Wednesday, June 14, 2017

How to Send the Wrong Message to Palestinians

By Bassam Tawil

  • In the eyes of many Arabs and Muslims, Trump is no longer the strong leader they feared a few months ago. Rather, he has proven to them that he too is susceptible to blackmail and intimidation. And when Trump caves, US credibility suffers. Had Trump gone ahead and fulfilled his promise to move the embassy, he would have earned the respect of many Arabs and Muslims, who would have looked to him as a proper leader.
  • A further point ought to be of extreme interest to the US: When the Palestinians and Arabs talk about the possibility that such a move would "harm" US interests in the region and "trigger violence and bloodshed," they are actually threatening to launch terror attacks against American nationals and interests. That is why Trump's recent decision not to move the embassy to Jerusalem is being understood in the Arab world as surrender to terrorism.
  • Consider what happened when Trump recently ordered a missile attack on Syria. Many Arabs and Muslims took to social media to heap praise on Trump for displaying courage. If and when Trump honors his promises, he will earn even more respect in the Arab and Islamic countries.
President Donald Trump's decision to delay the relocation of the US embassy in Israel (pictured) from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem came after repeated threats by the Palestinian Authority that such a move would "plunge the entire region into violence and bloodshed." (Image source: Krokodyl/Wikimedia Commons)
US President Donald J. Trump's waiver delaying the relocation of the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem accomplishes two things.
First, it disappoints many Israelis for failing to fulfill his pre-election promise. Second, and perhaps more importantly, it has sent precisely the wrong message to the Palestinians. What the Palestinians and other Arabs heard in this message is that the US president folds under pressure and threats.
This message of weakness and retreat harms not only Trump's credibility, but also that of the US by making it appear a country that caves under threats of violence.
In general, it is Trump's presentation of power that garners respect among many Palestinians and Arabs. The Arabs admire and respect such figures because they have been ruled for decades by ruthless tyrants and dictators such as Saddam Hussein. But the Arabs also respect leaders who keep their promises, even if they disagree with and oppose those promises.

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