Rush to mayhem in the Middle East
While U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the nuclear deal with Iran still echoes, the opening of the relocated U.S. embassy in Jerusalem came on top of the ongoing protests on the Gaza border, launched on March 30, provoking further unrest.
According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, at least 58 protesters were killed and 2,700 injured by live gunfire, tear gas or other means, only on May 14.
Trump, who has built his entire presidency on undoing his predecessor Barack Obama’s accomplishments, has been keeping his campaign promises so far.
Yet, hardly can any soul make a compelling explanation on how his recent moves will either make America great or safer, let alone establish peace and security in the Middle East.
Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last December was a significant break from the position of the previous U.S. administrations.
In 1967, after Israel captured East Jerusalem, West Bank, Golan Heights and Sinai Peninsula, the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 242 which demanded Israel’s withdrawal from the “occupied territories.”
Accordingly, the final status of Jerusalem would be determined through a negotiated settlement between the parties.
For decades, Resolution 242 has provided the legal basis for the “land for peace” formula with a hope to reconcile Israelis and Palestinians over a two-state solution in which West Jerusalem would be Israel’s capital and East Jerusalem, Palestine’s.
The Trump administration’s decision thus dashed hopes of reaching a two-state solution, even though the reality on the ground, regarding the expansion of Jewish settlements, has long rendered a two-state solution almost impossible.
Nevertheless, by moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, Washington has further tipped the balance in favor of Israel, leaving Palestinians alone in despair.
Washington is confident that given the weakness of international institutions such as the U.N., the preoccupation of Europeans with other pressing issues, division among the Arab countries and particularly their allergy to Iran prevailing over their solidarity with
Palestinians, it can manage reactions — condemnations which are likely to die in a short while — to its fait accompli moves in the Middle East.
History offers precious guidance, but only to those who are eager to heed their lessons.
The U.S. unilateralism and arrogance during the George W. Bush administration in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks has left a bitter legacy in world politics, divided the transatlantic alliance, undermined U.S. soft power, and set the Middle East on fire, which has been burning since then.
The Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital are products of the new U.S. Middle East policy, which is based on rolling back Iran’s regional influence through stepping up diplomatic and military pressure, without putting American boots on the ground.
From a broader perspective, this policy also serves the purpose of containing China and Russia globally.
So, in this respect, Trump is likely to continue rewarding his loyal allies in the region, namely, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates, at the expense of losing others, even though his policies will add more fuel to fire.
As expected, once again Turkey and Israel are at loggerheads over Israel’s disproportionate use of force against protesting Palestinians.
Given the Turkish society’s deep sympathy for the Palestinian cause, Ankara’s decision to downgrade diplomatic relations is consistent with its traditional political stance regarding the status of Jerusalem.
This time,however, Turkey is equally resentful of Washington for encouraging Israel’s unilateralist stance,which is why Ankara recalled its envoy to the US for consultations.
Undoubtedly, verbal spat between President Tayyip Erdoğan and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu also serve for mobilizing domestic constituency at home, at a time when elections are only weeks away in Turkey and PM Netanyahu is feeling the heat of corruption allegations.
What is different than the diplomatic row that took place prior to Turkey’s presidential elections in August 2014, however, is that Israel has gained new friends in the region over the years which reduces the cost of straining ties with Ankara.
Normalization of bilateral ties will be a topic to be tackled in the aftermath of elections, and is better to be evaluated by Turkish policymakers in light of changing regional dynamics.