Trump ends U.S. role as honest Mideast mediator

Henry I. Schvey is professor of drama and comparative literature at Washington University in St. Louis.


When President Donald Trump announced that he would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the results were entirely predictable: renewed violence and bloodshed in a part of the world where such horrors have been all too common over the 70 years since Israel’s founding in 1948. 

Just hours after the formal announcement last week, there were already reports of 52 Palestinians dead and 2,400 injured. Jared Kushner, the president’s normally silent viceroy whose qualification as a diplomat is that he happens to be an Orthodox Jew married to Trump’s daughter, uttered a proclamation of victory masked with words of peace. 

The United States, he said, “remains fully committed to facilitating a lasting peace agreement. … When there is peace in this region, we will look back upon this day and will remember that the journey to peace started with a strong America recognizing the truth.” 



Tipping the scales of justice radically in favor of Israel, the United States has forever abandoned its role as an honest mediator in subsequent negotiations with the Palestinians or the Arab world. 

Declaring Israel unilaterally the “winner,” Trump’s policy betrayed generations of people sincerely committed to the peace process and to justice on both sides.

There can be no doubt that Trump’s policy seeks to undermine and destroy America’s approach to the Middle East over the past 40 years. Since President Jimmy Carter’s Camp David accords in 1979, every succeeding American president, including George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, has subscribed to a basic even-handedness in Arab-Israeli relations. 

Yes, we have a special relationship with the Jewish State as the sole representative of democratic values in the Middle East. But peace between nations in a world where nuclear chaos looms has always been seen as a higher priority than loyalty to Israel. Now this has changed. 

In Trump, whose candidacy was built on racial prejudice and bigotry, we have a man who has committed not to the peace process, but to Israel alone. Is this good news for the Jewish State? I’m sure many American Jews will think so, just as many celebrated his unilateral disavowal of the Iran deal. But before we spike the football on our victory, we Jews should remember that nothing is what it seems with this president. 

Is he really so dedicated to Israel, or is this just another devious and ugly appeal to his right-wing base? Is the recognition of Jerusalem an act of a pro-Jewish president, or a contrived attempt to assuage his Evangelical zealots who see Israel as the home of the “Rapture”? 

Trump has built his career on the back of his own sense of entitlement and self-aggrandizement, not based on ethics but on self-love and narcissism. He will do anything to win, including slandering his opponents and withdrawing from signed agreements simply because his predecessor advocated on their behalf. Such a man is not to be trusted with having America or Israel’s best interests at heart. Not ever. 

Before American Jews begin to chant “next year in Jerusalem,” they should recall that they are aligning themselves with the man who said there were “very fine people on both sides” in Charlottesville. 

Perhaps the true measure of this move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is not to be found in Kushner’s or Trump’s words at all. Instead, it is in the gloating victory lap taken by Trump’s kindred spirit, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a man who similarly plays to win at any cost and whose relationship with the truth has been, shall we say, somewhat dubious. 

Unlike Kushner, who ludicrously pretends that proclaiming Jerusalem Israel’s capital is consistent with America’s “remain[ing] fully committed to facilitating a lasting peace agreement,” Netanyahu unleashed words of full-on military triumphalism with nary a wave toward the two-state solution or the slightest note of compassion for the fate of the Palestinians for whom Jerusalem is also their capital: 

“What a glorious day,” Netanyahu thundered. “Remember this moment! This is history! President Trump, by recognizing history, you have made history. … We are in Jerusalem and we are here to stay.”

Meanwhile, in Gaza, Palestinian youths have already begun to die, and young Israelis will almost surely follow.

Henry I. Schvey is professor of drama and comparative literature at Washington University in St. Louis.