalem announcement among 2017 successes”, January 1, 2018), it was reported that President Trump boasted that his statement about Jerusalem in early December 2017 was one of his great achievements. Yet, I and many people I know in Israel, feel strongly that this  announcement by Mr.Trump on Jerusalem last month was not only totally unnecessary but was foolish, reckless, provocative and destructive to the cause of peace.

It served absolutely no useful purpose except to solidify Trump’s evangelical Christian and general right-wing base in the U.S.A. (and in Israel).  Instead of doing anything positive, it instigated violence and served to unite most of the world against both Israel and the United States. It was a lose-lose move for his “foreign policy” which is unclear and inconsistent in many areas, including the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Both the Israelis and the Palestinians will suffer from this extraneous statement, which sets back the cause of peace.

Moreover, the statement was rife with contradictions that actually make no sense whatsoever and in practice it closes the door to his administration’s ability to broker a peace deal (what he has called “the ultimate deal”) between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Let me explain

Near the beginning of the speech, Trump proclaimed “it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.” But he never makes it clear which Jerusalem he is referring to. West Jerusalem? “United” (East and West) Jerusalem?  Moreover, Jerusalem is already the capital of Israel, and we don’t need him to “recognize” what is already the case.

Nor do we need the U.S. Embassy moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem until after a peace agreement is reached. Then, the American government can have two embassies in Jerusalem—one for the state of Israel and one for the state of Palestine.

Mr. Trump continued to put his foot in his mouth in his statement when he said: “I’ve judged this course of action to be in the best interests of the United States of America and the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.” Really? Who is he kidding?

This is clearly a case of Orwellian double-think and double talk. He and his advisors knew very well when they crafted this statement that it is NOT in the interest of the pursuit of peace. The opposite is the case. They knew very well that this would set the peace process back, if not kill it completely, which is exactly what most of their “base” in America and Israel want. Who are they trying to fool? No serious person can read this statement without laughing with tears, or simply being stupefied at the absurdity of the whole thing.

Trump and his cronies know very well that this move is not pro-peace. Rather, it is anti-Palestinian and against the best interests of Israel at this time, and therefore it is clearly  anti-peace. The American administration has  burnt their bridges now with the Palestinian leadership. Do any of them seriously think that the Palestinians can now consider the Americans as an honest broker in the “peace process”? Do any of them really conceive of this statement as wise or prudent diplomacy?  This is very doubtful since they know very well that the Palestinians have been ignored and insulted by this “official statement”.

And then, to top off the absurdity and inconsistency of the whole thing, Trump signed the waiver, preventing the move of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem for at least 6 more months! Why? Because, he and his advisors know very well that this act, if it were to be implemented (which it most likely will not, in the foreseeable future) would set Jerusalem on fire, rather than advance the cause of peace.

So, why did Trump and his people go through this whole meaningless and counter-productive charade? What was the logic behind this move?

When I raised this question in my family, one of my daughters said that one cannot connect the word “logic” to anything that Mr. Trump says or does. I think that she is probably correct.

In the end of the day, Trump’s statement  on Jerusalem last month will be recorded in history as just one more act of bluster by a man who shoots from the hip, and who should never have been elected president in the first place. He has no experience and no wisdom in diplomacy or foreign policy. Rather, he is all about emotional statements which are incoherent and relate more to internal American politics than anything else.

Anyone who deals seriously with the peace process in Israel—and who genuinely wants peace between Israelis and Palestinians (and not ongoing occupation, violence and war)—knows that Jerusalem will have to be shared between Israelis and Palestinians. No one side to the conflict can have the whole thing. Most of the world knows this too, which is why most international leaders denounced Trump’s statement as counter-productive to peace.

If the American president wants to advance the cause of peace, he should refrain from declarations which are clearly one-sided and which do nothing to bring peace between Palestinians and Israelis any closer. Otherwise, he is inciting to violence, and insulting the intelligence of most people by such useless  and egregiously inflammatory statements. In this case, it would have been better had Mr. Trump never made this announcement, since it clearly works against any possibility of progress towards peace.

It seems that we will have to wait out this president for any possible progress on the peace process (and for any real progress on many other issues). One can only hope that he will be impeached (the calls to impeach him for obstruction of justice are growing) or that some scandal will force him to resign, so that intelligent, sensitive and substantive attempts to revive the peace process can take place once again.

God bless America. Or, more to the point: God help us!

About the Author
Rabbi Dr Ron Kronish is the Founding Director the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel (ICCI), which he directed for 25 years. Now retired, he is an independent educator, author, lecturer, writer, speaker, blogger and consultant. He is the editor of 5 books, including Coexistence and Reconciliation in Israel--Voices for Interreligious Dialogue (Paulist Press, 2015). His new book, The Other Peace Process: Interreligious Dialogue, a View from Jerusalem, was published by Hamilton Books, an imprint of Rowman and LIttelfield, in September 2017. He recently (September 2022) published a new book about peacebuilders in Israel and Palestine entitled Profiles in Peace: Voices of Peacebuilders in the midst of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, which is available on Amazon Books, Barnes and Noble and the Book Depository websites,
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