Does This Look Like Peace?

Yesterday, the United States officially relocated its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.  The move was not one I applauded. The timing could not likely have been worse, and the result was disastrous.  Donald Trump is playing a dangerous game on behalf of the nation he supposes to represent, the United States, and he is playing it with human lives as pawns.JerusalemJerusalem is a controversy in and of itself.  Jerusalem has been fought over sixteen times in its history. It has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times. Today, both the Palestinians and the Israelis claim Jerusalem as their capital, and the city contains sites sacred to both Jews and Muslims, as well as Christians.  The embassy move has been considered in the past by former presidents Clinton, Bush (Jr.), and Obama, but each of those held back, because it has long been the policy of the U.S. to remain neutral in the Israel-Palestine conflict, and moving the embassy would place the U.S. squarely on the side of Israel … and against Palestine. Ilan Goldenberg, a Middle East expert with the Center for New American Security, said that where the U.S. is “supposed to be acting like the fireman, instead, we’re acting like the arsonist — we’re making things worse.”

The move of the U.S. Embassy signals far more than a simple relocation … it signals that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.  Think about that one … who gave the U.S. the right to decide where Israel’s capital lies?  Nobody, that’s who.  So why did we do it?  Because he likes to keep campaign promises made to his base. Plain and simple. His base lobbied hard for the move, including evangelicals and, of course, Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and son-in-law Jared Kushner lobbied for the idea as well.

The opening day festivities got under way, and it was a matter of minutes before trouble started.  The region, already in a heightened state of upheaval, partly as a result of Trump’s other disastrous decision to renege on the U.S.’ commitment to the Iran nuclear deal, erupted into chaos.  Well, technically, it should not have been considered chaos, as most of the Palestinian protestors were unarmed and were merely trying to get into Jerusalem.  But then the Israeli military opened fire.  As of this writing, there are at least 60 confirmed dead and more than 2,700 injured. No Israelis have been injured.  Donald Trump and Benjamin Netahyahu must own each and every one of those unnecessary deaths.

Meanwhile, the Kushers had a great time …kushners-partyThe utter ludicrousness of the scene was enhanced by the two U.S. evangelical pastors who took part in the opening ceremony. One, Robert Jeffries, was awarded Filosofa’s Idiot of the Week in November 2016 for his bigotry and hypocrisy  .  The man who once said that “Jews and Muslims will go to Hell”, yesterday said, “Israel has blessed this world by pointing us to you, the one true God, through the message of her prophets, the Scriptures, and the Messiah.”  He also managed to get in a plug for Trump, saying Trump “stands on the right side of you, O God, when it comes to Israel.”  Quick, somebody get me a bucket!

I am told that evangelicals believe an embassy in Jerusalem is a key step to the ‘end of days’.  Not being of their faith, I fail to see how ‘end of days’ is seen as a good thing, but given the chaos the move created, it appears they may well have hastened that event, at least for many living in the Middle-East.

When Trump first announced his intention to move the embassy, he called it, “a long-overdue step to advance the peace process and to work towards a lasting agreement.”  Does this look like peace to you?Peace-not

Skewed Priorities …

Today, as more than a thousand people are injured and at least 52 dead in the Gaza Strip due to the opening of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, and the violence continues, the following was the only “Breaking News” update to cross my screen this afternoon:

“Breaking News: Melania Trump, the first lady, had a surgical procedure for a kidney condition. It was successful, and she will stay in the hospital to rest.”

I received this notification from three separate media entities, but not a single one about the violence in the Middle East.  Yep, folks, our priorities are seriously skewed.

