The policies the Trump administration is pursuing for the Arab allies at least are becoming increasingly uncomfortable when it comes to the Palestine issue and especially with this latest move on so sensitive and iconic an issue as Jerusalem.The Trump move on Jerusalem to the peace process is equivalent to the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord on environmental issues. If regional actors grow to understand how unreliable America has become and if they are encouraged to resolve their own problems amongst themselves it could be a good thing, writes Valdai Club expert Daniel Levy, President of the U.S./Middle East Project (USMEP).
How will it affect America’s relations with its Arab allies?
Under the last US administration and President Obama, an important question was raised as to how far America could bend its allies to its will in the Middle East. Under the Trump administration, there has been a very pronounced effort to bring America much closer again with traditional allies and notably to embolden the leaderships in Israel and Saudi Arabia with whom the Obama administration was in occasional disagreement, that also extends to Egypt and others in the Gulf such as the UAE. However, the policies the Trump administration is pursuing for the Arab allies at least are becoming increasingly uncomfortable when it comes to the Palestine issue and especially with this latest move on so sensitive and iconic an issue as Jerusalem. Looking at East Asia, many on the Korean peninsula are concerned that South Korea will pay the price for irresponsible Trump policy. The same may be true in the Middle East. The mass protests and anger across the Arab world will embarrass the leadership in Riyadh, who given their closeness to Trump are under a magnifying glass as being complicit in this move. It will also weaken staunch allies such as King Abdullah in Jordan. Not much fun being an American ally in the Arab world then.
How will it affect America’s relations with European states?
Europeans of course are not unified and there are diverging trends in Europe currently including some governments who are much closer to the kind of alt-right ideology of the White House, notably in Hungary and Poland and elsewhere. However, the centre of gravity in Europe, notably Berlin and Paris will view this Jerusalem move as yet another example of America abandoning some of the anchors of international legality and responsible global management that already has Europe scurrying for alternatives to the traditional transatlantic alliance, both by looking at alliances elsewhere and by improving internal European coherence. However, the Europeans will be hard put to find an effective alternative. There is also a question for Europeans of which questions to prioritise when it comes to disagreeing and pushing back against the Trump administration. The Trump move on Jerusalem to the peace process is equivalent to the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord on environmental issues. What has Europeans particularly worried is the radicalising effect this would likely have when Europe is already struggling to get its relations with the Muslim world and its own social order in a constructive place. In addition, the spill over of Middle East destabilization has particularly impacted Europe and the Trump administration policy including but not only on Jerusalem is adding fuel to the fire of instability.
What will it do to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process?
The peace process has for some time been an exercise in sustaining an architecture which benefits the Israelis, undermines the Palestinians and paradoxically pushes peace further away. So, in one respect, this cannot harm a process that was already dead. However, it will be to the detriment to the prospects of making peace as it will empower the most hard-line groups within Israel who are already on the ascendancy and need their wings clipped rather than the opposite. The one positive and unintended side effect may be if the Palestinians belatedly realise that America will not lead a process that delivers Palestinian rights. If the Palestinians start looking beyond America, first of all to their own people and then to mobilise other supportive forces internationally, then Trump’s pro-Israel declaration ironically could help the Palestinians in the future. But for now, it makes more likely the further erosion of two states and the further entrenchment of an apartheid reality.
How will it affect to the whole situation in the Middle East?
The Trump declaration would seem to indicate just how shallow their understanding of the region is or how little they care about the impact in the region versus the impact in domestic American politics which is probably the driving impetus for the Trump move. The predictable effect has been to strengthen an Iranian narrative and to weaken America’s allies notably the Saudis. One imagines that a combination of amateurism and ideology will blind the White House to this basic understanding of the region, the same kind of shallowness which blinded the Bush administration to the predictable consequences of launching the Iraq war in 2003. Inevitably this will create more space for other influential actors in the region, both from within the region and for instance Russia. If the Obama administration was trying to manage the inevitable transition away from global unipolarity including the managed drawing down of American equities and ownership of issues in the Middle East, then the Trump administration is simply pointing a gun to its own head when it comes to American interests. For the region itself, the effects may not be all negative and if regional actors grow to understand how unreliable America has become and if they are encouraged to resolve their own problems amongst themselves it could be a good thing - but we are not there yet.