Former State Department official Aaron David Miller, who helped execute American Middle East policy throughout most of the last 25 years, including much of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, wrote earlier this week regarding President Trump’s announced recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital: “Arab state helplessness in the face of Trump’s decision is an indication of how much region has changed and loss of centrality of Palestinian issue. Palestinian street is exhausted; the Arab street has disappeared.”
The impotence that has characterized the Palestinian, Arab, and broader Muslim reactions to the announcement shouldn’t have been a surprise. Yet many foreign policy “experts” predicted a much different outcome. If nothing else comes from Trump’s announcement, it should force a broad reconsideration of the efficacy of continuing to listen to the same people making the same bad calls they’ve made for years.
Before the announcement, analysts told us to expect extensive violence and targeting of U.S. interests. According to former Obama Administration official Ben Rhodes, “Trump is risking huge blowback against the U.S..” Did you hear that? “Huge blowback!” And there have been some protests. My favorite was the one in Bethlehem — in Manger Square, no less! — during which some four guys unenthusiastically stomped on pictures of Donald Trump.
By Thursday, the day after Trump’s speech, 23 U.S. embassies around the world had warned of possible violent protests in response to the announcement. The State Department issued its first “worldwide caution” since 2003 — the start of the Iraq War. Scary! I’m sure our foreign service would never cry wolf to help drive a media narrative as payback for a president not taking their advice, but it crossed my mind.