The experts all told us Donald Trump had no chance to win the presidency in 2016. Then he had the audacity to win anyway.
The experts all told us Joe Biden would crush Donald Trump in 2020, and that the Democrats would sweep Congress. Reality intervened: Republicans gained in the House, have more than a shot at keeping the Senate, and the presidential election was diabolically close, whatever its ultimate outcome turns out to be.
The experts didn’t seem to have a problem with socialism, riots, or “defund the police,” but those are triggering civil war within the Democratic Party.
Donald Trump made move after move across four years that defied the will of the collective experts. Experts insisted for years that Trump was just Putin’s puppet; Trump unleashed American fracking, damaging Russia’s economic standing. Expert inveighed against taking China on; Trump thought otherwise and if he has accomplished nothing else on that front, now most of the world has figured out that making that totalitarian regime the global manufacturing hub is deeply problematic.
Perhaps no defiance of the experts was more audacious than Trump’s decision to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Previous presidents for more than 20 years, Republican and Democrat, were required by U.S. law to move the embassy. None had followed through. They listened to the experts and signed waivers every six months keeping the embassy in Tel Aviv and the land on which the embassy was supposed to stand in Jerusalem an empty lot.
Trump promised to make the move during his 2016 run for the presidency, but he actually intended to follow through, and in late 2017, he did.
Israeli’s mostly welcomed the news, but the experts mostly don’t listen to them.
Experts erupted in derision and rage. The Atlantic ran a long, troubled piece at the time, quoting various experts predicting Jerusalem would be a “detonator” and a “land mine.”
It’s not clear how Trump’s announcement fits into a broader diplomatic strategy in the region, including the president’s vague promises that he’s going to secure the ultimate deal between Israelis and Palestinians. “This is almost like stepping on a landmine,” said Shalom Lipner, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who previously served in the prime minister’s office in Israel. “To the extent that people think there is a realistic chance of some sort of [peace] process, they’re much more concerned that this will set back negotiations.”
Just because the experts couldn’t figure out Trump’s strategy doesn’t mean he didn’t have one. It was just outside their boxed-in ways of thinking.
“It incites feelings of anger among all Muslims and threatens world peace,” Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, imam of Egypt’s al-Azhar mosque, told Reuters. “The gates of hell will be opened in the West before the East.”
That’s from NPR (which should be defunded) on Dec. 6, 2017.
The left-leaning J Street lobbying group darkly warned of violence that may result from this “damaging” decision.
Once again, as in the case of the Iran nuclear agreement, ideology and political concerns are triumphing over the commonsense recommendations of US and Israeli security experts and the opinion of the majority of Jewish Americans. We hope it will not result in further violence and suffering for Israelis and Palestinians – but we fear that it might.
Members of Congress and Jewish communal leaders concerned about Israel’s security and future should not support this misguided and damaging decision.
CNN’s explainer report at the time made it clear that the Palestinians would be enraged, devoting half of its report to their likely reaction, which, it turns out, has been part of the problem all along. Playing up the Palestinians has distorted the politics and peace of the entire region. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence saw this. The experts didn’t.
The AP headlined its report accusing Trump of “smashing” longstanding U.S. policy when, in reality, Congress had passed, and President Bill Clinton had signed, a law mandating the move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem way back in 1995. That report noted that even Trump’s own internal experts warned against the move.
In making his decision, Trump overruled more cautious counsel from Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis, who voiced concern about endangering U.S. diplomats and troops in Muslim countries, according to officials briefed on internal administration deliberations. Those officials were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity.
So they tattled to the press anyway.
Politico reported that even Pope Francis weighed in against the move.
Pope Francis, who met earlier Wednesday at the Vatican with a Palestinian delegation, voiced his own opposition to the U.S. shift in Israel, urging a continuation of “everyone’s commitment to respect the city’s status quo, in conformity with the pertinent United Nations Resolutions.”
“My thoughts go to Jerusalem and I cannot keep silent my deep concern for the situation that has been created in the past days,” the pope said. “I pray to the Lord that its identity is preserved and strengthened for the benefit of the Holy Land, the Middle East and the whole world and that wisdom and prudence prevail to prevent new elements of tension from being added to a global context already convulsed by so many cruel conflicts.”
Lighten up, (Pope) Francis. Trump’s bold move worked out pretty well.
Not only did war not break out — peace did.
Three years later, the outcome of the presidential election remains uncertain, but the predictions of the experts on Jerusalem have been definitively proven wrong. Trump’s move did not lead to another war, or even another intifada in Israel. We have one of those ongoing in Portland, but Israel doesn’t have one on its soil at the moment.
Trump pulled the United States out of the Obama-Biden Iran nuclear deal, he ramped up economic sanctions on Iran, he bumped off Iran’s top terrorist general, and he pushed the Palestinians out to the periphery rather than keeping them always in the middle of everything giving them undue power over war and peace — and he did all of this in defiance of the so-called experts.
As we approach the end of 2020, instead of war, stability has broken out across the Middle East. Israel has normalized relations for the first time with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Sudan — all Arab states. These are the first normalizations of relations between Israel and any Arab state in decades. The Abraham Accords are historic. The experts never even saw them coming, and have failed to assess them accurately ever since. The Palestinians find themselves so marginalized they quit their chairmanship of the Arab League — and no one noticed.
Now Joe Biden is the biggest threat to peace in the region. The experts won’t tell you so, of course. If he puts the Palestinians back front and center, as the experts tell him he must, and if he re-enters the Iran nuclear deal, as he has already said he will, Biden will once again get foreign policy wrong, as his Obama-administration colleague Robert Gates says he most often does. From the jaws of peace, Biden would increase the risks of violence and war.
But at least the experts get to take their seats back at the table. That’s what really matters in Swamptown Washington.