From left to right: Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, U.S. President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud pose for a photo during Arab-Islamic-American Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on May 21, 2017.
The holy city of Jerusalem is the center for the religious beliefs and the dreams for peace of so many people. On November 6, US President Donald Trump announced his recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the US government’s intention to move its embassy to the city.
This announcement shocked people the world over. The international community is deeply worried about the US trying to determine the ultimate status of the holy city and the future of the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, as well as violence in the Middle East. People are wondering what prompted the Trump administration to cross such a fundamental line with the Muslim world, and to challenge the consensus in the UN Security Council and General Assembly. To understand this move, it is necessary to look at America’s domestic situation.
Back in 1998, then-US President Bill Clinton was subject to a grand jury investigation for his moral indiscretions. On August 17 of that year, President Clinton testified before the grand jury and admitted that he had behaved improperly. Just three days later, on August 20, President Clinton ordered airstrikes on a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory and an Al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan. The airstrike in Sudan was supposedly a counter-terrorism mission, as the US claimed that the factory was producing VX nerve agent. It later revealed, however, that the factory had nothing to do with Al-Qaeda and that it was not manufacturing chemical weapons. Similar to President Ronald Reagan’s watershed troop movement influenced by the Cold War mentality, President Clinton’s decision to order airstrikes was a response to calls at home for tougher action on terrorist organizations, and it was a desperate ploy to divert the attention of the American public.
That was not the first use of such a distraction. During President Richard Nixon’s administration, the US media reported on this tactic. It essentially involves the government taking prompt military and diplomatic action overseas over a popular issue when a president is experiencing political pressure, so as to inspire feelings of patriotism. At the same time, these actions allow the US to claim the moral high ground for interfering in the affairs of other countries. Along with President Clinton, President Bush used this strategy to good effect.
It has almost become a trait of US presidents to choose this course of action when their political agenda is in trouble or their popularity is waning. Nevertheless, adopting this approach only helps a president overcome difficulties in the short term. It does not lead to a long-term consensus or stand the test of time. Political factions in the US are currently engaged in bitter feuds over issues like Russia and the upcoming midterm elections, so igniting the sensitive issue of Jerusalem at this time seems like another attempt to distract from them. The Trump team has adopted the traditional approach of “managing an internal illness with external treatment.”
The most sensitive question on the issue between Palestine and Israel is the status of Jerusalem. The holy city touches the nerves of several of the world’s major religions. The Trump administration’s decision to determine such an important international issue to distract from domestic problems is an extremely high-risk, divisive, and irresponsible strategy.
The Middle East has long been a tumultuous place beset by longstanding wars, and the people there hope for peace, stability, and development. The international community should understand and support their aspirations. As the world’s only superpower, the US has an unavoidable responsibility when it comes to the peaceful development of the world. At a time when US politicians are busy harping about the influence of their country and transferring their domestic risks and dangers to other countries, the world needs to remind them of the need to handle their domestic affairs responsibly. No more fuel should be added to the Middle East fire.