The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Trump and Jerusalem:
Playing with Matches

Dec 11, 2017

Donald Trump announced that the U.S. will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and will begin, eventually, moving the U.S. embassy to that city. Trump said he was only recognizing the obvious: “Jerusalem is the seat of the modern Israeli government.” Trump also pointed out that the so-called “peace process” between the Israelis and the Palestinians has long been going nowhere. At the same time, he hedged his bet by stressing that he was not saying how much of Jerusalem was Israel’s capital, leaving open the door that a future Palestinian state could still make its capital in East Jerusalem.

Immediately, the British, French, and German governments, along with many politicians within the U.S., condemned Trump’s announcement.

While Trump’s statement reflects reality, by saying it openly he threatens to upset the delicate balancing act imperialism has played in the region for decades.

U.S., British, and French imperialism look to protect their oil interests in the Middle East. Israel, whose very existence depends on the military might of imperialism, is their staunchest supporter. But imperialism also has to rest on the less-reliable governments of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan, and Egypt to keep their impoverished populations down. In the past, U.S. allies like the Shah of Iran have been overthrown and replaced by governments that attempted to assert some independence from imperialist domination.

The situation of the Palestinian population, many of whom are living in what amount to permanent refugee camps, is a symbol of the domination of imperialism over the whole region. That’s why any fight by the Palestinians to break free from the domination of the Israeli state has destabilized the situation in other parts of the Middle East.

To have any legitimacy in this part of the world, imperialism has to pretend to be neutral. It has to hold out some hope for the Palestinians that by participating in the “peace process,” by counting on so-called “legitimate” leaders like the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to negotiate, their situation will eventually improve. But as Abbas said, Trump’s announcement makes it impossible for the U.S. to play the role of mediator between Israel and the Palestinians.

The opposition of all these political leaders to Trump’s grand-standing has nothing to do with concern for the future of the Palestinians. They just worry that Trump’s move threatens a region which is already not very stable.