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Henry M. Robert

Trump makes a decision

Experts comment on the news that the US will move its embassy to Jerusalem
12 December, 2017 - 12:04

US President Donald Trump has decided to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. “Today, we finally acknowledge the obvious: that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality,” CNN quotes Trump as saying.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it is a “historic, bold, and fair” step. Meanwhile, Palestine’s leader Mahmoud Abbas noted that “the Palestinians have lost confidence in the Americans as objective mediators in the Middle East,” and the Palestinian Sunni-Islamic movement HAMAS announced that “Trump opened ‘the gates of hell’ on US interests in the region,” Deutsche Welle reports.

Most leaders of the European and Middle Eastern countries have also reacted negatively to this decision.

The Day requested some experts to comment on the consequences of Trump’s decision for the Middle East.


Viacheslav SHVED, chief, Asia and Africa history section, Institute of World History, National Academy of Sciences, Ukraine:

“Donald Trump has made an absolutely ill-considered, unbalanced, and venturesome decision. It will have a very negative effect on the Middle East situation in general and the Middle East peace process in particular.

“Firstly, there is absolutely no logic in the US president’s actions, for he previously set a goal to form a strong anti-Iranian coalition. He must clearly understand that, to do so, he should, above all, reach a certain agreement with the Arab world which is very sensitive to such an old problem as Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He ought to understand that this is likely to trigger a very negative reaction of the Arab-Islamic world and cause this coalition to break up or at least to weaken seriously. In other words, Trump is reinforcing Iran’s positions with his own hands. I think the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, is rubbing his hands in delight, for he has received such a nice gift from the US president.

“Secondly, the latest public opinion polls show that only a third of Americans believe that Jerusalem should be recognized as capital of Israel and the US embassy should be moved to this city. In other words, the vast majority of Americans oppose this decision.

“Thirdly, we can see that US major allies in the West have taken a negative attitude to this decision: the UK, France, Italy, and Sweden have made it clear that they do not support it. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said bluntly that his country is not going to move its embassy to Jerusalem. The EU commissioner in charge of foreign policy, Federica Mogherini, announced that the EU will be trying to make Palestine and Israel reach a peace agreement which will lead to establishing a durable peace. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has also taken a negative attitude to this decision, not to mention the reaction of Muslim world leaders.

“Why did this happen? The Arab-Muslim world is sharply divided today because a bitter struggle is underway in the Middle East between the two regional forces – Saudi Arabia and Iran. In the whirlpool of this struggle, the Palestinian problem has receded to the background. The current foreign-policy strategy of Saudi Arabia shows that Iran is the main enemy. The Saudis have even opted for considerable rapprochement with Israel in order to establish a broad anti-Iranian front. This is one of the serious reasons why Trump chose to make this decision.

“This decision reflects very clearly the very essence of Trump’s approach to thorny foreign- and home-policy problems – to shoot from the hip without thinking of the consequences.

“US analysts are also asking themselves a different question. Indeed, Trump is fulfilling one of his main pre-election promises – to move the embassy to Jerusalem and recognize the city as capital of Israel. Why not then raise the question of East Jerusalem being the capital of the future Palestinian state? This would be at least fair and would not touch off such a big wave of indignation. This would lead to a more unworried discussion of the final peace agreement between Palestine and Israel.

“As for Ukraine’s position in this matter, we are perhaps not supposed to directly appraise President Trump’s decision. But we should emphasize that Ukraine is taking the following attitude to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the Middle East peace process: there should be a two-state-based solution of this problem, with due account of the fact that the borders between Israel and the future Palestinian state must be the same as they were in June 1967, before the seizure, while East Jerusalem must be returned to Palestine. This has always been Ukraine’s official position in this very complicated issue.”


Adrian KARATNYCKY, senior research fellow, US Atlantic Council; Myrmidon Group LLC, Washington D.C.:

“I believe this is a proper and strong move. Israel is a loyal ally of the US and the US has a special relationship with Israel, the only democracy, in the Middle East.

“I see few negative consequences from the decision. While it may temporarily raise the temperature of Palestinian radicals, I do not believe it will lead to an upsurge in anti-US terrorism for several reasons.

“First, Islamist radicalism is so fanatical that in the form of ISIS, it is already committed to an unrelenting war against the non-Islamic world.

“Second, Shia Islam is in a tense standoff with Sunni Islam for dominance in the middle east. The US and its support are crucial to the stability and security of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and other Sunni majority.

“Simply put, such states cannot afford to worsen relations with the US. Moreover, the US is already in a tense relationship with Iran and countries in its sphere of influence. In short, no major shift in relationships with the countries in the Middle East is possible. Therefore, the cost of such a decision will be minimal in my view.”

By Natalia PUSHKARUK, The Day