POST TIME: 22 May, 2018 00:00 00 AM
Trump has torn up decades of diplomacy
Faisal Al Yafai

Trump has torn up decades of diplomacy

Dozens dead, thousands injured. Tear gas filling the sky and the shouts of the injured and the dying ringing out. How strange that it was against this backdrop, mere kilometres away, that foreign dignitaries were gathered to smile and make backslapping speeches about peace.

The ceremony to mark the US moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was an odd spectacle, in a way that only the contortions of the long-running Israeli-Palestinian dispute could provide. In a built-up and rather unglamorous part of the city, a group of political and religious leaders clapped amid heavy security while nearby, protesters marching and carrying flags were teargassed. Jerusalem has rarely seemed less of a city for all faiths.

And yet in the spectacle was the political. The ceremony appeared to symbolise so much of what has gone wrong with American diplomacy in the Trump era – and highlighted a crucial but unremarked change in the way the rest of the world views the United States.

For a start, it was theatrics over policy. Donald Trump’s decision to move the embassy brings the prospect of peace no closer for Palestinians and Israelis while simultaneously distancing the US from its traditional allies. It is hard to think of a single way in which the decision has enhanced peace or brought the two sides closer together.

And this was on a stage full of division: a divisive ceremony on a divisive issue in a divided city.

Both Benjamin Netanyahu and Trump are divisive politicians. In a city where Arabs and Jews are divided from each other by physical barriers, faith groups are divided by opinion; Jewish Israelis don't all agree with the decision to move the embassy and few Muslim and Christian Palestinians do. Even the Christian pastor that  Trump chose to pray at the ceremony is deeply divisive, having made disparaging remarks about both Jews and Muslims.

The ceremony itself seemed to symbolise something wider. There was the disregard for international law in moving the embassy in the first place and the disregard for the views of US allies, Arab and western, who cautioned against it and who stayed away from the ceremony.

Even the deal seemed to highlight  Trump's political inexperience. By moving the embassy, he handed Israelis one of their maximalist demands without getting any concessions in return. Even George W Bush, hardly a master in the art of the deal, managed to extract concessions from Ariel Sharon before he agreed to let Israel keep some settlements.

But perhaps the most jarring aspect of watching the ceremony was a recognition of how different American diplomacy is in the era of  Trump. Something subtle but crucial has shifted in the way the US relates to the rest of the world, and it was embodied by the ceremony in west Jerusalem yesterday: the US no longer knows how to speak to the world beyond its borders.