A lot is happening today, May 14, 2018.
** The US Embassy in Jerusalem opens.
** And Russia, Iran and Turkey convene a round of Syrian peace talks in Astana.
The first is naturally considered more important. It is, but for more than its immediate effect on people in the immediate area.
It is important because it is the first time an America in decline has boldly showed its raddled face to the world and challenged any refusal to praise its loveliness. (Refusal to comply with US orders on trading with Iran will be the second through-the-looking-glass moment.) The Jerusalem embassy move is the first time the US is openly, capriciously and callously trampling on the rights of hundreds of thousands of people, even those yet unborn, presuming to call it justice, and daring the rest of the world to object.
When Donald Trump unilaterally announced he would move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, thereby, in his words, taking the issue “off the table”, he seemed to be counting on a number of things to prevent a conflagration. These included:
- Arab fatigue with the Palestinian issue and disunity over what course could sensibly be pursued.
- A disinclination within sections of the Arab world to argue for justice against the wishes of so powerful a nation as the United States. The Saudis, for instance, have been manifestly eager to sell the Palestinians down the river.
- A lack of new ideas, vision and leadership within the Palestinian community.
- Confusion across the Muslim world about how to fight for Palestinian justice. The ummah has deep problems – not least, perverted versions of the faith put out by jihadists of various stripes. There is also a question mark over how best to integrate in, and with the non-Muslim world . The Muslim world is also split over how, and how much to fight on the Palestinian issue. It is often relegated to a grievance of one faith group even though the Palestinians’ plight is an injustice that affects the whole world.
President Trump was right to presume on all of the above. They exist and have dulled the response to brute US unilateralism on a contested and still-unresolved issue.
However, in so doing, and by moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Mr Trump may have effected a deeper and more lasting transition – of the world’s imagination. It may have now become possible to imagine things one might not have dismissed before. It has now become possible to see things we didn’t before – of a superpower transitioning before our eyes. It has gone from pre-9/11 dominance, through to Obama-era leadership, and is now moving to lead bully boy.
The United States is all but removed from even a minimal role as peace broker, judge and arbiter in the Middle East. It may have troops and dollars, which is to say immense power and wealth, but without virtue, justice and humanity, America loses goodwill every day.
T’was famously said, as Britain has since found out, it’s better to have allies than colonies.