Welcome to another episode of “Donald, Jared, and Donald’s Company Lawyer Bring Peace to the Middle East With No Trouble Whatsoever.” Today, Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and announced plans to move the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv, fulfilling a campaign pledge at the cost of regional stability, Palestinian interests, and the longstanding (if dubious) American position as a “neutral broker” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Flanked by two portly Christmas trees, with Vice President Pence peeking over his shoulder like a very determined evangelical elf, Trump delivered a speech announcing “a long overdue step to advance the peace process,” which is an interesting way to frame a move that infuriated just about every other country and sparked massive protests across Palestinian territory. When built, Trump declared, the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem “will be a magnificent tribute to peace.” Which is half-correct! It will definitely be a tribute to something. But probably not peace.
Everyone from Boris Johnson to Pope Francis has condemned the move, while Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström went ahead and called it “catastrophic.” Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally, called the decision “a flagrant provocation to Muslims.” But as we know, there’s nothing Trump loves more than a reckless, hotly anticipated policy announcement that isolates the United States from the rest of the world. It’s worth noting, too, that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer directly encouraged this move, in spite of its implications. Democrats are divided on the issue, although the Senate voted unanimously in favor of a resolution that included language encouraging the president to move the embassy.
Trump’s unusually decipherable speech noted that in 1995, Congress passed a bill formally recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and proclaiming that the U.S. embassy would be moved there. (Israel already considers all of Jerusalem to be its capital.) It automatically became law after Clinton declined to sign it, and he used the legislation’s waiver authority to postpone the embassy move for national security reasons. It’s been invoked every six months since. Jerusalem is holy territory for both Israelis and Palestinians; most of the international community considers East Jerusalem occupied territory, and Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
But Trump is ready to shake things up—with help from an all-star team that includes his dunce of a son-in-law, his lawyer, and his other lawyer, who has a penchant for conspiracy theories about Huma Abedin. None are qualified for this deeply difficult job, unless you count Jared’s undisclosed foundation funding illegal Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory.
“When I came into office I promised to look at the world’s challenges with open eyes and very fresh thinking,” Trump said in his speech. “We cannot solve our problems by making the same failed assumptions and repeating the same failed strategies of the past.”
This, Trump says, constitutes “a new approach” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, because everyone knows that’s how to fix an extremely complex and long-running problem: do the exact opposite of what you were doing, even if it is very obviously stupid. He did not elaborate that this “new approach” caters precisely to the wishes of the far-right Israeli government, which has discarded nearly all pretense of interest in a two-state solution.
The speech came armored with a number of caveats like “this decision is not intended in any way to reflect a departure from our strong commitment to a lasting peace agreement” and that the U.S. wants a “great deal” for both sides. But it’s sort of tough to say those things convincingly in the middle of an announcement that will preclude those things from happening.
Trump, who has lately taken to calling a hostile dictator fat on Twitter, left us by imploring “all civilized nations and people to respond to disagreement with reasoned debate, not violence.”