The Top Politics Commentaries of 2017

January 2, 2018

The Top Politics Commentaries of 2017

With all that has happened in the past year, one could be forgiven for thinking that it has been more than 12 months since January 1, 2017. To help make sense of it all – from Donald Trump’s tumultuous presidency to China’s increasingly vocal bid for global leadership – we have compiled a list of some of our top politics commentaries from 2017.

Looking back, 2017 may well be remembered as a year of great historical consequence. Yes, 2016 was the year when the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union and Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. But 2017 was when the rest of the story began to unfold, and discrete events started to ramify in ways that will affect global politics for years or even decades to come. To help capture all that has happened over the past 12 months, we have selected some of Project Syndicate’s most-read columns on politics in 2017.

Not surprisingly, many of the year’s commentaries focused on the all-too-real reality show playing out in the US. At home and abroad, Trump continued throughout the year to violate political and social norms and undermine democratic institutions, confirming Balzac’s observation that one who needs to prove one’s power to oneself must abuse it to succeed.

Still, our list also makes clear that Trump and those sustaining his presidency are just one part of a much larger story, of which 2017 was but one chapter. The US is no longer the hard center of the international order. The world is quickly changing, and people everywhere are renegotiating traditional sources of identity, systems of governance, economic arrangements, and conceptions of well-being. Those debates will continue for years to come, and we at Project Syndicate look forward to contributing to them with the same caliber of informed analysis that you will find in the compilation below.

China’s Debt-Trap Diplomacy

Brahma Chellaney of the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research described how China is using its massive Belt and Road Initiative of foreign infrastructure investment to ensnare strategically important countries across Eurasia in “debt traps” that will leave them increasingly vulnerable to Chinese influence.

The Middle East’s Next War

Former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer warned that news of US-led coalition forces reclaiming the Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State this summer did not mean that peace was finally coming to the Middle East. On the contrary, he argued, the region is barreling toward a violent hegemonic power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Brexit in Reverse

Hungarian-American financier/philanthropist George Soros, reflecting on the decline of real (inflation-adjusted) income in the United Kingdom throughout the year, reminded Britons that they could still turn back from the Brexit cliff edge.

Inconvenient Truths About Migration

Robert Skidelsky of Warwick University examined the growing opposition to migration across advanced economies, which he views as a reflection of deeper political and psychological dynamics, rather than economic anxieties, as is commonly believed.

The Three Trumps

Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University predicted early in the year that Trump’s three separate identities – Russian lackey, plutocrat, and populist demagogue – would eventually converge. The result, he suggested, would be a president who placates his supporters with tweets to distract from his administration’s regressive economic policies and reported ties to Russia.

The White House Crack-Up

Elizabeth Drew, a veteran chronicler of US politics, described the prevailing mood in the White House throughout the year as a mix of chaos, pettiness, and paranoia, owing to the constant flow of news reports documenting the Trump administration’s dysfunction – which seems to trickle down from the very top.

Donald Trump’s Historic Mistake

Laurence Tubiana of the European Climate Foundation, echoing the view of every other government in the world, decried Trump’s decision in June to withdraw the US from the 2015 Paris climate agreement, portraying it as a tragic and unprecedented abdication of global leadership.

The Kindleberger Trap

Joseph Nye of Harvard University introduced a new – and already indispensable – concept to the Sinological lexicon. Whereas China could fall into the “Thucydides trap” if it appears too strong and provokes a challenge from the US, Nye’s “Kindleberger trap” describes a China that invites a different set of problems by acting too weak.

Why India Should Scrap Parliamentary Democracy

Shashi Tharoor of the Indian National Congress party, lamenting that overly frequent state-assembly elections have come to be seen as referenda on the national government, called on India to do away with the parliamentary system it inherited from the British, and adopt a presidential system instead.

Spain’s Crisis Is Europes Opportunity

Yanis Varoufakis of the University of Athens saw the Catalonian secession bid in October as a wake-up call for the European Union to grant more autonomy to regional and local governments, lest the unhappy choice between more EU-level bureaucracy or more “competing nationalisms” consume the bloc from within.

