President Trump “shocked” the world this week by officially recognizing Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel. The word “shocked” is in quotes because of the lack of reaction around the world. Yes, there were denunciations in capitals of US “allies” in Europe and incidents of US flag-burning, stone-throwing & small scale demonstrations in the Muslim world. But compared to other intensely emotional outbreaks of anger, this was kind off a dud.
1.Why the Decision?
But why do it & why now? These questions are being debated in US media and discussed around the world. This is a decision that went against the consensus in US establishment for the past 28 Presidential terms. That is one reason this decision has been described as wanton, rash, a repudiation of the established Peace Process and a giveaway to Israel without getting anything in return.
It wasn’t anything of the kind. Frankly it was a good and morally correct decision. Ask yourselves a simple question – Whose city was it & is it? There seems little doubt that Jerusalem was a Jewish or Israeli city long before the birth of Christianity or Islam. Since possession awards 9 out of 10 points in law, Jerusalem is today an Israeli city, both de facto & de jure. Who is most likely to protect the rights of worship for all three religions for whom Jerusalem is spiritually important? Christians are not really represented in the city or area of Jerusalem. That leaves Sunni Muslim Arabs & Jews. Who between these two would guarantee the rights of worship in Jerusalem of the other group and of Christian visitors? A rhetorical question, of course.
All this is nice but, frankly, small states and weak states don’t really make decisions like this themselves. They never did and they don’t do it now. Just look at Syria. The resolution of that intense conflict was, in the end, due to the actions of Russia, a country thousands of miles away. Given both the lack of real interests & intervention-fatigue, America stayed out and that left to Russia the role of the decider.
Jerusalem and the Israeli-Arab conflict is an issue of major strategic interest to America. So what happened to Jerusalem was, in the end, a decision of & by America and America alone. And that means of President Trump and Trump alone. So why did he choose to do it and do it now?
First & foremost because it was the right thing to do. Right meaning good & morally correct. Secondly, because it fits with what the American people feel in their hearts. To quote Stratfor, “… Jerusalem’s enduring mark on the popular imagination has given it a unique place in U.S. foreign policy“. And this enduring mark on America’s popular imagination is Jerusalem as a Judeo-Christian city and not as a Muslim city. Recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was a campaign promise of President Trump. And keeping his campaign promises is important to him and has now become a hallmark of the Trump presidency.
There is another important reason, a reason that is at the heart of President Trump’s determination to confront the Islamic Terror issue.
2. Muslim Land
Virtually every religion desires & chooses to expand, to conquer. Economic reasons might trigger a conquest but no conquest succeeds without long term control. And the best & most lasting form of long term control is through conversions of others to the conqueror’s religion. When asked by traders on India’s western coast in 1498 why they had come across the Cape of Good Hope from Portugal to India, sailors from Vasco de Gama’s expedition replied for “Christians & Spices”.
Unlike virtually every other religion, Conquest is at the very historical root of Islam, especially political Islam. Every Muslim man knows he is the spiritual descendant of conquerors. As we wrote in What Drives ISIS & Their Recruits, a section of our November 21,2015 article on ISIS:
- “Under Prophet Muhammad and after him, they exploded with the force of the desert whirlwind to conquer the Persian Sassanid empire, Africa and parts of Europe. They defeated the Crusaders and their kin in Central Asia attacked the Indian Subcontinent, Indonesia & Malaysia.”
Just as a Muslim is not allowed to convert to another religion, a Muslim conquered land must for ever remain Muslim. So Muslim conquerors tried their hardest to convert the locals to Islam or cleanse them out. That remains to this day. This is a reason why a breakaway part of India was named “Pak-i-stan” or the land of the spiritually pure. Since its creation, this “spiritually pure” land has followed an official policy to cleanse out Buddhists/Hindus and banned moderate forms of Islam like Ahemadiyas.
Right after its formation, ISIS claimed ownership of previously Muslim conquered parts of Spain for its caliphate. It was beyond ISIS capability to even plan for such reconquest. But that didn’t matter. The goal was firm and it would be accomplished one day, God willing!
