Alan Zendell, December 6, 2017
There’s a cliché in competitive sports like gymnastics and swimming that you never want to go first because the judges won’t award a perfect score to anyone until they’ve seen all the favorites perform. The same principle applies in reverse to negative outcomes.
Thus, we’re always reluctant to say things like: “This is the last straw.” Yet, there comes a time when we think, the hell with it. Sure, something worse might happen tomorrow, but we’re not likely to see anything worse than what’s facing us today. For the two-thirds of Americans who are not part of Trump’s base, which is down to 35% according to this week’s polls, that time may have come.
The Russia investigation and our president’s hard to fathom infatuation with Vladimir Putin have pushed an even stranger relationship into to the background for months, but Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital moves it back onto center stage. We all know by now that Trump loves to be worshipped and adored, and that people who suck up to him and praise him will always be favored by his administration. No one has done a more effective job of bowing and scraping before Emperor Donald and generally embarrassing himself on the world stage than Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
If Trump is infatuated with Putin, he must be in love with Netanyahu. And why not? The two leaders have much in common. Both have seen their political base shrink dangerously in 2017, both have been accused of corruption and face potentially serious legal and political challenges, and they desperately need each other’s support. Netanyahu’s political future rests on a now razor thin majority which only exists today because Trump’s visit to Israel last Spring reversed the PM’s deficit in Israeli polls. To many Americans, Netanyahu might appear to be the public face of Israel, but that’s only slightly less wrong than claiming Trump speaks for all Americans.
Today’s decision by the president to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel flies in the face of warnings by our allies in Europe and the Middle East, the Pope, and by virtually everyone involved in the Israeli-Palestinian peace effort. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel called it another reason why relations between the United States and Europe are crumbling, and Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom called the decision catastrophic.
Even the White House acknowledged today that the move threw a monkey wrench into the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, just when it appeared that a draft proposal for a so-called “two state solution” was about to be presented. If that’s the case, why did Trump do it? The only reasons that have been offered thus far are that he was trying to keep a promise to his base and that he owed it to his buddy Netanyahu.
Arab-Israeli relations have been a tinderbox for nearly seventy years – the entire tenure of Israel’s existence as an independent nation. They were a focal point of the Cold War and still play a major role in our differences with Russia over Syria and the struggle between the Saudi-led Sunnis and the Iranian centered Shiites. Even our relationship with Turkey, which was already strained over American support of the Kurds, is threatened, as Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim called Trump’s action unlawful and said it could have irreversible consequences which might ignite new religious-based conflicts throughout the region.
Except for his base, most Americans today are asking what the $*!# our president thinks he’s doing. He has, with the exception of Putin, flagrantly offended other world leaders whenever it suited him, courted racists and neo-Nazis, and relegated the rights of women and minorities to one of his back burners. He has disdained the health care needs of millions of Americans and openly lied about a tax bill that will primarily benefit large corporations and the wealthiest families (including his own) who would be hardest hit by the estate tax if it is not repealed.
But with all that, today’s actions could possibly be the worst and most dangerous. No one would test for a gas leak by tossing a lit match in to see if it explodes. Neither should our president gratify his own ego against the advice of the great majority of people who understand far more about the Middle East than he does at the cost of possibly wrecking whatever hope there was for peace. Do you think the leaders of Iran are licking their chops waiting to see if a major conflict arises between Israel and their Sunni adversaries?
Do birds fly?