Iran and the Hezbollah aren’t too unhappy with Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Contrary to what Donald Trump said, America’s recognition of Jerusalem is anything but the ‘recognition of reality’. More than recognition of an illegal occupation, it is an ignorance of ground realities whose effects reach regions far from the lands that Israelis and Palestinians claim.
Jingoistic fervors, both in Israel and the US, might lead one to construe the recognition of Jerusalem as one that advances Israel’s interest in the region and marks a significant step toward assurances of Israeli sovereignty but that is hardly the case. Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem threatens the Israeli cause and undermines the progress it has made over the years to get closer to Arab nations in the region, particularly Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia, in various regional conflicts, had more or less become an Israeli ally. Both nations were fighting the same war in Syria on the same side, leading some experts to believe that it was time for the US to step out of the picture and let the Saudis and Israelis negotiate their own terms and strategies. Such a move from the United States might have been particularly fruitful since Muhammad Bin Salman; the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia is rearranging alliances both within and without the Saudi borders. For a young Crown Prince who already on his résumé has plans to introduce a ‘moderate version of Islam’ and ideas to address Saudi’s over-reliance on oil exports, aiming for diplomatic ties with the Israelis wouldn’t have been the most obvious breakaway from traditional Saudi stances. Trump’s decision sabotages any such plans no matter how close to execution they might have been since Saudi, a self-avowed ‘custodian of Holy Mosques’ cannot be seen as an appeasing force while its’ regional foe Iran uses Trump’s decision to justify its’ backing of Hezbollah, the greatest threat to Israel and the Saudi supremacy.
The circumstances surrounding the recognition of Jerusalem bear a close resemblance to an earlier incident when Trump sent out a tweet in which he declared that Rex Tillerson was ‘wasting his time’ negotiating with the North Koreans while Tillerson was negotiating with the North Koreans. Once again, while Tillerson is busy negotiating with the Lebanese Government to counter the rising Hezbollah influence, Trump has triggered a chain of events that ‘castrates him on the world stage’ and wins Hezbollah many supporters both within Lebanon and beyond.
Lebanon has a very fragile and complex political structure that would strengthen and stabilize only if Hezbollah is weakened and destabilized but Trump’s decision on Jerusalem accomplishes the opposite. Just in the last month alone, through efforts and diplomacy of the French President, Emanuel Macron, Lebanon successfully evaded a probable civil war. The last thing the Middle East needs right now is another Yemen-like proxy war that results in deaths of thousands of civilians through bombing and starvation.
Hezbollah is the greatest regional threat to Israel and Iran the greatest regional threat to Saudi Arabia’s regional supremacy. By recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, in the eyes of Muslims, Trump has legitimized Iran’s support for Hezbollah. It is not only detrimental to the Saudis, America’s chief Middle Eastern allies but it also helps the recruiting efforts of Hezbollah, addressing which should be a higher priority for any US administration than recognizing Jerusalem.
In various proxy wars across the region between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the Iranians have been largely successful on the battlefields but their efforts to rile up political and ideological support in the Arab and Muslim world have not been fruitful. As a result of Trump’s decision, that could change since in the eyes of the Muslim world, ultimately Iran’s stance that America’s involvement in Middle Eastern disputes is counterproductive has proven to be the correct one. And given how close the Saudis are to the US, it will only embolden anti-Saudi sentiment in the region, which has been on the rise given their treatment of Yemenis.
Furthermore, Saudis have failed along with the United States, to force a regime change in Syria, an Iranian ally that provides political support to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Israel is also militarily engaged in the Syrian civil war and last when they dropped bombs on Syrian Government forces, the reaction from the Arab world against Israel bombing a Muslim state was not nearly as great as one would have expected just a few years ago but going forward any Israeli offense against Syria will now receive a significant blowback. This hinders Israel’s ability to fight on the same fronts as Saudis and through military alliances, lay down the groundwork for diplomatic ties.
America’s decision was so mistimed and out of line that Israelis, who usually spend millions of dollars in lobbying for their interests, were not even asking for it. They were willing to wait for a better time and dare I say, a better administration.🔷
(This piece was first published on The Blog!)