President Donald Trump is skating on thin ice in the Middle East. He announced on Dec. 6 that he will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and relocate the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv. Jerusalem is a holy city for three religions – Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Israel, originally founded on the west side of the city in 1948, expanded its territory into the east after the third Arab-Israeli war in 1967. The Israelis claim all of Jerusalem as their capital, but the Palestinians who lost the land also claim the city’s east sector as the capital of their future independent state. Until now, the international community has not acknowledged Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, which is why all the embassies are in Tel Aviv. However, Trump’s decision to support Israel is expected to throw this running battle into choppy waters.
With President Trump adding fuel to the fire instead of finding a solution for the peaceful coexistence of Israel and Palestine, the Middle Eastern climate is very uncertain. His decision was the final nail in the coffin of the two-state solution, which sought to establish an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. Former U.S. presidents had supported this initiative. Bill Clinton claimed he “[doesn’t] see any alternative to a Palestinian state.” George W. Bush adopted it as the official policy for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Barack Obama used it as the backbone of his Middle East policy. But President Trump’s deviation from the United States’ former stance has angered Islamic and Arab nations. Hamas, the Palestinian militant group, called for a “day of rage” protesting Trump’s decision that crossed the “red line.”
If all hell breaks loose in the Middle East, there will be repercussions for us (South Korea). The Middle East makes up a big portion of our product and plant export activity and is the source of 82 percent of our oil imports.
The surge in oil prices and the shrinkage of trade will be a big hit. We also have to worry about the possible delay in the resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue because the United States will have to concentrate its diplomatic resources on the Middle East. If Trump indeed created this Middle East conflict to alleviate domestic political difficulties, the resulting political atmosphere in the United States could impact its North Korea policy. We need to formulate strategic countermeasures to prepare for the security and economic breaches the Middle East situation may bring.