Trump’s Completely Symbolic Announcement About Relocating The Embassy Is Still Extremely Significant. And Dangerous.
Because in proclaiming that he intends to move the U.S. Embassy, he’ll become the first U.S. President to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, since its establishment in 1948. The announcement is expected at around lunchtime today.
Jerusalem is the seat of Israel’s government, but no foreign embassies are located there. As Roll Call points out, Congress actually passed a law in 1995 mandating the Embassy be moved, but all Presidents since then have signed waivers indefinitely delaying that move from taking place. Trump will continue to sign those waivers. And the White House says the relocation will take years.
Trump made a round of calls to Mideast leaders to explain what he was up to. And the response, aside from Israel’s President Benjamin Netanyahu, as might be expected, wasn’t good. Trump’s very good friend, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, warned the President “Moving the U.S. embassy is a dangerous step that provokes the feelings of Muslims around the world“. That’s according to Saudi state television. Turkey’s President Erdogan called Trump’s move a “red line” and threatened to cut off diplomatic ties with Israel. And according to an advisor, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the move unacceptable and warned Trump he’s “playing into the hands of extremism”. But, as reported by the Washington Post, Trump “just went on saying he had to do it”.
Regardless of how you feel personally about the move, the timing is a little head-scratching. Trump and the United States are taking on a lot of risk for very little potential return. Trump’s been spending a lot of time cozying up to Arab leaders in the Mideast, and at the very least is throwing away a lot of goodwill he spent a lot of time and effort gaining. At worst, just as ISIS is losing power, he’s incentivizing a new generation of violent extremists. So who’s he doing this for? Right-wing Christians and Jews in the U.S. and Israel’s current power structure. Worth it?
Palestinian leaders declaring 3 days of protests, starting today. The U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem is taking the possibility of an immediate backlash against Americans very seriously, issuing the following “red alert”:
An interesting piece in the Atlantic, written a few days ago, accuses Trump of conducting foreign policy by “symbolic half-measures”. It argues the embassy announcement fits a pattern: Trump makes a bold statement that appears to be fulfilling a campaign promise, but then doesn’t really fulfill it.
Another Democratically Elected Leader May Have Lessons For Trump On How To Treat People Who Dare Testify Against You
A very strange trial going on right now in New York, where a Turkish gold trader is implicating Recep Erdogan, the President of Turkey (Trump’s a fan) in conspiring to break economic sanctions against Iran (Trump’s not a fan of Iran).
Even though Erdogan himself is not on trial, the testimony is sending shock waves through Turkey and threatening Turkey/U.S. ties. According to CNBC, Erdogan’s detained 17 of the trader’s business associates back in Turkey, and moved to freeze his assets and bank accounts.
Turkey’s Democratically elected leader has shut down most independent news organizations, jailed hundreds of journalists and detained more than a hundred thousand others after a failed coup attempt last year. Back in April, voters narrowly approved a referendum that could make him President for life.
“Until him, all Turkish prime ministers did as they were told” one supporter approvingly told Bloomberg.
Other News We Found Interesting, In Brief
• Democratic Congressman John Conyers resigns. The longest serving member of the House, is embroiled in a sexual harrassment scandal. The 88-year old Conyers is endorsing his 27-year old son as his replacement.
On the other side of the aisle, Republicans continue to rally around Roy Moore…although not all Republicans: including South Dakota’s John Thune, and Arizona’s Jeff Flake, who wrote a $100 campaign donation check to Moore’s Democratic opponent, Doug Jones. Jones meanwhile shifted into high gear as the campaign entered its final stretch, adopting a much more aggressive tone which we imagine he’ll carry through to next Tuesday’s election. Saying: “Men who hurt little girls should go to jail, not the US Senate“.
• The Supreme Court hears arguments in the case of a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. As explained by Jeffrey Toobin in the New Yorker, the baker says his cakes are artistic creations and he can’t be forced to create works of art against his will. Justice Stephen Breyer warned a broad ruling in favor of the baker could “undermine every civil-rights law, from the year one”. But isn’t that sort of the point of bringing the case? And of the Trump Administration’s active support of the baker?
• The International Olympic Committee bans Russia from February’s Olympic Games, but Russian athletes will still be able to participate. This is kind of a mess: after unprecedented evidence of widespread doping, cover-ups, corruption and sabotage at every level of Russia’s Olympic sports apparatus, the IOC said it had no choice but issue its ban. However, athletes who have not been previously caught doping, and pass any tests they may be subject to between now and the games can participate, just not under the Russian flag. Russia could also decide to boycott the Pyeongchang, South Korea games altogether.
• The Senate confirms Kirstjen Nielsen as Homeland Security Secretary, including a handful of votes from Democrats. Nielsen, who’s been working as Deputy White House Chief of Staff under John Kelly, will now be in charge of the agency he used to run. Kelly impressed Trump with his zeal for and efficiency at rounding up undocumented immigrants. Expect more of the same.
• Trump reassures his base about the tax bill. At a lunch meeting with Senate Republicans, the President commented on efforts by the House and Senate to reconcile the different versions of tax cut bills they’ve now both passed, saying “I think we’re going to make it so that it comes out very beautifully“. According to Roll Call, he promised working families the final bill will ensure “[you’ll] be making so much money you are not going to know what to do with it.”
Do people still fall for this shtick?