AFP / File / Ahmad GHARABLI
Palestinian men watching President Donald Trump’s address recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 6
President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has reverberated across the Middle East and the world, but the motives for his move may lie in politics at home. In fulfillment an explosive campaign promised, Trump has prompted rioting in Ramallah, put the already moribund Middle East peace process in doubt and wedge between the United States and its allies.
Yet crucially for this US embattled president, he has also shored up his Christian evangelical base, squared away further support from a vital donor and burnished his image as a political iconoclast. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush had made the same promise to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, but faced with the same destabilizing consequences, backed down. Trump’s political brand is to show no such queasiness. “It’s a fetish, and I’m convinced Trump is driven by a desire to make his predecessors look bad by comparison,” said Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia. “‘They ignored their promises, I fulfilled mine.'” – Familiar playbook – Trump’s announcement in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House. Two months ago, in the same room, before the same podium, beneath the same emblematic portrait of America’s founding father George Washington, Trump launched a similar foreign policy gambit. Then, he was shocked allies by questioning a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program. On Wednesday it was picking sides in the blood feud over control of Jerusalem. During the Great Recession and World War II, Franklin Roosevelt used the Diplomatic Reception Room for his “fireside cats,” designed to serve and reassure an anxious nation. Trump has two times in his young presidency used the room to light a match that risked setting the Middle East ablaze. But on both Iran and Jerusalem, helpers say Trump made it crystal clear he was determined to fulfill his pledge to voters. He is a member of the board of directors of Rex Tillerson and Pentagon chief James Mattis. At a November 27 meeting of the National Security Council on Jerusalem, Trump gave more weight to the voices of UN ambassador Nikki Haley and Vice President Mike Pence. “The Vice President argues that this is the moment to take decisive action,” White House told AFP. “The President was very receptive to that.” Pence and Haley’s deep interest and involvement in that decision was not coincidental. – Religious right – Pence, who was late last month courted pro-Israel groups in New York, has also been one of the links between the administration and mega donor Sheldon Adelson. The casino magnate threw tens of millions of dollars behind Trump’s presidential campaign and has lobbied vociferously for the White House to recognize Jerusalem. And having been selected as Trump’s running mate in July 2016, Pence has been a more crucial bridge between the New Yorker bombers and those evangelical voters that helped propel him to the White House. Both he and Haley are strong advocates for a religious right. Around 76 percent of evangelical witnesses aged over 65 – a group that voted overwhelmingly for Trump – a positive view of Israel, according to a survey by LifeWay. Diana Butler Bass, Diana Butler Bass, Diana Butler Bass, Diana Butler Bass, Diana Butler Bass, Diana Butler Bass, Diana Butler Bass, Diana Butler Bass, Diana Butler Bass, and Diana Butler Bass. Trump does not share that view, but facing a battle for the soul of the Republican Party, midterm elections in 2018 that could see Democrats make significant gains and a Russia investigation that threatens his presidency, he must keep diehard supporters onside. During Wednesday’s announcement, Trump and Pence stood side-by-side, both wearing blue shirts and white shirts that echoed the Israeli flag, offering a small hint to the motive behind a move that echoes far beyond the United States.

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