US Embassy in Jerusalem

Speaking of polarization, few issues are as divisive or intractable as the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Yesterday’s ceremony marking the openingof the US Embassy in Jerusalem provided a stark and bloody portrait of that divide. Triumphant pomp in Jerusalem, horrific bloodshed at the Gaza border (at least 58 Palestinians killed in the worst violence in years), and outcry internationally.


The crisis will only deepen today as Israel celebrates its 70th anniversary, while Palestinians recall the Nakba (“catastrophe” in Arabic) in which hundreds of thousands of their forebears were displaced during the creation of the Jewish state.

Three lenses through which to look at this.

Middle East Peace — Supporters of the embassy move say that by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital unilaterally, rather than leaving that issue to be negotiated as part of a peace accord, Washington is shrewdly forcing the Palestinians to deal sooner rather than later, lest their scope for negotiation narrows further. But critics say the move undermines Washington’s already dubious status as an even-handed broker between Israel and the Palestinians, and needlessly inflames Palestinian sentiment. The Trump administration may have the “ultimate” peace deal up its sleeve, but it’s hard to see any serious proposals moving forward in the current environment.

The domestic view for Bibi and Trump — Both men face potentially crippling investigations at home, and each is dealing with several foreign policy crises at once. The US embassy move gives both a key boost among their constituents. For Bibi, landing the US Embassy in Jerusalem enjoys broad support among Jewish Israelis, whatever their other divisions and misgivingsmay be. And a huge majority of Jewish Israelis also support the Israeli military’s handling of the Gaza border protests. For Trump, meanwhile, the move is a gift to the evangelical Christian voters who turned out in historical numbers for him in 2016. Trump will need those voters to stay on-side in 2018 and, of course 2020. This helps him do that.

The regional view — To the deepening dismay of the Palestinians, Middle East peace is — for Washington, for Israel, and for other key Arab governments such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the UAE — a less important priority than the region’s primary geopolitical fault line now, which is Iran. Don’t take it from us, take it from the Saudi daily Al-Riyadh which, back when the US first announced the embassy move, ran an editorial which argued that “the Arabs must realize that Iran is more dangerous to them than Israel.”

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Well, this may seem like a minor deal. It's a video sharing app that the president has given 45 days to sell to a US entity or get banned in the United States. But along with WeChat, these are two of China's most successful technology companies that the US has now banned from entry into the United States and potentially banned from being used on operating systems that rely on US software inside China. So, this is a huge escalation in the geotech war between the United States and China. China for a long time has not allowed Google and Facebook and other American applications to be fully operative inside their borders. And now the US is stepping up against Chinese technology companies. The reason is that there's concerns among the US government about these tech, these apps data security practices. Members of the military, high ranking government officials aren't allowed to have these on their phones because there's concern about what China does with the data that they can harvest from those phones. This is a real warning sign to other Chinese technology companies that they may not be welcome inside the American market unless they can prove in some way, they are totally independent from the Chinese government and the Chinese military. Expect a lot of escalation in this area over the coming months and years.

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