News Analysis

by Drew Phelps

President Trump’s announcement recognizing Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel has ignited global controversy.

However, looking past the outcry from foreign leaders (including Pope Francis), the violence sparked by the declaration, and images of Palestinians burning pictures of Trump, it is clear that there is underlying strategy at play that goes beyond merely keeping campaign promises.

This long-planned decision by the Trump administration is one episode (granted, a significant one) in a string of efforts to retract the United States from the global stage.

I can see how, in Trump’s mind, this sort of announcement makes us seem powerful. “We make whatever decision we want because we are THE world power,” is what he seems to think when considering these sorts of issues.

Jerusalem Decision Weakens U.S. Global Status

Unfortunately, this is no longer the case in our global order, which emphasizes cooperation between nations. I would wager that, while Trump may be ignorant of this model, his team guiding these decisions is not.

Just like the choice to leave the Paris Climate Accords, this decision to contradict the global will is a message that the U.S. is not interested in multilateral negotiations – that we either want things our way or choose to exclude ourselves.

Prior to Trump’s announcement, many participants in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks already doubted American commitment to fostering a productive process.

While President Obama and former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton successfully pushed to include recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in the Democratic National Convention platform during their campaigns, a follow-through was lacking.

However, their vision of the eventual declaration was far more nuanced than this simple announcement because the Democrats’ plan involved brokering the peace agreements that would lead to a resolution of Jerusalem’s status.

Trump’s Action Elevates China and Russia

This action by the Trump administration makes it evident that the United States has abdicated its role as the leading international player in these talks.

Rania Elias, a Palestinian woman interviewed by Al Jazeera, illustrated this shift clearly by saying “[now] we have to look for other countries like Russia and China [for mediation in the peace process].”

The reality is that, while some of Trump’s advisors likely guided him to this move with the intention of weakening American global influence, Trump himself probably sees this as a step toward expanded leadership.

This simply is no longer true. In today’s world, unilateral decisions do not equate to global leadership.

Democrats, while often not actively pursuing an effective solution to the conflict, had the more appropriate stance that, in order to reach the conclusion, we must first negotiate a deal between the two sides.

In contrast, Trump skipped straight to the end of the story. Or, more aptly, to the end of the chapter about American involvement.

Israel Will Be Less Motivated to Negotiate

Though this decision signifies a continued pull away from global leadership for the U.S. – concerning in itself – the stakes are more dire for those on the ground in Israel and Palestine.

While some have questioned the merits of the so-called ‘two-state solution,’ this American declaration seems to signal the end of that possibility.

Many disagree over the proper resolution, but it is undeniable that we are now witnessing a paradigm shift in how the process will play out. Even further, with the perception of American support, the Israeli leadership will likely be emboldened, leading to greater difficulty in negotiations.

It is difficult to foresee what things will look like in Israel from here, but it seems apparent that, from here on out, American diplomacy will no longer play a significant role.

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