World Order 2.0

Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations concluded that in a globalized world, the centuries-old Westphalian model of sovereignty is no longer sufficient. The international order should still protect the rights of states, but also hold states responsible for the economic, political, environmental, and humanitarian obligations they bear as members of the international community.

Nationalists and Globalists

Anne-Marie Slaughter, who heads the New America think tank, offered a corrective to the simplistic dichotomies of populists and elites, or nationalists and internationalists, and proposed a new kind of humanistic politics that recognizes people’s yearning for rootedness and genuine connection in a diverse, globalized world.


Cambodia is systematically squashing all forms of dissent

December 24, 2017

Cambodia is systematically squashing all forms of dissent

Unions, NGOs and environmental activists are all feeling the squeeze

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“THE logical approach now”, reckons Naly Pilorge of LICADHO, a Cambodian human-rights watchdog, “would be to continue attacking.” She is talking about a crackdown on all forms of political dissent launched in August by Hun Sen, who has been prime minister for 32 years and says he intends to remain in the job for another decade. Not content with securing a ban on the main opposition party, he is now persecuting unions, NGOs and anyone else who criticises the government.

The scale of the crackdown is unprecedented, says Ou Virak, a political analyst who once worked at the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, which the government recently threatened to close. Gatherings of more than five people are banned. All non-governmental groups and associations need to notify local officials before organising any kind of activity, according to a directive from the Ministry of the Interior disseminated in October.

Legislation on unions, passed almost 20 months ago, makes re-registration almost impossible for the handful of independent outfits that exist in Cambodia. Without proper registration, in turn, they cannot represent their members in disputes at the country’s Arbitration Council. Efforts to resolve matters at the council are required legally before a union can strike.

Sar Mora of the Cambodian Food and Service Workers’ Federation, which has more than 4,000 members, describes baser forms of intimidation too. At meetings government goons take photographs and ask for copies of the agenda. Police watching the union’s rackety offices burst in if they see too many scooters parked outside. “Sometimes we call a meeting and workers are afraid to come to the meeting. We lost membership. And it is so hard to organise new members now,” he explains.

Environmental activists challenging the looting of natural resources are another target. The loss of tree cover accelerated more in Cambodia than in any other country between 2001 and 2014, the result of illegal logging, gold-mining and the seizure of land from villagers for rubber plantations. But groups that point out such destruction, and the harm it causes locals, risk official ire. Two members of Mother Nature, a grassroots environmental network, were arrested in September after filming ships they suspected of involvement in illegal sand-mining operations.

Even reporting on resistance to the crackdown is difficult. In the past four months the government has closed two American-funded radio-news services, dozens of broadcasting frequencies and one of the country’s best independent newspapers on trumped-up tax charges. Many correspondents have fled; others nurse cheap beers in Phnom Penh’s bars and fret over finding new employment. They are the lucky ones. Two former radio journalists, Uon Chhin and Yeang Sothearin, face 15 years in prison for supplying information which “undermines national defence”. The voices of ordinary Cambodians are kept quiet too. Social-media posts calling for political change land their authors—frequently students—in prison.

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Many of the organisations and individuals targeted by the government have had links of some kind with America. The United States is therefore making more of a fuss about the repression than Japan and the European Union, other big donors to Cambodia. On December 6th America announced visa restrictions for anyone deemed to be “undermining Cambodian democracy”. This follows a move last month to cut funding for Cambodia’s election committee.

Mr Hun Sen has little reason to worry. The economy is thriving, tax revenues are soaring and friendship with China provides diplomatic and financial comfort. (Chinese businesses, the largest source of foreign investment, had pumped a cumulative $12bn into the country by the end of 2016.) His party will romp home in elections in July. He may even feel secure enough to loosen up a bit before the vote.

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In the long run, however, Alex Gonzalez-Davidson of Mother Nature is optimistic. Membership of his “ragtag army” increased by a third after the arrests of those filming the sand barges. Cambodians may not have any outlet for displeasure with the regime, but that does not mean they are blind to, or tolerant of, its faults.

