Hugh Fitzgerald: That American Embassy Move Is Doing Just Fine, Thank You (Part Two)

For all the fearmongering about likely “violence, killing, terrorism, rioting, protests, instability, blowback, and general catastrophe,” there were no attacks on American diplomats, or consulates, or embassies. A handful of protests, scarcely visible, could be found here and there in a few Arab countries. Instead, there were everywhere calls for calm by the Arab states, and a most muted reaction. Even the American flag-burning in Tehran was no more vehement than it had ever been. The Cairo-based Arab League, with 22 members, issued a pro-forma statement, urging the “international community” to oppose Washington’s move. Egypt’s al-Azhar University, meanwhile, urged the “international community” to use “all peaceful means” to “dismiss positions of countries that sided with the Zionist entity,” called the move an “unjust decision,” and deplored the ongoing “Israeli occupation” of Jerusalem.

There was no new destabilization in the Middle East as a result of the Embassy move; the statement of the Arab League was practically boilerplate, the same remarks it often trotted out to mechanically express its anger. No massive crowds assembled to shout their rage at Trump, or at their own governments for not being more forceful in attempts to halt the Embassy move. Nor were there any attacks, as so many claimed were highly likely, on American diplomatic personnel. Some in Washington even suggested that the response of the “Arab street” would be unusually nasty and might rival or exceed the destruction, violence, and even murder that resulted when a Danish newspaper published a few satirical cartoons about the Prophet Mohammed. None of this occurred.

Trump ignored the doomsayers and the mickey-mockers, and moved, as he had long promised, the Embassy to Jerusalem. And the sky did not fall. That American move, in turn, led others to change their policies. Guatemala followed suit, and moved its embassy to Jerusalem. Current reports suggest that President Bolsonaro of Brazil will soon do the same, as he has repeatedly promised, saying “it is a question of when, not if” (we move the Embassy). Arab countries have threatened to cut their billion-dollar purchases of Brazilian beef if he does so, but this attempt at economic blackmail has been waved off by Bolsonaro, who seems dead-set on his own embassy’s move to Jerusalem. Honduras is likely to move its embassy too, very soon, in exchange for Israel upgrading its consulate in Honduras to an embassy, and supplying Honduras with Israeli know-how in cyber security, water and agricultural technology (including advances in drip irrigation and waste-water recycling), and law enforcement. Australia has already moved its Embassy from Tel Aviv to West Jerusalem, a move that was welcomed by Israel, even if it was mildly disappointed that the Australians explicitly left open the possibility that eastern Jerusalem could ultimately become the capital of a “Palestinian” state. All of these embassy moves made or promised by Brazil, Australia, Guatemala, and Honduras would have been unthinkable without Trump first moving the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Other countries have given signs, too, that they are considering such a move, including the Czech Republic (where President Milos Zeman announced his support for such a move) and the Philippines (where President Duterte has expressed a similar desire to move his embassy). Three members of the E.U — the Czech Republic, Romania, and Hungary — blocked a resolution drafted by that organization that would have condemned Trump’s December 6, 2017 decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US Embassy there from Tel Aviv. In May 2018, ambassadors from those three countries, plus Austria, again defied the EU when they attended a celebration of Washington’s embassy move at Israel’s Foreign Ministry. These countries, it should be noted, are also deeply opposed to accepting Muslim migrants; it is no accident that they would also be pro-Israel in their foreign policies. Several of these countries are on the likely-to-move list, just after Brazil and Honduras.

Trump moved the Embassy months ago, and all those dire consequences so confidently predicted by so many “experts” on the Middle East never came to pass. Instead, at least two and possibly as many as six other countries will be moving their embassies to Jerusalem, encouraged by Trump’s example and the Arab reaction — or rather, lack of it — to his move.

Not for the first time in the Muslim Middle East, if you do not bend, others will learn to live with the “strong horse.” Trump’s determination ensured that his embassy move would be accepted, albeit reluctantly, by the Arabs without too much fuss. They not only originated the famous proverb, but have lived it: The dogs bark. The caravan moves on.

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