Donald Trump is doing a real job on Israel, specifically a hit job.
His most recent action — that United Nations vote on Jerusalem in which exactly seven countries in the entire world stood with Israel and the United States in favor of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — made Israel look as isolated as South Africa at the height of apartheid. Not even Donald Trump’s (empty) threat to cut off foreign aid to any country which voted against the US/Israeli position could persuade even the major recipients of that aid to vote his way.
Of course the vote was totally unnecessary. No one is seriously challenging Israel’s claim to Jerusalem, with even Arab states like Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt only managing the most ritualistic protest every few months or so. Israel’s illegal (according to the United Nations) hold on every inch of Jerusalem was totally secure.
Not so much now. Thanks to Trump’s forcing of a UN vote, it is now more clear than ever before that pretty much no one outside of Washington and Israel recognizes Israel’s right to the entire city. Whenever negotiations resume (probably after the next war, if the historic pattern holds), Jerusalem will undoubtedly be at the top of issues that must be resolved. Actually, resolution of the issue is not that difficult; the western (Jewish) part of the city will go to the Israelis and the eastern (Muslim) part of the city will go to the Palestinians. The Holy Sites will be internationalized and belong exclusively to neither side but rather to all sides.
Of course, this is the last thing the Netanyahu government wants but, thanks to Trump, this is what it (or a successor government) is going to get. Score one for the Palestinians thanks to Trump.
The other big victory Trump handed the Palestinians was destroying, hopefully once and for all, the idea that the United States can mediate between Israelis and Palestinians. As journalist and author Clayton Swisher wrote this month in The National Interest, American mediation efforts, both the mediation and the mediators themselves, have been dedicated not to achieving peace but to advancing Israel’s interests. The very idea that the United States whose Middle East policies are essentially written by Israel’s lobby (AIPAC) can even pretend to be neutral is absurd. That is why Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have achieved almost nothing; the Americans always had their thumbs, actually both hands, on the scale.
But now, thanks to Trump’s ridiculous Jerusalem effort and his appointment of a negotiating team led by his settlement supporting son-in-law Jared Kushner, the whole idea of U.S. mediation is dead, a very bad joke. In the future, any credible negotiations will have to be mediated by the European Union, the United Nations, or something like the P-5 Plus 1 grouping (the 5 permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany) that succeeded in achieving the Iran nuclear deal. President Mahmoud Abbas says that the days of Palestinians relying on the United States are over.
As for Israel’s standing in general, I heard the best analysis of that from a former top official at AIPAC who remains close to the organization. “Trump is a disaster for us. Essentially what he has done has fused Israel and its interests with himself. The world despises Trump and American Jews not only dislike him but fear the anti-semitism and racism he has incited. The Trump-Israel linkage has turned Israel into a cause for the 10 percent of Jews who are Orthodox and right-wing evangelical Christians. AIPAC is worried and should be. Israel was a consensus issue. Now it’s support comes mostly from the right.”
It’s true. Israel has to worry about essentially being identified in the eyes of the world with the most unpopular president in American history. Just two decades ago, when Bill Clinton was president and Yitzhak Rabin was prime minister of Israel, things could not have been more different. Israel was pursuing peace and its prime minister was perhaps the most popular foreign leader in the world (more heads of states gathered for his funeral than had been together for any event since John F. Kennedy’s rites in 1963). Israel days of isolation seemed over.
Now they are back with Israel moving into the status of international pariah. Much of the credit for that sad turn of events belongs to every prime minister who succeeded the martyred Rabin (especially Netanyahu), all of whom favored screwing the Palestinians over negotiating fairly with them. But plenty of the blame belongs to Donald Trump, that self-proclaimed friend of Israel who has it locked in a deadly embrace.