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Why is Trump moving the US embassy to Jerusalem?

Mohamad Sabu  |  Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | At the time of writing, all signs point to US President Donald Trump breaking with the decades-old US policy of not recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Instead, Trump is expected to recognise Jerusalem as the future capital of Israel. Jerusalem is known in the Muslim world as Baitul Muqaddis, the site of the third holiest mosque in the Islamic world.

Baitul Muqaddis was originally where Muslims first oriented their prayers towards before the direction of the prayer was changed to Mecca by the Prophet Muhammad.

Therefore, it goes without saying that Baitul Muqaddis holds religious and political significance in the Muslim world, and for ages past, was the site where Islam ensured fair access for all religious believers regardless of their Abrahamic or biblical origins.

Yet, largely to divert his troubles at home, where he is under a slew of investigations from special counsellor and former FBI director Robert Mueller, Trump appears intent on recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

It is also interesting to note that Trump has had little or no understanding of where Jerusalem actually is.

In May 2017, after completing a trip abroad to Saudi Arabia, his Air Force one landed in Tel Aviv, the current capital of Israel. Among the first things that Trump reportedly said was; "I just got back from the Middle East - we just got back from Saudi Arabia."

Whether it was sheer ignorance or a Freudian slip, Trump, as indicated by this incident, has no understanding that Tel Aviv, or, Israel, too for the matter, is a part of the Middle East.

As things are, all the leaders in the Middle East, including King Salman of Saudi Arabia, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey, even Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, and King Abdullah II of Jordan, have personally beseeched Trump not to cross the diplomatic "red line".

If he does so, the likelihood of provoking the Arab nations to rise up in rebellion is bound to be high, with damage to US credibility in the Middle East as well as its role as a fair-minded peacemaker.

This is happening at a time when the psychology and mental make up of Trump is called into question.

Recently, a group of psychologists from Harvard and Yale Medical School revealed in a book titled, "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President" that Trump may be mentally flawed or sick.

In their book, they assert that he is increasingly losing touch with reality, and tends to provoke crisis after crisis in order to cope with the mounting stress of being in the Oval Office.

But there is a larger design at play by Trump too. By recognising Jerusalem as the permanent capital of Israel, Trump would consolidate his base with the American-Zionist lobby, which comprises the American Jewry and the evangelical Christians in the US.

Ralph Reed, the leader of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a US-based Christian far-right group, has been a major supporter of Trump since its very inception of his campaign in mid-2016. The Christian far right has always insisted that Jerusalem and Israel should be recognised as one and the same.

Within Malaysia, Trump's outrageous move is a smack in the face to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak. It was not so long ago that Najib spoke of his close friendship with Trump. If that is the case, the move by Trump is the clearest manifestation yet that Trump cares nothing for anyone except himself.

With his back cornered by FBI for allegedly colluding with Russia to influence the outcome of the US presidential election in November 2016, Trump needs all the furore and chaos in the world to divert the legal attention from his case.

Paul Manafort, the former campaign advisor to Trump, has admitted to his guilt of working with the Russians to swing the election in Trump's favour.

Michael Flynn, formerly the national security advisor to Trump, too, has conceded that he is guilty of contacting the Russians, although he added that his actions were sanctioned and approved by a "senior figure from the White House."

American news sources like CNN and Newsweek have allegedly confirmed that the "senior figure," is none other than Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of President Trump himself.

In order to run for re-election by 2020, Trump knows that he cannot have the FBI constantly at his back.

But to the credit of US attorney-general Jeff Sessions and the US Department of Justice, a fiercely independent judicial institution, they have refused to dance to Trump's tune. There is a likelihood that Trump will fall on his own axe, courtesy of the US Department of Justice.

But before he is thrown to the wolves, Trump being Trump, has a penchant for instigating global chaos and conflict in order to create a fog of war.

As irresponsible as it may sound, Trump is trying to stir up the pot in the Middle East, including targetting Iran in a more direct manner in order to save himself, and what remains of his presidential career.

Meanwhile, the Arab world will challenge Trump's decision and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the hilt. It is predicted that the outcome of this will be an eruption of street violence. And Malaysia and Indonesia, will not be spared.

There is every likelihood that hotter heads in Southeast Asia will use this as an excuse to protest against the US policy and action.

Thus, if Trump does not hold back from recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the "clash of civilisations," as predicted by the late Samuel Huntington at Harvard University may yet live to see the light of the day.

What should the Malaysian government do then?

The key is for Najib to denounce Trump's action, and prepare itself from unwinding all its investments in the US, and to stop more Malaysian investments from further going into the US to "make America great again".

Barring these gestures, it is little wonder if Trump can get the message since the relocation of the US capital to Jerusalem serves the purpose of benefiting him first.


Part 1. The need to stay at a safe distance from Saudi Arabia

Part 2. The growing threat of IS in Malaysia

Part 3. Whither Malaysia? The fall of the ringgit

MOHAMAD SABU is president of Amanah.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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