Every dark cloud has a silver lining. The torrent of complex problems that Donald Trump has unleashed by his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital will plague United States policy and Middle East peace-making for many years. You cannot un-recognize a capital once you have recognized it. Whatever caveats he may offer, Trump has effectively accepted Israel’s annexation of vast swaths of the occupied West Bank into greater Jerusalem, and its declaration of this entire zone as its “eternal undivided capital.”
But in plunging the Middle East into what may be a prolonged crisis, and saddling future generations of American policy-makers with the burden of dealing with the mess he has made, Trump may have inadvertently cleared the air. He may have smashed a rotten status quo of US “peace processing” that has served only to entrench and legitimize Israel’s military occupation and colonization of Palestinian land for a quarter-century, which has made more difficult a just, lasting peace between the Palestinian and Israeli peoples.
After Trump, how can the eternally dishonest broker—“Israel’s attorney,” in the words of veteran State Department official Aaron David Miller—even pretend to act as a mediator? Trump has, in effect, adopted wholesale the Israeli position that all of Jerusalem belongs exclusively to Israel, and that all of it—including areas extending far north, south, and east of the city—is Israel’s capital, denying the Palestinians any national or political rights there. He has thereby nailed the United States flag to a position that antagonizes virtually every Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim, and the overwhelming majority of peoples and governments around the world.
There can be—and there should be—no going back to the old formula in place for decades, whereby the United States colluded privately with Israel and the two powers thereafter imposed their will on the Palestinians. That was never the way to achieve a just and lasting peace; it served only to oblige the weaker party to bow to the will of the stronger, which in turn exacerbated and prolonged the conflict. If this changes, it is indeed a silver lining to what promises to be a debacle for US diplomacy and for the stability of the Middle East. ...