Declaring that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and then moving the American embassy there, will easily be among the most bone-headed things President Trump does during his time in office ― and that’s really saying something, given the long list of his previous blunders! It’s also incredibly selfish. Here’s what I mean:
Why It’s Stupid
1. By insulting the Palestinians so blatantly, Trump sabotages Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, ending them for the foreseeable future. Decades of work to bring about a two-state solution by Republican and Democratic presidents gets flushed down the toilet.
2. Trump gives terrorists the best possible recruiting tool they’ve had in years. Al Qaeda drew countless recruits by painting the American-Israeli alliance as being anti-Muslim. Trump is playing right into the terrorists’ hands, meaning that...
3. Trump’s move increases the threat to Americans in other countries and here at home. This is just incredibly obvious ― so much so that it must be asked why he’s doing it, and why now.
Why It’s Selfish
1. I don’t like being cynical. I much prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt. But Trump has a clearly established pattern, even just during the last couple of years, of changing the subject when things are going against him, often resorting to baseless lies in the process. (Access Hollywood tape? Bring Bill Clinton’s accusers to his debate with Hillary. Russia revelations force Attorney General Sessions to recuse himself? Accuse Obama of wire-tapping his campaign.)
The big thing happening right now? Today, it was reported (and later denied by a Trump attorney) that special counsel Robert Mueller subpoenaed Trump’s financial statements from a German bank as he probes whether Trump and his campaign officials partnered with the Russian government to undermine our democratic process. (The probe has also been active in looking into cover ups and obstructions of justice by Trump and his aides; such charges formed the main impeachment case against Bill Clinton, and would have been a major part of the impeachment of Richard Nixon, had it come to pass.) This past week, Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, became the second person associated with Team Trump to plead guilty to criminal charges brought by Mueller.
More than anything, Trump wants to keep his finances a secret. That’s why, despite promising to release his tax returns in January 2016, he never did, always coming up with some implausible excuse equivalent to a first grader’s “the dog ate my homework.” Trump even said a few months ago that he would be particularly unhappy if Mueller crossed the proverbial “red line” by digging into his finances.
2. At the same time that Mueller is getting too close for Trump’s comfort, Israel’s prime minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, is the subject of protests by Israeli citizens. 20,000 showed up in Tel Aviv, calling him out for corruption. It is an open subject of debate whether Netanyahu himself will even be indicted. He has been dogged by scandal for decades, even going back to the early 1990s, long before he became prime minister. Netanyahu has also long been a family friend of Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
Trump’s incredibly stupid move is, in my view, an attempt to change the subject, both for his own sake and Netanyahu’s as well.
3. Famously insecure and narcissistic, Trump has a pattern of saying and doing things that the Religious Right likes. They in turn sing his praises, even claiming (despite the bounty of behavioral evidence) that the president is truly a “baby Christian.” One of the things that many prominent Religious Right leaders believe is that the current state of Israel is a fulfillment of biblical prophecy about the Jews, God’s chosen people. Therefore, they teach that Christians must do all they can to support Israel’s political interests against its Arab neighbors. To do otherwise is to risk the curse of God as was promised to Abraham in the Book of Genesis 12.3: “Whoever blesses you, I will bless. Whoever curses you, I will curse.”
Never mind that the vast majority of Christians in the region are Arabs who think the U.S. is too supportive of Israel. Also never mind the contortions of biblical interpretation that lead many white conservative evangelicals to back the current state of Israel’s political aims.
The president is being so plainly stupid and selfish. And we, and the world, will pay for it.
A married father of two daughters, Eugene Hung is a Southern California-based advocate for social justice, especially as it relates to the rights of women and girls. He blogs at FeministAsianDad.com.