Claude Salhani is the Opinion section editor of The Arab Weekly.

  • Is Trump serving US interests or Russia’s, On: Sun, 10 Dec 2017

  • Why is ISIS going after Sufi Muslims?, On: Sun, 03 Dec 2017

  • Putin, the new Middle East kingmaker, On: Sun, 26 Nov 2017

  • US losing ground and prestige to Iran, Russia and China, On: Sun, 05 Nov 2017

  • Why the Middle East may understand Trump more than his own people, On: Sun, 22 Oct 2017

  • Russia replacing Washington as the Middle East’s political centre of influence, On: Sun, 08 Oct 2017

  • One small step for mankind, a giant leap for women, On: Sun, 01 Oct 2017

  • Violence, bloodshed and terrorism and a question of losing face or maintaining credibility, On: Sun, 24 Sep 2017

  • Not all refugees are created equal, On: Sun, 17 Sep 2017

  • Religious extremism remains the world’s top enemy, On: Sun, 10 Sep 2017

  • Iran’s provocations may prove costly, On: Sun, 20 Aug 2017

  • Promoting democracy in Middle East, a thing of the past in Washington, On: Sun, 13 Aug 2017

  • Sudan: The Arab world’s and Africa’s forgotten conflict, On: Sun, 06 Aug 2017

  • Is a new Palestinian intifada on the way?, On: Sun, 30 Jul 2017

  • What’s next after Mosul and Raqqa?, On: Sun, 23 Jul 2017

  • Why are Arabs and Israelis unable to reach a peaceful settlement?, On: Sun, 02 Jul 2017

  • Geopolitical pot could quickly reach a boiling point, On: Sun, 25 Jun 2017

  • Both sides in Syrian civil war are breaking the rules, On: Sun, 18 Jun 2017

  • The many factors behind the London tragedy, On: Sun, 11 Jun 2017

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  • The second greatest disaster for Israel, On: Sun, 23 Apr 2017

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  • The democracy agenda can take a back seat, now , On: Sun, 09 Apr 2017

  • Oops, Syria did it again , On: Sun, 09 Apr 2017

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  • How Trump’s tweets affect relations with Iran , On: Sun, 19 Mar 2017

  • Why Bashar Assad survives the Syrian deluge , On: Sun, 12 Mar 2017

  • Much more than brute military force needed to defeat ISIS , On: Sun, 05 Mar 2017

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  • Palestine — the forgotten cause, On: Sun, 12 Feb 2017

  • The failure to predict, On: Sun, 22 Jan 2017

  • What the future holds for the Middle East , On: Sun, 15 Jan 2017

  • A look ahead at the Middle East in 2017 , On: Sun, 08 Jan 2017

  • Why the UN Security Council vote on Syria is not the solution , On: Sun, 25 Dec 2016

  • The Syrian tango: One step forward, two steps back , On: Sun, 18 Dec 2016

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  • Is Trump serving US interests or Russia’s

    With a stroke of a pen Trump undermined the Middle East peace process and placed American diplomats and military personnel in the area in great peril.

    Fait accompli? The proclamation that was signed by US President Donald Trump to announce that the United States recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. (Reuters)


    2017/12/10 Issue: 135 Page: 3



    US President Donald Trump’s an­nouncement that the United States would recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and that the US Embassy would be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is perhaps the most destructive, hurtful and counterproductive decision made by a US president in recent memory. I exaggerate not.

    While the moves will upset millions in the Arab and Muslim worlds, the full negative effect will be primarily felt by the United States.

    While generally protecting Israel’s interests and security, the United States was perceived as a viable broker in the Middle East peace process. That notion died with Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Trump has given up American prestige in the Arab world.

    Trump’s decision places every American citizen in the region in danger of retaliation from Islamists or perhaps even from moderates irritated by this foolhardy policy.

    Do not be surprised if Ameri­can embassies around the world become targets of terrorist groups seeking to avenge the undermining of the very foundation of Mideast peace talks. Until now, the status of Jerusalem, which both Palestinians and Israelis claimed as their capi­tal, constituted a major negotiation point in any peace talks.

    With a stroke of a pen Trump undermined the Middle East peace process and placed American diplomats and military person­nel in the area in great peril. The US president disregarded calls from world leaders not to proceed with his plan, ignoring their pleas and trepidation about renewed violence erupting because of the deluded decision.

    Told beforehand by Trump of his plans to authorise the move, King Abdullah II of Jordan warned the American president of “the danger of taking any decision outside the context of a comprehensive solution that establishes a Pales­tinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem.”

    “Jerusalem is the key to achiev­ing peace and stability in the region and the world,” the king said.

    Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, alerted in a phone call from Trump, “warned of the dangerous consequences such a decision would have to the peace process and to the peace, security and stability of the region and of the world.”

    Indeed, the president of the United States is desperate for a memorable victory before the end of the year allowing him to claim that he has kept one of his cam­paign promises. Over the several decades of the Middle East conflict, many US presidential candidates made promises to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem but, once in office, all refrained from executing that promise.

    Having been unable to imple­ment other campaign promises, Trump is hoping to deflect criti­cism by chalking up an easy vic­tory. This is one decision he truly controls. To move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is a decision the president can make without risking red flags being raised by Congress.

    The question of Jerusalem has long been a very sensitive subject and remains one of the key issues in any comprehensive peace accord between Israelis and Palestinians. The issue of Jerusalem is more complex than the US health-care system. It constitutes one of the central pillars of any potential agreement between the two sides staking a claim to the city.

    Just as Jerusalem is key to peace in the region, it could be the focus of renewed violence. The question of the continued occupation of the Palestinian territories by Israel has been the one subject that brought a usually divided Arab world together.

    This decision to move the embas­sy is likely to give radical Islamist groups, such as the Islamic State, a boost of energy.

    Finally, a point that should not be overlooked is the counterbalance that will emerge because of the loss of American prestige in the Middle East, specifically the increase in Moscow’s influence and of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    Think about that if you will. Whose interests is the American president really serving in this instance, the United States’ or Russia’s?

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