President Trump declared his recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel following the announcement of his new national security strategy, prompting U.S. analysts to question whether there was any connection between the two events. Some analysts agreed that this strategy, announced by Trump in the second half of December 2017 at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, bears more contradictions than agreement between the issues addressed. The strategy document includes recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
The strategy is at odds with the policies of Trump’s predecessors, and comes from a different perspective than that of American foreign policy experts. Experts had predicted that the post-Cold War era would be one of reconciliation and cooperation, while Trump views the world as a field of competing dangers. America is unique in its position, as it holds the reins on world affairs. It’s America that has this power, not international organizations. Nor is it true what American intellectuals, Henry Kissinger among them, have come to believe: That the world is actually moving to a stage where multiple powers run international affairs.
American writer Roger Cohen said that “on any one issue, President Trump and his team have several contradictory positions.” The Washington Post concluded that “Trump’s national security strategy isn’t much of a strategy at all.” A White House official said that Trump might not have read his new strategy — and we do not know whether that was written in jest or a fact.
From the beginning of his term, Trump has sought rapprochement with Russia and China. First, he believed he could be a partner in the war on terror; second, he needed a role in resolving the crisis with North Korea. Meanwhile, in his National Security Strategy, Trump describes the Russia and China as “dangerous rivals.”
With regard to the Middle East, Trump’s strategy distances the Palestinian issue from the forefront of the tense scene in the region, focusing instead on confronting Iran and the war on terror. Meanwhile, his decision about Jerusalem provoked emotions, and provided an excuse to extremist factions which allowed them to justify their operations.
Scott Anderson, a Middle East expert at the Brookings Institute who has worked as a legal adviser to the State Department, wrote that the new U.S. policy seems ambiguous. It does not advocate for alternatives to negotiations in the peace process, and leans strongly on the side of “Israel.”*
What’s remarkable is the paragraph on the Middle East. It reduced the talk of the “Israeli”-Palestinian conflict to a few lines, without any mention of the “two-state solution.” This paragraph represents a change in American strategic thinking, at least in the content that was officially announced. Previously the conflict between “Israel” and the Palestinians was seen as the main problem in preventing the achievement of peace and stability in the region, but Trump’s review of the situation is reflected in his view that “Israel” is not a cause of the problems in this region. This is a reversal of the commitment by previous American administrations to negotiate a “two-state solution.” The fate of Jerusalem is determined only in the final round of negotiations between “Israel” and the Palestinians, in which America plays a central role.
This idea was the subject of discussion years ago by several of the Middle East’s most esteemed experts, who produced a working paper on the concept. But in response, an organized campaign of American Jewish forces sought to promote the idea of leaving the conflict unresolved and placing blame on other conflicts or problems instead, which caused the region to suffer from instability.
With the arrival of neo-conservatives in American policy during the George W. Bush administration beginning in 2001, there began a redesign of the image of the Middle East. The Palestinian issue was placed in the framework of numerous other global conflicts, which reduced its importance. There was the Bush administration’s 2005 announcement of a Greater Middle East project covering Afghanistan in the east to Morocco in the west, a region of problems and conflicts entirely unrelated to the Middle East, which was politically and geographically known to the world.
Using this approach, the Middle East paragraph in Trump’s National Security Strategy revived something that had been hidden by its failure and a weak argument: That this strategy was the existing brainchild of fanatical neoconservative supporters of “Israel.”
*Editor’s note: The use of quotation marks around the words Israel and Israeli throughout this article does not fit any category established by governing AP Stylebook guidelines for use of quotation marks. However, the translator and editors felt there was sufficient doubt as to why the author used them in his original text to leave the quotation marks intact.