For someone who’s an isolationist and protectionist, President Donald J. Trump sure has an odd way of showing it. He appointed son-in-law Jared Kushner to lead the White House’s Mideast peace team only to sabotage any chance of achieving that goal by moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, thereby acknowledging Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and enraging the Palestinians. While Kushner and wife Ivanka Trump were celebrating the dedication of the American embassy there yesterday on the 70th anniversary of the founding of Israel – along with preacher John Hagee, who once said that all Jews were going to Hell – the Palestinians in turn clashed with Israeli soldiers 40 miles away in Gaza where more than 50 were killed and more than 1,000 injured.
The problems of the Israelis and Palestinians preceded Trump and they will be there long after he leaves office. As I told one sympathetic American Jew who’s been on listening tours of the West Bank and is writing his thoughts on a peace plan, there can be no solution as long as each group wants exclusive rights to the land. The only possible solution is a two-state one with a firmly defined border. And yet, each group has a claim on Jerusalem, as do Christians (particularly the pro-Israeli Evangelicals, the core of Trump’s base, who believe that the Second Coming of Jesus won’t occur until Israel is converted). Why have the Israelis made bedfellows of these Christians? And where does all of this leave us?
It leaves us with an untenable situation that destroys any chance for peace negotiations any time soon.
In the meantime, Trump continues his passive-aggressive game with the Chinese over tariffs. Supporters will tell you this is merely a negotiating tool, but one man’s negotiating is another’s cluelessness. And it suggests a kind of selective prejudice on Trump’s part. I mean, are the nuclear Iranians any more or less murderous than the nuclear North Koreans? Yet the North Koreans get the American eagle’s olive branch while the Iranians get its arrows.
Is this the result of post-9/11 history, which casts Muslims and Americans on opposite sides? Then how to explain Trump’s overtures to the Saudis, who have interjected themselves disastrously in Yemen’s civil war? Is it about playing to his base – or merely those with money and/or power?
Or is this about nothing more than the narcissistic whim of the day? One thing is always certain: Trump is forever playing a zero-sum game in which he’s the only winner. That leaves little room for peace, a win-win for all.