I’ve been watching coverage of the Jerusalem decision today on the cable networks, especially CNN. It’s telling, almost painful, watching real experts trying – really trying – to interpret this decision as part of an effort to push the peace process forward. Maybe Trump’s gotten some secret concession from Prime Minister Netanyahu in exchange for this? Maybe this is the game changer that can free up the current impasse?
These are the kind of things it would make sense to think if you had a normal US President. The idea that you would just do something like this purely to gratify the Republican base, spurred by the President’s boredom and desire to upset people. That’s all unthinkable. Yet that is pretty clearly what is going on here.
I would say that this is 90% political and a matter of satisfying the President’s need for an act of self-assertion. The other 10% does slightly fall into the category of forward-moving gambits. It’s one you need to be exposed to the more extreme right-wing variants of Zionism to be familiar with.
It basically goes like this: What keeps the conflict going is Israel’s and the international community’s indulgence of unrealistic expectations on the part of the Palestinians. The path to peace is to make it totally clear, with established facts, that the Palestinians will essentially get nothing. Nothing here would be defined as a few autonomous self-governing zones within the West Bank under over-arching Israeli security control. No capital or even foothold in East Jerusalem. Not even a demilitarized version of sovereignty. No geographical contiguity. Nothing. Basically the right to self-govern in civil matters in the parts of the West Bank where there are too many Palestinians to outnumber with Israeli settlers. Once Palestinians expectations are set to a realistic level, you can get down to negotiations.
There are needless to say, a number of problems with this theory. But you hear it a lot as a sort of guiding theory of the case on the Zionist right. I would count it as 35% profoundly misguided idea, 65% mendacious self-assertion. That’s probably what the top Trumpers are telling themselves.
I would be remiss if I didn’t note the obvious. Not only did the President put the region’s issues in the hands of his neophyte son-in-law. He put it in the hands of a settlement activist. Obviously nothing possibly good can come of this.