In February 2017, at a joint press conference before the first official meeting between Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump made a typical slip of the tongue: “I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like.” Nine months later, Trump made a new slip: He recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, pledging to implement a 22-year-old congressional decision to transfer the US Embassy to it. Jews celebrated, Arabs raged, and Trump moved on to more important issues, such as backing Roy Moore’s failed candidacy for the US Senate.
The connection between the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and support for Roy Moore is closer than meets the eye. Moore was elected Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 2001. He lost this post in November 2003, when he refused to remove marble slabs of the Ten Commandments which he had installed in the lobby of the court. He was re-elected to the same position in 2013, but he was again suspended in May 2016 after defying a US Supreme Court ruling: he ordered Alabama judges to continue enforcing a ban on same-sex marriage. This illustrious biography was supplemented by the testimonies of at least five women who claim that he attacked them sexually when they were girls in high school.
The thread connecting Trump’s decision on Jerusalem and his support for Roy Moore is his determination to appease his constituents on the evangelical right. In fact, since his inauguration, Trump seems still to be campaigning against Hillary Clinton. Eighty percent of evangelicals voted for him, and Moore belongs to an evangelical church. Evangelicals demand that Trump recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and it is these same people who voted for Moore on December 12, despite credible accusations of sexual misconduct.
In supporting Moore, Trump showed his contempt of morality and disdain for American society. When he recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, he displayed contempt for the world.
Nations have so far refrained from recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital because they have hoped that a decision on its status would be part of a peace deal, which would include a Palestinian state as specified in UN Resolution 181. That same resolution, from 1947, provides that Jerusalem will be a “separate entity,” governed by an international regime.
Trump’s “long overdue” decision is completely opportunistic. It has nothing to do with the peace process or world peace in general. Trump thinks about what is good for Trump, and to hell with the rest of us. Nevertheless, the decision also reveals the nakedness of the United States. Trump argues that he found the courage to do something that previous presidents had promised but did not fulfill. For 22 years, Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama had repeatedly signed waivers to postpone the bipartisan congressional decision to transfer the embassy to Jerusalem. Trump’s decision has ended 22 years of negotiations sponsored by the US, which had pretended to play Honest Broker. In fact, American positions were coordinated with Israel throughout. Historically, the US has always exercised its veto power to block UN resolutions against Israeli settlements (except once—at the end of Obama’s term).
After Trump’s first slip of the tongue, he dispatched two senior aides to the Middle East—his son-in-law Jared Kushner and his attorney Jason Greenblatt—to reach the “ultimate deal” between Israel and the Palestinians. The two emissaries, religious Jews and lovers of Israel, pressured the Palestinians to take part in a regional conference that would reconcile Saudi Arabia with Israel at their expense. When Trump realized that this conference would not take place, he decided, real estate tycoon that he is, that he could clip some coupons from the Jerusalem declaration and make his evangelicals happy. If past presidents had refrained from implementing the congressional resolution, wanting not to put a monkey wrench in the wheel of negotiations, the message that emerges from Trump is loud and clear: absolute disdain for the peace process.
All those lefties who joyfully expressed happiness at the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, from Yossi Beilin on down, secretly know that it puts a lid on any chance for negotiations. Trump made sure to “taint” his messianic speech with a hint of realpolitik, saying that America will not define Jerusalem’s borders and even pledging support for the two-state solution “if both sides agree.” This stipulation empties that solution of all substance, however, because Israel strongly opposes the idea (as Trump knows very well).
There is no escape from the fact that Trump’s declaration has buried the Palestinian state. Trump’s justification for his Jerusalem declaration is that it is “a recognition of reality.” He added an equally important insight to his decision: “After more than two decades of waivers, we are no closer to a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.” The conclusion is evident: since negotiations have not produced any result, there is no reason to think they will yield any in the future. Therefore, there is no reason not to recognize Jerusalem and bring peace to Israel, even at the expense of the Palestinians.
However, Trump’s announcement is also a recognition of another reality: between the Jordan River and the sea, Palestinians and Israelis live in one space and under one sovereignty. Although there are two separate systems of law in the occupied territories – one side with rights, the other side without them – this situation will not stand the test of time. Trump has apparently given up on the “ultimate deal,” but his one-state slip of the tongue will continue to resonate while the political horizon ebbs and the Palestinian Authority weakens.
In 50 years of occupation, there has been no Palestinian who has not felt the effects of the two-faced American position. Add to this the split between the PA and Hamas, two parasitic bodies that will leave no stone unturned to stay in power (a greed that serves Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition). Their departure from the map, sooner or later, will set the stage for the recognition of a one-state paradigm, and Trump’s slips of the tongue will become reality. Trump, the evangelicals, and their Israeli allies will only accelerate this process.
*Translated from the Hebrew by Robert Goldman