This article appeared in the Asia section of the print edition under the headline “Dark days”



President Donald J. Trump’s National Security Strategy, 2017

December 19, 2017

President Donald J. Trump’s National Security Strategy, 2017

My Fellow Americans:

The American people elected me to make America great again. I promised that my Administration would put the safety , interests, and well-being of our citizens first. I pledged that we would revitalize the American economy, rebuild our military, defend our borders, protect our sovereignty, and advance our values.

During my first year in office, you have witnessed my America First foreign policy in action. We are prioritizing the interests of our citizens and protecting our sovereign rights as a nation. America is leading again on the world stage. We are not hiding from the challenges we face. We are confronting them head-on and pursuing opportunities to promote the security and prosperity of all Americans.

The United States faces an extraordinarily dangerous world, filled with a wide range of threats that have intensified in recent years. When I came into office, rogue regimes were developing nuclear weapons and missiles to threaten the entire planet. Radical Islamist terror groups were flourishing. Terrorists had taken control of vast swaths of the Middle East. Rival powers were aggressively undermining American interests around the globe. At home, porous borders and unenforced immigration laws had created a host of vulnerabilities. Criminal cartels were bringing drugs and danger into our communities. Unfair trade practices had weakened our economy and exported our jobs overseas. Unfair burden-sharing with our allies and inadequate investment in our own defense had invited danger from those who wish us harm. Too many Americans had lost trust in our government, faith in our future, and confidence in our values.

Nearly one year later, although serious challenges remain, we are charting a new and very different course. We are rallying the world against the rogue regime in North Korea and confronting the danger posed by the dictatorship in Iran, which those determined to pursue a flawed nuclear deal had neglected. We have renewed our friendships in the Middle East and partnered with regional leaders to help drive out terrorists and extremists, cut off their financing, and discredit their wicked ideology. We crushed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorists on the battlefields of Syria and Iraq, and will continue pursuing them until they are destroyed. America’s allies are now contributing more to our common defense, strengthening even our strongest alliances. We have also continued to make clear that the United States will no longer tolerate economic aggression or unfair trading practices.

At home, we have restored confidence in America’s purpose. We have recommitted ourselves to our founding principles and to the values that have made our families, communities, and society so successful. Jobs are coming back and our economy is growing. We are making historic investments in the United States military. We are enforcing our borders, building trade relationships based on fairness and reciprocity, and defending America’s sovereignty without apology.

The whole world is lifted by America’s renewal and the re-emergence of American leadership. After one year, the world knows that America is prosperous, America is secure, and America is strong. We will bring about the be er future we seek for our people and the world, by confronting the challenges and dangers posed by those who seek to destabilize the world and threaten America’s people and interests.

My Administration’s National Security Strategy lays out a strategic vision for protecting the American people and preserving our way of life, promoting our prosperity, preserving peace through strength, and advancing American influence in the world. We will pursue this beautiful vision—a world of strong, sovereign, and independent nations, each with its own cultures and dreams, thriving side-by-side in prosperity, freedom, and peace—throughout the upcoming year.

In pursuit of that future, we will look at the world with clear eyes and fresh thinking. We will promote a balance of power that favors the United States, our allies, and our partners. We will never lose sight of our values and their capacity to inspire, uplift, and renew. Most of all, we will serve the American people and uphold their right to a government that prioritizes their security, their prosperity, and their interests. This National Security Strategy puts America First.

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President Donald J. Trump
The White House
D e c e m b e r,  2017

Trump’s Jerusalem decision– An Undeniably Reckless Move

December 11, 2017

Trump’s Jerusalem decision– An Undeniably Reckless Move

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Leaders of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the nation’s largest pro-Israel organization, welcomed Pres. Donald Trump’s formal recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and his announcement that the US will move its embassy from Tel Aviv to the Holy City.With more than 3.8 million members, CUFI is the largest pro-Israel organization in the United States and one of the leading Christian grassroots movements in the world. CUFI spans all fifty states and reaches millions with its message. Each year CUFI holds hundreds of pro-Israel events in cities around the country. And each July, thousands of pro-Israel Christians gather in Washington, D.C. to participate in the CUFI Washington Summit and make their voices heard in support of Israel and the Jewish people.