No Laughing Matter …

The politics and inter-relationships of the Middle East are perhaps more complex than any other on the globe.  I have studied this area extensively for the past ten years, yet I do not claim to fully understand. What I can tell you, however, is that the Middle East has long been a powder keg, and is no less so today.  In fact, thanks to one Donald Trump, the turmoil in the Middle East is at an all time high.  Donald Trump does not, cannot possibly, understand Middle East politics and he does not appear to understand what he has caused.

jerusalen-2Trump, the ‘man’ who said on the campaign trail regarding numerous issues, “only I can fix this”, made a fateful decision on 6 December to announce that the United States will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and will move the U.S. Embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem. With that one announcement, he made the United States look like fools in the eyes of the world, set off a wave of violence in the Middle East, and forfeited any hopes of a U.S.-brokered peace between Israel and Palestine. And still he has no idea what he has done, is seeing himself as the victim of the backlash that was inevitable in the face of his announcement.

He made this decision with the assistance of Vice-President Mike Pence, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, and son-in-law Jared Kushner.  Not a single one of these four people have so much as a semester’s education in the history or politics of the Middle East.  Donald Trump is a former real estate developer and television sit-com actor. Mike Pence is the former governour of Indiana. Jared Kushner is a former newspaper man. Nikki Haley is the former governour of South Carolina.  The people who do have at least some experience in the situation in the Middle East, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis and their career staff recommended against the move. Trump chose, instead, to listen to newbies with no idea the havoc they were wreaking.

The results were swift and ongoing.  Our European allies sharply criticized the move.  Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rejected any U.S. role in peace talks going forward. Christian minorities in Egypt rejected a meeting request by Vice President Mike Pence. Palestinian Christians are also organizing boycotts of Pence. In the words of Hady Amr and Arsalan Suleman, writing for Brookings Institute, “all indications are that the president focused narrowly on his political agenda instead of safeguarding U.S. national security interests.”

Trump criticized Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush for promising and then failing to deliver on the promise of recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but both of those former presidents were smart enough to study the situation and listen to their advisors before determining that the consequences would be harmful to both U.S. national security interests and harmful to Israel itself. Trump, unfortunately, has no such intelligence.

But wait … now it gets even worse.  Fast forward, if you will, to yesterday when, in an emergency session, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly voted to reject Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. 128 members voted on Thursday in favour of the resolution supporting the longstanding international consensus that the status of Jerusalem – which is claimed as a capital by both Israel and the Palestinians – can only be settled as an agreed final issue in a peace deal. Only nine nations voted against the resolution: the U.S., Togo, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Marshall Islands, Guatemala, Honduras and Israel.  Thirty-five countries abstained and twenty-one were absent.

Donald Trump, who of course must always be right, and who is a professional bully, threatened to withhold U.S. aid from any country that supported the resolution.  Nikki Haley said that the U.S. would make note and remember any nations that “disrespected” America by voting for the resolution.  Think about this one, friends.  Trump goes against all intelligent advice to interfere where he had no business, then threatens … yes threatens … our allies for voting in favour of a common sense measure to attempt to fix what Trump broke.  Donald Trump has, not for the first time, offended our allies and further isolated the United States, not to mention making us the object of worldwide scorn and derision.

This move by Trump has cast a long shadow over our relations with our allies. Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu declared that …

“I believe that even though we don’t have an agreement yet, this is what will happen in the future. I believe that all or most of the European countries will move their embassies to Jerusalem, recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and engage robustly with us for security, prosperity and peace.”

Guess again, Ben. Mexico, Canada, the UK and the EU Commission have all announced that they will not be moving their embassies to Jerusalem.

The United States passed through the ‘laughingstock of the world’ stage some time ago and is now racing toward the ‘most hated nation in the world’ stage.  All, for the most part, because of one ‘man’, one narcissistic fool who thinks his uneducated opinion is the only one that matters.  We must soon find our way to removing this ‘man’ from the White House, for he is jeopardizing not only our own security and future, but also that of the rest of the globe.  Nobody has that right, and the arrogance of the United States is in the spotlight now more than ever. The U.S. stopped being the “leader of the free world” on the day that Donald Trump was inaugurated. We are coming close to being ‘non grata’ around the globe.  For my part, I am once again ashamed of my country.