Donald Trump is teaching Palestinians about the new dynamics of Middle East politics, and the news isn’t good for them

President Trump visited Jerusalem earlier this year and will effectively recognise it as the Israeli capital by moving US diplomats there

Donald Trump is teaching Palestinians about the new dynamics of Middle East politics.

Zev Chafets explains at Bloomberg:

Appearances can be deceiving. There is more than generosity, or fidelity to a campaign promise, behind this move. Trump?s many critics don?t give him much credit for strategic thinking, but I think that?s what we are seeing right now.

In and of itself, Trump’s declaration gives nothing away. Jerusalem has been the de facto capital of Israel for 70 years. East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians claim, was annexed by Israel in the summer of 1967. The world didn?t recognize that annexation, but Israelis now take it for granted. Jerusalem is the seat of the Knesset, the Supreme Court and the prime minister?s residence. East Jerusalem is home to more than 200,000 Israelis. No Israeli government could bargain it away and stay in power.? It is a fait accompli.? ?

Donald Trump knows this. (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has explained it to him many times.) If a deal depends on an Israeli withdrawal from Jerusalem, then there will be no deal — just endless ?peace processing? interrupted by sporadic outbreaks of Palestinian violence that Israel can contain.

Jordan is the only country that can lay claim to East Jerusalem, and they can’t and won’t do anything. Since 1970 and Arafat’s days the Palestinians have been holding out for something they can never recover.

Trump likes winners, and the Palestinians aren?t winning. The American decision to recognize Israel’s capital is proof of that. It is not a??stab in the back? as Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian Liberation Organization?spokesman in Washington, put it. Palestinian wounds are self-inflicted and getting worse.?The?Palestinian Authority?leaders?haven?t figured out that they are yesterday?s problem.

There was a time when the Palestinian cause galvanized real emotion in the Muslim Middle East. But this is now a different region and a different world. The Arab League, which once wielded an oil weapon, is now a gathering of empty?djellabas. Muslim nations outside the region, riven by sectarian dissent and political rivalries, are not going to lift more than an accusing finger. Pope Francis is?praying?for a return to the status quo, which is fine. Old Europe is disconcerted by the change in American policy, but will come around. Turks are threatening to break relations with Israel, but we?ve seen this movie before, most recently in 2010-2016.

I doubt the Israelis will give two piles of camel dung about Turkey breaking off ties.

In the U.S., the anti-Trump foreign policy establishment is scandalized. John Brennan, the head of the CIA during the Barack Obama administration, has?called the president out?for ?a foreign policy blunder of historic proportion? that will ?damage U.S. interests in the Middle East for years to come and make the region more volatile.?? This, not coincidentally, was almost the verbatim assessment of the CIA and State Department in 1948 when they warned President Harry Truman against recognizing a Jewish state. Fortunately, Truman didn?t listen.

In any case, it is hard to imagine the Middle East in a?more?volatile state than Obama, Brennan and Secretary of State John Kerry left it. In eight years, the U.S. managed the overthrow of its ally Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, welcomed his short-lived Muslim Brotherhood successor, and then alienated Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the current (pro-American) strongman in Cairo. The administration created enduring chaos in Libya with its highly original tactic of leading a military campaign from behind.In Iraq, Obama withdrew troops and watched American military victory turn into defeat and disorder. The U.S. sat on its red lines while Syria disintegrated.Obama himself publicly underestimated the potency of the Islamic State (the?“jayvee team”). The list goes on.

The worst mistake of the Obama years, by far, and the one behind Trump?s regional diplomacy, was the Kerry-engineered attempt to appease and court Iran.The nuclear deal was bad enough, but in its wake, Iranian power spread through the Middle East like a pox. Shiite fundamentalism on their borders and the prospect of nuclearized ayatollahs just over the horizon terrified the Sunni regimes?of the Gulf, Egypt and Jordan.?

Obama was such the brilliant tactician…not.

Notably, these countries, once the patrons of the Palestinians, have been?remarkably mild?(at least by local standards) in their denunciations of the Jerusalem sovereignty announcement. It is unlikely that they were shocked, and it is less even less likely that they will turn away from America as a result of what would, not so long ago, have been considered an unthinkable decision. Fear has made them into realists.

Trump has made it clear that he shares the Sunni fear of Iranian expansion. He began making the case on his trip to Saudi Arabia last spring, the first stop on his maiden presidential voyage. Jerusalem was the second.

The Sunni Arab nations lack the military power to deal with Tehran. It is highly unlikely that Trump, whose bark is worse than his bite, plans to deploy American troops to overthrow the ayatollahs. Even if he has such an idea, his present standing with the American public makes it impracticable.

The only way to roll back Iranian aggression is piece by piece, starting in Syria. And the only military power that can help is Israel. Iran is a common enemy, after all. Cooperation is only natural.

Ask anyone in the Middle East who they fear…it isn’t Israel, it is Iran.

The shape of this cooperation is already visible in the night sky over Damascus, where Israeli missiles and air strikes are?disassembling Iranian military installations?as fast as they are built. It is also discernible in the recent large-scale Israeli Defense Forces maneuvers aimed at prepping for a land war against Iran?s Lebanese puppet, Hezbollah.

This is risky business, even with American backing. Iran is arming Hamas with an eye to a coordinated missile attack on Israeli cities from Gaza and Lebanon. Israel can protect itself, but it would be costly, and there is always the risk of escalation.

And so, Israel?s full participation in the Trump-Sunni project comes at a price. Netanyahu has a vision of how to solve the Palestinian issue. It includes a unified Jerusalem legally belonging to Israel, as well as continued West Bank settlement and, if there ever?is?a deal, a demilitarized Palestinian entity. The alternative — no deal — is okay with him, too.

Seen this way, Trump?s move today is not a Hanukkah present at all.? It is a down payment. How long will it take to build that embassy? Three years? Four? No rush. Time is on Israel?s side.

The Palestinians have had nearly 50 years to solve their issues. The world has moved on and they are trapped in grievance mode. No one is listening anymore.