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Donald Trump announced recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, igniting new levels of violence throughout the Middle East

The Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem is an undeniably reckless move that has the potential to ignite new levels of violence throughout the region. It’s also an obvious gift to Trump’s right-wing Zionist fans and a reminder that blind support for Israel is now central to far-right American identity.

This much should be clear to anyone who follows political dynamics both in the Middle East and here at home. Unfortunately, the predictable hand-wringing from liberals in response to the Jerusalem decision runs the risk of reinforcing some of the most damaging and self-serving myths about what is happening on the ground in Palestine/Israel.

The first of these myths concerns the supposed “status quo” in Jerusalem and throughout Palestine/Israel. Immediately after the announcement of Trump’s decision, we heard a chorus of voices lamenting that the change in U.S. policy would upset the delicate status quo in Jerusalem.

As critics of U.S. policy in the region have been saying literally for decades, however, the status quo itself is deeply unjust. Israel has been solidifying its colonization of Jerusalem through blatant land grabs and a wide range of administrative measures designed to push out Palestinians, all backed by broad, bipartisan support from Washington.

The reality in Jerusalem is the same as the reality throughout Palestine/Israel: an apartheid reality defined by the ongoing colonization of Palestinian land and the denial of equal rights to Palestinians. Far from changing that reality, Trump’s decision simply brings it more into the open.

The second myth concerns the so-called “peace process.” While many have responded to Trump’s decision by issuing dire warnings that the decision will kill any hope of a negotiated, “two-state solution,” the reality is that this “solution” has been dead for decades.

The search for “peace” has served as a cover under which Israel has been able to solidify its colonial control over the territory, rendering impossible the dream of Palestinian national sovereignty.

In that sense, once again we can view Trump’s decision as simply making visible what policy elites in Washington and elsewhere have long been afraid to say: that the most important “process” on the ground is a colonization process, and that the U.S. has chosen to side with the colonizer.

As Mouin Rabbani, a respected Middle East analyst recently noted, “American recognition of Israel sovereignty in Jerusalem would send an unmistakable signal that Washington rejects not only the two-state settlement paradigm but also the Palestinian right to national self-determination in favour of permanent Israeli domination and Palestinian dispossession.”

In light of this, we would do well to recognize that while the Trump decision is potentially disastrous in its potential to provoke wider outbreaks of regional violence, it is also useful in the sense that it lays bare the core elements of the U.S.-Israel alliance.

How should progressives respond to the space that has been opened up by this decision? A good place to start is by interrogating the role of the Democratic Party establishment in propping up the “status quo” and “peace process” myths and, by extension, the Israeli colonial project. It’s worth remembering here that as The Hill noted, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has been quite open about his role in pushing Trump to give Israel what it wants on Jerusalem.

Schumer may still believe that support for Israel is a winning strategy, but his base is increasingly moving in a different direction. As information about Israeli colonization has become more widely available and shared, especially among young people, more and more progressive voters have decided that being on the side of justice means refusing to go along with what Israel is doing. The recent letter signed by ten Democratic senators calling on Israel to stop the planned demolition of two Palestinian and Bedouin towns is an indication of how the political ground is shifting.

What this signals is that the current political moment offers to Democrats an opportunity to build a policy that is reality-based and justice-based rather than one that is based on denial and mythology.

In order to do this, it won’t be enough simply to pine for a return to the days before Trump’s decision. That makes no more sense than responding to the outrages of the Trump administration by longing for the days of supposedly “sensible” conservatives like Mitt Romney or George W. Bush. To participate in the rehabilitation of pre-Trump Republicans is to acquiesce to the rightward shift of the entire political spectrum. To prop up the myth of the “peace process” and the “two-state solution” in Palestine/Israel is to acquiesce to the normalization of ethnic cleansing and the mass violation of Palestinian rights.

There is a better path forward for progressives: insisting on justice as the compass guiding our political struggles. Palestinians are not going to get justice from Donald Trump — but they weren’t going to get it from Barack Obama or Hilary Clinton either. The entire U.S. political class needs to be pushed from below on this and many other issues, and it is our job to keep applying the pressure.

John Collins, Ph.D., is a professor of global studies at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York. He is author of “Global Palestine,” and co-author of “Social and Cultural Foundations of Global Studies.” 

