Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

If you happened to see The Insult, an engaging Lebanese film nominated this year for a foreign-language Oscar, you have a sense of how small slights can escalate into civil wars in the tinder box that is the Middle East.

Consider then how much metaphorical gasoline U.S. President Donald Trump has poured onto these embers by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and promising to move the U.S. embassy there, by naming an unabashedly pro-Israel ambassador who supports West Bank settlements, by threatening to renew sanctions on Iran and by otherwise dispensing with any pretense about the United States being an honest broker for peace in the Middle East.

As insults go, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is a doozie. Not only is it highly disrespectful of Palestinians who claim the ancient city as their own, it undermines the peace process by putting the United States squarely in Israel’s camp on an issue that can only be settled at the negotiating table. “We’ve taken it off the table,“ Mr. Trump insisted this week at an Oval Office meeting with a gloating Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “So, this gives us a real opportunity for peace.”

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Trump’s logic is hard enough to follow on any issue. But the U.S. President seems to think he can force the Palestinians to the table by putting his thumbs on the scale. His message seems to be that his is a limited time offer, after whose expiry the price for the Palestinians will only get higher. He has commissioned his beleaguered son-in-law Jared Kushner, U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman and his special Mid-East envoy Jason Greenblatt to put together a peace proposal. Both Mr. Friedman and Mr. Greenblatt, long-standing lawyer friends of Mr. Trump, have a long history of supporting West Bank settlements. Mr. Friedman barely got approved by the Senate.

Meanwhile, Mr. Netanyahu, who faces possible bribery charges at home, was in Washington for the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. AIPAC is a must-attend event for Mr. Netanyahu and U.S. politicians who seek to curry favour with hawkish Jewish voters (and donors) and evangelical Christians for whom Israel and the rapture go hand in hand.

Barack Obama broke with tradition in 2011 by telling this group exactly what it did not want to hear. The then-president was excoriated for a speech that appeared to unilaterally set the parameters of any peace negotiations with the Palestinians. He said Israel’s pre-1967 borders, before its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, should be the starting point for any talks toward a two-state solution. From then on, he was dead to Bibi Netanyahu.

The latter could hardly believe his luck when Mr. Trump won the presidency in 2016. Whereas Mr. Obama believed in forcing the Israelis to make what he called “hard choices”, Mr. Trump seems to entertain the idea that Israel can have its cake and eat it, too. It’s not clear he supports a two-state solution, though he has paid lip service to the principle.

What is clear is that Mr. Netanyahu doesn't want a Palestinian state. “You can bring models, theoretical models, say it will be good for them if we give them a state,” the Israeli leader told reporters in the U.S. capital. “Empirically, it doesn't work with what we see. When we leave land, terror organizations take it up. Immediately.“

He was referring to Gaza, from which Israel withdrew in 2005. And he has a point. The Palestinian Authority, under its enfeebled leader Mahmoud Abbas, has lost all claims to legitimacy among the very people it is supposed to represent. And Hamas, which rules Gaza, is no friend of peace.

Mr. Obama’s approach did not exactly put the Middle East in a better place. So, in the same counter-intuitive way that Mr. Trump appears to be getting his way on trade and taxes, he may do more to concentrate minds in the Middle East than any of his recent predecessors. Sunni Arab countries lined up against Iran have increasingly become covert allies of Israel. The Trump administration is counting on them to force the Palestinians to compromise.

Story continues below advertisement

“What better [than] if we could make peace between Israel and the Palestinians?” Mr. Trump said this week. “We’re working very hard on that and I think we have a good chance.“

“Good” would be going too far. But perhaps “better” than most people think.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to
Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons or for abuse. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies