The Jerusalem Pronouncement – Fueling the Cycle of Violence

| Rob Richer
Robert Richer
Former Associate Deputy Director for Operations, CIA

From the Arab perspective—and my own—the timing of President Donald Trump’s announcement recognizing Jerusalem makes little sense. The peace process has been slow in developing under Trump, if it has developed at all, offering little sign of any progress that could temper the furor such a decision might generate.

Further, at a time when Trump and Israel are highlighting Iran as a threat, this announcement will reinforce Iran’s position in the region, because the leadership in Tehran will be viewed as opposing an anti-Muslim/Arab move with no real quid pro quo to the Palestinians from the Israelis or the Americans.

Administration officials supporting this decision appear to have forgotten history. The Palestinian and related rejectionist movements/groups of the 1970s to 1990s were born of a lack of hope for a Palestinian state as much as they were from animus toward an Israeli state. Those groups—Wadi Haddad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), Black September, Abu Nidal—proved effective in targeting aircraft, attacking airports, taking hostages, etc.

They were defeated as much by the progress of the peace process and the Camp David Accords as they were by the actions of the various intelligence services aiming to take them down. In short, when there is hope, extremist organizations born of political motivations will stand down or whither from a lack of support.

I worked to compromise these very dangerous groups and was involved in supporting various iterations of the peace process. Hope and the belief that the U.S. was a balanced mediator were crucial in stopping the cycle of violence.

I fear that these groups will rise again with this announcement, because it so undermines both of those factors. This unilateral decision, without real consultation with affected countries outside of Israel, will dash hopes for a Palestinian State, strike at the core issue of Jerusalem and again reinforce the perception that U.S. interests in the region rest solely with Israel.

Further, having seen the cycle of violence in the Middle East over Jerusalem or the peace process, we can anticipate both peaceful and violent demonstrations, with the most pronounced coming out of Gaza and Lebanon. The Israelis then will react with force, which is their standard operating procedure, fueling a further generation of Palestinians and others who will see no way to respond but with more violence, as they see the U.S. reneging on its commitment to all sides in the peace process.

The U.S. administration’s action on this front, as with its attempted support of the crisis the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia contrived with Qatar, only pushes allies closer to Iran, fragmenting alliances that have helped us regionally and globally.

Trump is likely to seize on any outpouring of frustrations and resulting protests against the pronouncement, especially if the reaction includes violence against Israeli or U.S. interests, to fuel his “build the wall” mantra and anti-Muslim/Arab measures. The Arab world, like everywhere else, has witnessed how the president is quick to circulate unfounded commentary on Twitter or elsewhere on the internet about actions by Muslims without apology or concern over the consequences, further substantiating the belief that the president is a bigot against Muslims and Arabs.

This pronouncement, without coordination with any country but Israel and accompanied by the president’s blatant dismissal of concern over the consequences, reinforces the already mounting questions over U.S. reliability and stability. The impact on the U.S. will be profound.

The Author is Robert Richer

Rob Richer retired in November 2005 from the Central Intelligence Agency as the Associate Deputy Director for Operations (ADDO). Prior to his assignment as the ADDO in 2004, Richer was the Chief of the Near East and South Asia Division, responsible for Clandestine Service Operations throughout the Middle East and South Asia. Mr. Richer currently consults on Middle East and national security issues and is a senior partner with International Advisory Partners.

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One Reply to “The Jerusalem Pronouncement – Fueling the Cycle of Violence”
  1. Bibi’s government is in a difficult position – weekly protests against corruption by the left and recent declaration by the right to hold their protests this weekend

    Iran is in Lebanon and Syria and that’s not news

    Jerusalem is the Capitol of Israel that too is not news
    Abbas is not capable nor interested in talking and for the 8 years of Obama’s ‘do nothing’ administration he was incapable of silencing Bibi or moving forward in any direction

    From 1947-2017 the Arab world refused a two state solution. Ben Gurion agreed with giving Jerusalem and Bethlehem special status but we know that war was preferred by the oil rich Arab nations. Since then they have used and continue to use and abuse Palestinians in every country where they live in the Middle East. The only real chance we had for a two state solution was under Bill Clinton –

    That’s why in 2008 the DNC was wrong in not discussing with the young inexperienced egotistical Obama to let Hillary Clinton take the nomination wherein Bill Clinton as special envoy to that region would have a better shot at slapping both Bibi and Abbas in the nose and get them talking – at the apsame time giving Obama a chance to be acquainted with real politics working both sides of the aisle

    2016 was a holy mess of an election – now we have businessman Trump leading the charge. And whether I like him or not agree with him or not he has changed the balance and the chess board making it possible for the two sides to talk.

    Arabs seek violence when they don’t like the rhetoric and israel always gets the wrong end of the public relations stick. Bernie Sanders in his second attempt to hijack the DNC – he most likely will sucked this go around – is more dangerous for the Middle East than even Trump