Cambodia: Democracy Update

December 9, 2017

Cambodia: Democracy Update

by Sorpong Peou

In recent months, the Cambodian government led by Prime Minister Hun Sen has taken stronger steps to guarantee a win in the national election scheduled for July 2018. Hun Sen’s objective is simple — to prevent his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) from losing power by whatever means necessary.

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Prime Minister HE Samdech Techo Hun Sen– sustaining economic economic growth and maintaining national security. World Bank October 2017 Update is positive

Hun Sen has relied on a combination of three tactics — coercion, co-option and control — to maintain his domination over Cambodia’s politics in the name of protecting national security. Those who cannot be co-opted into the CPP’s sphere through material rewards can be coerced into submission, and those who do submit are still kept under tight control.

The CPP is also resource-rich, well equipped with coercive means and in control of state institutions, especially the armed forces and the judiciary. Those who have refused to defect to the CPP or who resist it face acts of intimidation and threats of punishment.

Disarming the CPP’s political opposition involves taking pre-emptive action to make it difficult for opposition leaders to mobilise effective political support far ahead of the 2018 election. Hun Sen has been successful in suppressing the political opposition and shutting out any help offered to his opponents. The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) has been the primary target. The recent jailing of its president, Kem Sokha, is a good example of Hun Sen’s tactics. The recent decision by the Supreme Court to dissolve the CNRP ensures the CPP will not face any credible challenges in 2018.

Any organisations, domestic or foreign, perceived as politically supportive of or sympathetic to opposition parties are also viewed as potential targets by the CPP. Media outlets have come under pressure, especially those that broadcast news produced by foreign media agencies such as Radio Free Asia and Voice of America. The government recently shut down The Cambodia Daily, a major English language newspaper in the country, and sent its owner a bill of several million dollars for its failure to pay taxes. In August 2017, the government closed the US-funded National Democratic Institute and expelled its staff from Cambodia.

Hun Sen claims these ‘legal’ actions against the CPP’s political opponents and its critics are about protecting national security. Is this true?

The answer is no. Since the end of the Cold War, Cambodia has not encountered any serious external threat. In fact, the country has been blessed with goodwill from countries around the world. Cambodia did the right thing when it joined ASEAN in 1999. In spite of some unresolved territorial disputes and minor border clashes between Cambodia and two of its fellow ASEAN members, Thailand and Vietnam, Cambodian relations with its neighbours have been relatively peaceful. Western democracies may want to see regime change, but evidently have not done anything credible to undermine the CPP.

The unarmed opposition to the CPP does not pose any threat to Cambodian national security either, but it has threatened to undermine the ruling party’s political dominance. Although the CPP won in the 2013 national election, it lost 22 seats to the CNRP, giving the opposition more leverage over the ruling elite. In spite of good economic growth, ratings of Hun Sen’s performance among urban populations remain low. If elections were free and fair, the CPP would end up losing.

While they have done a lot of good for the country, including taking part in the war against the murderous Pol Pot regime and helping many Cambodians to enjoy the fruits of economic growth, the CPP elite have reason to worry about their political future.

Hun Sen and other top CPP leaders have been accused of human rights violations and rampant corruption and thus can never be sure of what might happen to them if they were to lose power. Hun Sen has already been threatened with legal action — another reason why the CPP has tightened control over the security forces and the judicial system, using the courts to prosecute any serious opponents threatening its survival.

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Cambodia remains an attractive tourist destination

Cambodia’s politics of survival is likely to continue unless or until members of the CPP elite and those in the opposition see their common problem: the inherent weakness of Cambodia’s state institutions, which perpetuates the toxic dynamics of threat and counter-threat. Both sides tend to demonise each other. They keep engaging in the nasty politics of character assassination, killing any possibility of advancing a common interest or any hopes for solidifying the culture of dialogue.

Cambodian leaders have a big choice to make. Either they continue along this current trend with no end in sight, or they band together to build the country’s democratic state institutions for the benefit of their own nation. Working together is certainly the only way out and the best option, but this is likely to fall on deaf ears. This is the tragedy of survival politics in Cambodia — a real threat to democracy and its national security.

