On Thursday, President Trump reversed 52 years of America’s position on the Golan Heights, a region on the Israel-Syria border that Israel seized during the Six-Day War in 1967 and officially annexed in 1981. The annexation has never been recognized by the rest of the world and is considered illegal under international law. Trump’s recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the region, which seemed to come out of the blue, has been roundly condemned by experts on the Middle East as being counterproductive to the goal of a settled peace between Israel and the Palestinians. It also likely further isolates the U.S. and Israel from liberal western democracies.
On The Lead with Jake Tapper Friday afternoon on CNN, Bill Kristol faced off over Trump’s announcement with Mehdi Hasan of The Intercept. First, Kristol made clear that his opposition to the declaration is based partly on the timing. With Benjamin Netanyahu facing an election in three weeks, Trump handing him this victory now looks “like a cheap political gimmick to help his friend the prime minister.”
Hasan agreed about the cheap political gimmick part. But he disagreed with Kristol’s position that the recognition is a “reasonable position” for the U.S. government to take. As Hasan noted, “everyone in the world” thinks that Israel’s annexation is a violation of international law, and that even Ronald Reagan’s administration condemned the action in 1981.
Hasan also pointed out that the U.S. now has no moral standing to condemn annexations it opposes in other parts of the world. “How are you going to go to Ukraine and tell Vladmir Putin you can’t annex Crimea,” he asked.
Guest host Brianna Keilar then asked Jen Psaki, a former communications director in the Obama White House, and asked her what Trump’s announcement tells the public about the “seriousness” with which the Trump administration is approaching the possibility of peace in the Middle East. Psaki notes that with the U.S. continuing to come down on Israel’s side so often, it destroys the nation’s ability to be a fair “arbiter” in any negotiations.
Psaki also notes the domestic calculation at work. Trump thinks that Jews should so appreciate his pro-Israel moves, in conjunction with his continuing to label Democrats as “anti-Jewish,” that it will motivate them to start voting Republican. What Trump’s analysis overlooks is that an increasing number of American Jews strongly disagrees with Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians, and that the majority of the supporters of his Israeli policies are evangelical Christians.
Watch the segment above, via CNN.