While it may cost me my membership in the GOP foreign policy establishment’s fan club, I think that President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was the right thing to do on several fronts. To begin with, the simple act of aligning campaign rhetoric and government policy is something we need more of — not less.
Much has been reported about previous presidents saying they would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital only to ignore their pledge after being sworn in. The fact that American presidents were expected to say one thing during the campaign and do another thing once they were elected is, on its face, an unhealthy way to conduct policy. The routine was not sophisticated, subtle or nuanced. It was phony, hypocritical and had devolved into serving our enemies more than our friends.
Of course, with Trump, the administration’s shift was a singular event, not connected to a broader strategy. It was ragged and uncoordinated. But that does not diminish the fact that it is a meaningful accomplishment with long-term consequences. That Trump’s decision to stand with Israel has been greeted with protests around the world and a high-profile vote of disapproval at the United Nations was, if not a teachable moment, certainly a good reminder of Israel’s isolation. Anti-Semitism in Europe is on the rise, and the fashionable boycott of Israel continues to be exploited by the ignorant.
If Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas wants to end discussions with the United States over this, so be it. Abbas is cozy with all the usual suspects. He gets applause and approving nods from elite audiences around the world, but if something positive were going to happen under his leadership, we would know it by now. He has stayed in office long after his expiration date. At least policymakers can quit pretending that after more than a decade in office, Abbas can be part of a solution. So, now is as good a time as any to get every country, commentator and “expert” on the record. Trump may be criticized by Democrats, some members of the foreign policy establishment and foreign leaders, but he is putting American foreign policy in an honest place. Future presidents may thank him for calling out the timid, the pretenders and the malicious to stand up and be counted.
Remember, U.S. support for Israel generally has remained overwhelmingly bipartisan. Congress has — on several occasions — voted in support of moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Polling may indicate less public support now for the move than was the case in years past, but anything these days associated with Trump and his 39 percent approval rating will take a hit in the polls.
Anyway, the president’s decision to follow through on what Congress enacted and what he campaigned on should not be derided as a surprise, much less a blunder. Given President Trump’s uneven relationship with the truth, it is ironic that he is the one reminding the world that presidents should say what they mean and mean what they say. By supporting Israel and doing what he said he would, Trump deserves some credit.