Sorpong Peou is President of Science for Peace, based at the University of Toronto, and Professor in the Department of Politics and Public Administration, Ryerson University.

Trump throws a diplomatic bomb into the Mid-East Peace Process

December 7, 2017

Trump throws a diplomatic bomb into the Mid-East Peace Process

by Robin Wright

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“No one person’s personal ambitions should be allowed to alter the fates of billions of people. Any such move would only embolden terrorist organizations,”–Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan 

President Trump threw a diplomatic bomb into the Middle East peace process with his twin decisions to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv. The decision broke with seven decades of U.S. policy by both Republican and Democratic Administrations. It defied every ally, save Israel, and disregarded a last-ditch global campaign that included key figures from the world’s three monotheistic religions—Pope Francis, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and American Jewish groups. Trump’s decision fulfilled a campaign promise, but it threatened to unravel one of his top foreign-policy pledges: to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians, who have already called for “three days of rage” in response.

In a brief statement read off teleprompters at the White House, Trump called his decision a “new approach to the conflict” and a long-overdue and “necessary step” to enhance the peace process. “Today, we finally acknowledge the obvious: that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. This is nothing more, or less, than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do. It’s something that has to be done,” he said.

For the first time, the President expressed support for a two-state solution—if the two sides ultimately embrace that formula as the solution. This was not a concession, however, given that his Republican and Democratic predecessors endorsed the two-state concept as well. Trump also stipulated that his decision was not intended to influence the final boundaries or borders of either state. Vice-President Mike Pence will travel to the region soon to reinforce the U.S. commitments, Trump said.

“There will of course be disagreement and dissent regarding this announcement,” Trump said. “But we are confident that, ultimately, as we work through these disagreements, we will arrive at a place of greater understanding and coöperation.” He added, “We want an agreement that is a great deal for the Israelis and a great deal for the Palestinians.”

The curious and almost contradictory aspect of Trump’s announcement was the timing, particularly since the move may not happen until a new Embassy is found or built, which could take as long as three or four years, U.S. officials say. In his statement, Trump said only that the current approach to the peace process had failed to work and a change was needed.

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The status of Jerusalem—sacred to all three Abrahamic faiths—has long been one of the “final status” issues to be determined as part of the peace process. One of the implicit rewards for a peace accord was moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to West Jerusalem—and possibly opening a separate U.S. Embassy to a new state of Palestine, in an eastern part of the city. The U.S. Embassy was effectively a valuable diplomatic chit in the most complicated and drawn-out peace negotiations since the Second World War. The President has now played that card in reverse order, and for nothing tangible in return. Indeed, the move cost his Administration credibility even before it was made.

The Palestinian Prime Minister, Rami Hamdallah, said that the announcement “destroys the peace process,” a warning echoed by many top Palestinians who embrace peace negotiations and have engaged with Israelis for more than a quarter century, since the 1993 Oslo Accord.

“In one blow, President Trump has destroyed not only the chances of any peace but the stability and security of the region as a whole,” Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian legislator, said on CNN, on Wednesday. “He has undermined his closest allies in the Arab world. He has given all extremists and nuts all over the world who are ready to commit acts of violence a perfect excuse because he has provoked spiritual sentiments and religious feelings to the point where we don’t know how far the ramifications will go.”

Khalil Shikaki was one of the first Palestinians to work with Israeli counterparts in studying the feasibility of peace—by conducting pre-accord public-opinion polls—in the early nineteen-nineties. He launched one of the first independent polling-research groups in the Arab world—the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, in Ramallah—and has also lectured extensively to American Jewish Groups. Since 2005, he has also been a senior fellow at Brandeis University’s Crown Center for Middle East Studies.

“If it’s done in isolation of whatever efforts he’s trying on peace, then it’s nonsensical,” Shikaki told me. “It would basically kill any chance that his efforts would be seen as credible.” In his poll of Palestinian public opinion, in September, some three quarters of Palestinians already said that the Trump Administration was not serious about achieving peace. The immediate danger, Shikaki warned, is the breakdown of pivotal (and U.S.-supported) coördination between the Palestinian and Israeli security forces, which are instrumental in preventing individual acts of violence from escalating into another intifada, or uprising. “Israeli-Palestinian coöperation has made stability possible,” he told me. “I can’t see it continuing in an environment where it looks like conditions on the peace process or political front are no longer there.”

