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Jeudi 25 mai 2017
Trump Seized The Moment
The American president’s visit to the Western Wall complemented his speech in Riyad.
« Please, will now the real Donald Trump stand up ». This used to be, in a nutshell, the opinion of lots of people. You might hate Trump, or love him, but you were not sure who he really was. Now, you know. Trump has shortcomings, for sure. But he is the stuff true Statesmen are made of. This is what we just realized while listening to him and watching him on his Riyad and Jerusalem tour.
In Riyad, Trump delivered an extraordinary speech. The kind of speech Barack Obama should have delivered in Cairo eight years ago and did not.
First, the way things were organized. Trump was standing in front of the Saudi King and of the kings or heads of State or government of forty-nine Muslim countries. His wife Melania was seated at his side, very modestly dressed by Western standards, but barehead. So was his daughther Ivanka. And there was his son-in-law Jared too. Jared and Ivanka are Orthodox Jews. Think of it : Riyad is a place where women must don the veil by law, and where Jews, either Orthodox or not, are not tolerated. So are the capitals of many of the forty-nine other countries represented. Indeed, this was done in full agreement with the host, the Saudi King. Still, it was Trump who set the rules in this respect, as a proper compromise between American values and Arab/Muslim values.
Then, there was the speech itself. Eight years ago in Cairo, Obama praised Islam as a most exalted religion and civilization, defined America as a most Islam-friendly nation, suggested that America was to blame for any conflict or misunderstanding that might have arisen between Islam and her, and did not say a word about the suppression at that very moment of a democratic movement in Iran. Wishful thinking at best – or words of surrender.
In Riyad, Trump spoke of Arab and Muslim civilization with due deference. But his speech was basically about the terrible crisis that the Arab and Muslim world is undergoing now, and about the fact that parts of the Arab and Muslim world were to blame, rather than America or the West. He called the vilains by their names - « Isis, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas » - and urged the Arab and Muslim leaders seated in front of him to « drive them out ». He mentioned also the present regime in Iran, a government that « has fueled for decades the fires of sectarian conflict and terror » and « that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing the destruction of Israel, death to America, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this room ». He then offered an alliance against the enemy he had defined.
Trump’s most important moment in Jerusalem was to visit the Western Wall, along with his family, and pray there. On the face of it, a « private » interlude in between « official » schedules. In fact, a highly political gesture. Remember : for the UN and the « international community » - something that includes the US Department of State -, the Old City of Jerusalem lays beyond the so-called « green line », and accordingly does not belong to Israel ; for the UN, the « international community » and the Department of State, even Israel’s rights to West Jerusalem, this side of the « green line », are questionnable ; for Unesco, a branch of the UN, there was never a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, and the Western Wall is supposed to be an Islamic landmark. Trump just disposed of all that. He graphically asserted his own views about Jerusalem, the Western Wall and the Temple Mount, which incidentally coincide with historical truth, international law as it used to be until it was perverted by the « international community », American law as defined by the Congress, American public opinion – and the realities on the ground.
In fact, the visit to the Western Wall complemented the Riyad speech. And here is Trump’s greatest achievement : he knew that something had been going on for some time between the Saudis and Israel, strategic cooperation, plans for economic cooperation, and he seized the moment. You need a lot of statesmanship to do that.
© Michel Gurfinkiel, 2017
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