Donald Trump can have been in no doubt that the reaction to his decision formally to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would be fiery.
Anger in the Arab world has been mounting all week. The Saudis expressed “deep concern” while the Palestinians’ representative to the UK, Manuel Hassassian, told the BBC the widely-anticipated move would be the “kiss of death” for the Middle East peace process.
The Turkish President’s spokesman suggested that the region and the world would be “plunged into a fire with no end in sight”. European leaders have given varying indications of anxiety; none appear set to follow Mr Trump’s lead.
Certainly it is difficult to see how the decision to recognise Israel’s claim regarding Jerusalem’s status – and to move the American embassy there in due course – will smooth a lasting and peaceable Israeli-Palestinian settlement. On the campaign trail, Mr Trump promised to oversee both things yet it has always been abundantly clear to almost everybody else that the two are mutually exclusive. In the end, it seems that Mr Trump has ignored the concerns of the world and has instead appealed to his base.
The immediate concern will be the effect of the decision in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. Even the most optimistic of observers would be brave to predict that it will not spark violence; official travel advice from authorities in France and Germany has already been amended to warn citizens of the possibility of clashes.
If Palestinians will find Mr Trump’s pronouncement shocking and distressing, for the Israeli right it is a dream come true. Ever since the Jerusalem Embassy Act was passed by Congress in 1995, Israeli conservatives have lobbied hard for its implementation. Successive presidents have chosen to use executive powers to postpone any switch from Tel Aviv, cognisant of the potential for it to undermine broader peace efforts.
It is notable that Mr Trump’s intervention follows hot on the heels of the first public statements on the Israeli-Palestinian situation by Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law and adviser who in January was tasked with finding a solution to the previously insoluble Middle East conundrum. Not that Mr Kushner’s remarks last weekend were especially enlightening: indeed, it may be that the patent lack of progress towards a peace deal has persuaded Mr Trump to simply throw his lot in with the Israelis.
The other intriguing…