Regionally, the Jerusalem decision “will unify moderates and extremists,” Shikaki predicted. Any effort to build an Arab coalition to side with the United States on major policy issues across the region is now jeopardized. Other Arab leaders “will see no point of working with President Trump and making themselves vulnerable to criticism,” he told me.

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Not surprisingly, the Islamic world reacted angrily to Trump’s decision. Turkey unveiled plans for a summit of leaders of Muslim countries to coördinate their response. The “whole world is against” Trump’s decision, the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, said. After a meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah, on Wednesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan took a crack at Trump’s domestic motivation for the move—and his political ego. “No one person’s personal ambitions should be allowed to alter the fates of billions of people. Any such move would only embolden terrorist organizations,” he said. Turkey has been one of the few predominantly Muslim nations to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, although the relationship has been rocky.

The wider world was alarmed as well. Both Russia and China expressed concern about new tensions in a region already ravaged by four wars, in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen. At the United Nations, Secretary General António Guterres said that Jerusalem’s status had to be determined by the Israelis and Palestinians. He warned about taking “unilateral measures” undermining international peace efforts, although he did not mention President Trump by name. “In this moment of great anxiety, I want to make it clear: there is no alternative to the two-state solution,” Guterres said. “There is no Plan B.” Britain’s Foreign Secretary called on the United States to quickly follow the move by outlining its plan for peace. So far, the negotiations have been conducted behind closed doors by the President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Trump’s decision comes just months after he over confidently assessed his ability to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians. “It is something that I think is frankly, maybe, not as difficult as people have thought over the years,” he said, during a visit by the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, in May.

The State Department recognized and reacted quickly to the dangers of the President’s decision. On Wednesday, it banned American diplomats and their families “until further notice” from travelling to Jerusalem’s Old City or the West Bank, including Bethlehem and Jericho, except for “essential business.” It also warned all U.S. citizens to “avoid areas where crowds have gathered and where there is increased police and/or military presence.” And, in a cable to all diplomatic missions, the State Department ordered diplomats stationed anywhere to defer all nonessential travel to Israel, Jerusalem, and the West Bank until December 20th, according to Reuters. Risk-management firms issued dispatches warning about the dangers of anti-American activity across the Islamic world, in countries as far away as Indonesia. Several European countries also issued security warnings to their citizens in the Middle East.

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“How does this serve our national interests?” Aaron David Miller who worked on the peace process under six Secretaries of State. Trump antagonizes the Muslim World

Current and former U.S. officials involved in the peace process were also aghast at Trump’s announcement. “How does this serve our national interests?” Aaron David Miller (pic above), who worked on the peace process under six Secretaries of State, and who is now the director of the Middle East program at the Wilson Center, told me.

“One statement is going to undercut everything they want to do. It will take us out of the game,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and to Egypt and now a professor at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School, told me. Speculating on the rationale behind Trump’s decision, he continued, “You want to shoot yourself in the foot—because it’s good for your base—but you’ve got to understand what you’re doing.”

Implementing Trump’s policy could be a long way off. The U.S. does currently have a U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, which has been the liaison to the Palestinian Authority—and which does not come under the authority of the U.S. Embassy in Israel. One option explored in the past was whether it could be converted into an Embassy and a new facility could be found for a consulate to deal with Palestinians.

“We are just at the beginning of a process of assessing requirements for an Embassy, which as you know are detailed and time consuming anywhere in the world,” a senior State Department official, told me in an e-mail. “We will of course look at the properties we currently own/long-term lease, but have in no way come to any judgment as to suitability from a security/safety/fit for purpose standpoint.”

In Jerusalem, the Israeli government reacted by illuminating the Old City’s historic walls with red, white, and blue lights in tribute to the U.S. decision. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heralded Trump’s announcement as an “important step,” and pledged to “continue to work with the President and his team to make that dream of peace come true.” Given the reaction everywhere else, however, the prospects of peace may be further off than they were ten months ago when Trump entered the White House.