This is one deep reason behind the absolute rejection of a Jewish State on what has been Muslim land for over 1,400 years. That it was originally Jewish land is entirely irrelevant. It became Muslim land and it must remain Muslim land. We heard this sentiment about Israel’s expulsion stated firmly & with total religious conviction from people converted from Hinduism to Islam on the Southwestern coast of India. They were not bad people; in fact, they were very hospitable as we waited for a boat to take us to the famous sea-fort of Janjira. These guys had never visited the Middle East . But that didn’t matter. The Jewish state was on Muslim land and it had to go. And they were convinced it will do one day, God willing!
This deep belief in long term Muslim invincibility is the force behind the rise of both Sunni & Shiite militant Islam. They use terrorism as a tactic because it is the only one they have today. The Trump Administration understands that destruction of their sense of invincibility is an extremely important element of the war against Islamic Terror, both the Sunni & the Iranian kind.
We discussed the first stage of this consistent, determined stand of the Trump Administration in our article on June 3, 2017 about the 30-minute interview of Secretary of Defense Mattis with John Dickerson of CBS.
This week’s decision by President Trump is the next step of this consistent, determined stand of President Trump. It is not intended, as UN Ambassador Nicki Haley stated in the UN, to change any facts on the ground. It is clearly & explicitly intended, we think, to declare once & for all that Jerusalem is now & forever Jewish land. While Muslims can worship freely & visit their holy sites in Jerusalem, it is not Muslim land anymore.
This is a dramatic and an extremely important declaration, one that shows the ability of President Trump to stand alone, if necessary. It sends a message that every Muslim in the world understands and that every Muslim country in the world gets.
3. Why Now?
Previous US presidents had made the same campaign promise. But they chose to not act on it. Both because they really didn’t think it was important and because they wanted no part of the potentially harsh Muslim reaction. Equally important was America’s critical dependence on Middle Eastern oil. Today, America is an exporter of energy and free of its previous dependence on foreign oil, especially middle eastern oil.
The Middle East is a very different place today. Gone are the secular dictators who kept their countries stable & who needed the Palestinian issue as a visible sign of their Islamic faith. Today countries like Libya, Somalia, even Tunisia are beset with major problems and dependent on America’s help. Syria will take years to recover; Iraq & Turkey have to worry about their Kurdish problem.
The intense religious & geopolitical conflict between Saudi Arabia/GCC and Iran that began under President Obama is now escalating. Saudi Arabia is caught in a no-win war with Yemen and in economic conflict with Qatar which is getting closer to Iran. Saudi Arabia is running out of money and may have to choose between its domestic budget and its foreign adventures. The young Crown Prince has virtually proclaimed war on his uncles & cousins. And Saudi Arabia needs the help of Israel in case a physical conflict breaks out with Iran.
Despite what some US writers have written and despite what Saudis might think, President Trump has played a smarter game. By first professing support for the new Crown Prince & his stupid “war” against Qatar and now demanding the end of the Saudi blockade of Yemen, President Trump has publicly warned that he can turn against the Saudi prince any time he chooses.
Iran also needs to tread carefully. Russia, its friend in Syria, is working with Assad to rein in Iranian presence in Syria. Putin is trying to broker a deal with Assad & Netanyahu to create a No-Iran zone near the Israeli-Syria border. If that succeeds, President Trump can use American help to further wean Assad away from Iran. Thanks to the impetuous actions of the Saudi Crown Prince, a war between Israel & Lebanon-Hezbollah might break out, a war that might, for the first time, lead to a naval conflict between Iran and America.
So no one in the Middle East is in a position to do much, including support of a major “rising” against America. So what better time to make this public implementation of President Trump’s campaign promise, a promise that the majority of America supports.
And there was another big reason to do it this week, we think. Watch President Trump’s speech in Pensacola, Florida on Friday. You will see a relaxed and confident Trump. You may also get the sense we got that President Trump is breaking out.
He has been forced to play defense since his inauguration, mainly because of the Russia investigation but also because of the opposition from the Republicans, especially the leadership of Senate Republicans.
But, as this week showed, Senate Republicans have come over to President Trump’s side by passing the Tax Reform bill, by sidelining anti-Trump leader Senator Bob Corker. ABC had to suspend its reporter, Brian Ross, for four weeks for reporting what turned out to be not true. CNN had to apologize for a major error by one of its reporters. The Russia investigation is now proving to be a dud and the Special Counsel team is being seriously reprimanded for actions of the team members.
So what better time than now to take a serious, dramatic, good and moral foreign policy decision and at the same time, send a powerful signal to the world?
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