(from New York) Only a few hours have passed since the end of the press conference in which US President Donald Trump declared Jerusalem capital of Israel triggering controversial reactions at global level, ranging from the enthusiasm of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, to the disapproval of Arab Countries and of many European leaders. We asked Andrea Bartoli, dean of the School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, to give a political analysis of the US President’s speech and politics. Professor Bartoli, an international conflict resolution expert who has served in key academic and diplomatic positions for more than two decades, sees Trump’s decisions as “a political occasion to experiment creative paths of peace and respectful coexistence.”
What’s your evaluation of President Trump’s decision? The President wants to show that he is serious about words repeated many times and on many occasions, and that he wishes to follow up on a position taken by the US Congress 20 years ago, thus
This is not something new to US politics.
However, for reasons of realpolitik all US Presidents of the past twenty years had constantly postponed this step. Trump, perhaps motivated also by the wish to divert media attention from domestic concerns, such as the affair with Russia, acted in a totally different way from his predecessors. Moreover, he presents himself as an independent President, one who acts and decides in full autonomy, and ultimately, this decision reflects his presidency, his alliance with certain Israeli political sectors and with that part of his constituency that he remained faithful to since the day of his election.
Don’t you think it’s a rash decision that fails to take into account the rest of the world? Trump must be seen as a radical President who responds to a specific constituency and who is increasingly less concerned of the “big picture.” Under certain aspects he renounced being the world’s President and he lacks the hegemonic ambitions of Roosevelt, who spoke of world peace after Pearl Harbour and conceived the United Nations as a means to strengthen and institutionalize US political, social and cultural influence. For Trump international commitments are a deadweight, a burden, a difficulty, a way of limiting his own political space. He needs to restart from America, from a specific part of America in particular, and that’s why he’s a partisan president, he is the President of some and not of all.
Doesn’t this attitude risk being dangerous in such a globalized context? Basically, what Trump is saying is: “Everyone must do their part. I do what I said I would do and others should do what they have to do.” These words reflect the great responsibility of providing an answer. I’ll give you a few examples. Yitzhak Rabin, Israeli Prime Minister and Nobel Peace laureate, was not killed by a Christian, a Muslim or a Hindu. He was killed by a Jew. Considering that the most tragic assassination of the State of Israel was an answer to peace and to the quest for peace, there are questions that should be addressed to the heart of history. The same applies to the Oslo Accords: envisaged as a peace agreement, it was met with widespread violence and rebellion.
So there is a risk that the same thing could happen as a result of Trump’s decision… It depends on the response of other Countries in the region. However, we should ask ourselves why an administrative decision, such as moving an embassy a few kilometres further away, sparks off these reactions.
The first reflection is on Jerusalem and as Catholics we should be the first ones to give it due consideration. We cannot fail to consider the rationale of a spiritual form of politics, especially after John Paul II, died poor and capable of embracing millions of people in the world and of changing the course of history.
Today touching Jerusalem means touching peace. How can the decision of falling into line with Israel be explained? Will it contribute to peace?
Will this process contribute to the establishment of peace? As I said, we don’t know how Arab Countries, or the Palestinians, will respond. For sure, Jerusalem requires the response of all interested parties, so my appeal to States and individuals is to reflect on their present response on the one they intend to give. I have a very positive view of the fact that Jerusalem is an important city for so many people and that the concerns on its future are so widely shared: I consider it the sign of a world that is closer, more attentive and involved.
So we’re all responsible in providing peace-building answers? There is a strong temptation to use Trump to foment winds of war, animosity, and divisions. But as Americans, and as Christians, our duty is to not contribute to this status quo and not to rest on laurels. We should carefully seek paths of coexistence, noble forms of politics and truly creative forms of representativeness.
Could the plan on Jerusalem result in an opportunity to experience new processes? Political decisions are of a political nature, and they have political consequences. As regards the final status of Jerusalem I am curious and interested to know whether, for instance, the proposal advanced by former Prime Minister Olmert will be reconsidered. The Israeli statesman had conceived a territorial status with no exclusive sovereignty and with the shared sovereignty of Israelis, Palestinians, Saudis, Jordanians and the US. Although this is one of the many proposals on the table, it exemplifies the deep meaning of Jerusalem for so many. Thus a political decision on the city must take into account the requests of the State of Israel as well as the aspiration for peace, tolerance, openness shared by billions of people worldwide.