By Adel El-Adawy
There is no doubt that President Donald Trump’s decision this week to recognize Jerusalem, as the capital city of Israel, was a wrong political and diplomatic move. The Arab and Islamic world have condemned the decision and many close western allies of the United States have also voiced their strong opposition. The consequences of the move are far reaching, putting additional obstacles to an already fragile peace process. However, to understand Trump’s decision, it is important to acknowledge that it was mainly concerned with delivering a campaign promise to his political base and major political backers.
The strong opposition in Washington to Trump’s presidency by various interests groups, media outlets, and the political establishment, seems to have convinced President Trump of the necessity to satisfy his base and major political donors. These people are the ones who elected him and he needs them if he intends to continue his political career. One of his biggest financial donors in the 2016 election was Las Vegas casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson, who had donated an estimated $35 million to the Trump campaign. Adelson is known as a passionate supporter of radical Jewish settler groups in Jerusalem and it is known that he urged Trump to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
Indeed, in January 2017 before Trump officially assumed power, Adelson met with Trump and it is reported by the New York Times that after the meeting, Adelson called Morton A. Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization of America, a hard-line pro-Israel group, “to report that Mr. Trump told him that moving the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would be a major priority.” One can clearly see that Trump’s decision was mainly driven to satisfy certain people in the United States who have backed him in the election victory against Hillary Clinton.
Most advisers and U.S. Mideast experts advised Trump not to declare Jerusalem as the capital of Israel due to the various political, diplomatic, and security consequences. Yet, President Trump ignored these voices and the ones in the Department of State and Department of Defense, who overwhelmingly urged Trump not to proceed with his controversial Jerusalem decision.
The decision to declare Jerusalem, as the capital city of Israel, has only weakened America’s standing in the world and in the Middle East. After Trump’s announcement, the U.S. can no longer claim to be an honest and neutral peace broker between Israelis and Palestinians. It is also clear that Trump has positioned himself as one of the most pro-Israeli American presidents, which could give him some additional leverage over the Israeli political leadership in any future negotiations with the Palestinians. But, there are strong doubts that Trump's controversial Jerusalem gamble was part of a larger grand-strategy to end the decades old conflict. As of now, Trump has only added to complexity of the conflict, making it more difficult than ever to achieve peace midst all the regional turmoil.