President-elect Donald Trump has his work cut out for him, so far as the Middle East is concerned, and in the first place, it is a question of restoring American credibility, something which was totally demolished under the Obama-Clinton-Kerry failed policies in the region. Arguably, the US abstention in the Security Council and the vitriolically anti Israel speech of Secretary Kerry, were supposed to arouse a wave of praise and acclamation in the Arab world, but that did not happen. Save some Palestinian Authority complimentary comments, the silence all over the rest of the region was deafening, and that was not because Arabs did not enjoy watching the public American-Israeli feud, rather because they simply lost any vestige of trust in the current administration as well as respect for it.
The only Arab member of the Security Council, Egypt, withdrew its proposed resolution after a talk between President Al Sisi with PM Netanyahu, and voted in favor of the resolution finally tabled, out of no choice, and that was just an illustration, though symbolic of Arab displeasure with the US. When exactly was the breaking point, the event which led Arabs to view President Obama with a very suspicious, if not to say, cynical attitude is not exactly clear. I can offer three possible such events. First, the attitude towards President Mubarrak of Egypt, and the support given to the Muslim Brotherhood there, something which seemed to be support for the forces of radical Islam, a direct challenge to all those Arab regimes, chief among them Saudi Arabia, which were fearfully watching the Arab Spring, viewing it as the greatest threat to their own survivability. Beyond that, there was the Arab displeasure with what was perceived as a display of American disloyalty to an old friend. Loyalty is an important element of Arab society and politics, and Mubarrak being the loyal ally of the US for three full decades was unceremoniously abandoned by the US. Second, it was the famous story about the Red Lines in Syria, the specific Obama Administration threat to act against Bashar Assad, if it was proved beyond any reasonable doubt, that he used chemical weapons against his own people, which it was. Obama's reaction? Words, and more words, in short, as the Arabs say, Kalam Fadi [empty words]. Third, and probably, the most significant example of American failed policy, was the tremendous effort behind the Iran nuclear deal. For many Arabs, this was THE breaking point. The US bending over backwards to appease the ONE country which was and is considered the greatest threat to stability and peace in the Middle East, the Islamic Republic of Iran. It was not Arab concern for Israel's security which fueled their opposition to the deal, not any fascination with Netanyahu speech in Congress, but the fear of the Sunni world from the rising power of Shi'ite Iran. With that, we can see a connection to Kerry speech. For many Arabs, the speech was no more than a rant of a disgruntled politician, being too little and too late, another of the speeches given without any actions to support them. The Iran deal proved what the US could do when it really wanted to achieve a goal, so giving such an arousing speech in the last days of the administration was taken to be an empty gesture. Sure, many Arabs are elated to see the Israelis sweating and running amok against Obama, but clearly everyone knows, that there is a new sheriff in town, and what Kerry and his superior did not do in eight years, they will not do in eight days.
Here is President-elect Trump facing an American policy and prestige in shambles, and ironically enough, this scenario presents him with an opportunity-he cannot push American standing lower than where it is now-he can only take it higher, and he will be able to do it by acting in contrast to the appeasement -like policy of President Obama. Moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem will not be popular in the Middle East and the Islamic world, but doing it will still send a message that was missing in American policy in the last eight years-America means business. The reactions? Well until now we heard the Palestinians threatening violence-really? Do they really need an excuse, and Jordan, of all countries, talking about ''crossing red lines''. So, King Abdallah will sadly have to swallow a bitter pill, and then move on. Does he have another choice? Since moving the embassy has become an issue, or will be one, the President-elect will do good to his own credibility and that of the US, by sticking to his guns. That will be a necessary step along the road of restoring American prestige, without which NO American policy stands any chance of succeeding in the Middle East.