Although in the Israel-Palestine debate, Donald Trump has said explicitly that he is an ally of Israel, he may be one of the most important figures to shine a light on the hypocrisy of those on the centre left/liberal left of both sides of the issue.
Donald Trump has exposed the inherent flaws in liberal geo-political ideology which has adherents among supports of Israel and supporters of Palestine.
One of the most defining elements of traditional conservatism is the subscription to the idea that domestically, it is a government’s right to regulate the moral wellbeing of a nation.
However, when it comes to international affairs, conservatives tend to not make moral judgements on the actions, culture, religion or policies of foreign states. Many rightly draw the line at support for a regime committing war crimes, but in the age of alternative facts, even this is up for debate.
Putin’s Russia is a perfect example of a conservative state inside and out. Internally, the Russian government is committed to preserving the Russian language, Russian culture and the Russian Orthodox Church. This is done not at the expense of the ethnic and religious minorities of Russia but at the expense of liberal globalists who have virtually no sustainable support among the Russian people.
Yet on an international level Russia has good relations with Communist China, the Iranian theocracy, the majority Hindu India, increasingly with Muslim Pakistan, neo-Ottoman Turkey (to a surprisingly large degree) and most interestingly with the leaders of both Israel and Palestine. Russia does not pass judgement on these places nor does it seek to change them, Russia deals with them pragmatically.
Donald Trump as a traditional conservative in the US context, has exposed how pro-Palestinian ideologues as well as pro-Israeli moral ideologues have done more to prolong conflict than to ease tensions in one of the most turbulent parts of a turbulent Middle East.
The problem with a great deal of the debates on Israel-Palestine is the moral component. The Palestinian moralists say that Israel commits atrocities against Palestinians including but not limited to military attacks, policing tactics that employ violence and intimidation and a deadly blockage of Gaza.
Likewise, pro-Israeli moralist point out Palestinian rocket attacks, suicide bombings and the events surrounding the Intifadas as Palestinian atrocities.
The problem here is that no one can ever create a global quorum in such a moral debate. Such things are only possible in a pragmatic debate and that itself is difficult enough given the structure of the UN Security Council. The hypocrisy of it all is that as with most moral debates, one labels the side one is instinctively sympathetic to as morally superior. Such an argument can no more be won than a revelation can arise from preaching to one’s own choir.
Moral objectivity is possible, but it is increasingly impossible in geo-politics. It ought not to even be attempted when pragmatic solutions are able to more rapidly and in reality more justly solve such conflicts.
The fact is that one can run one’s own nation however one likes. One can put walls on legally recognised borders, one can control immigration however one wants, one can establish a national church, one can establish state atheism.
The pragmatic problem in the Israel-Palestine conflict is one of sovereignty. If the entire area was settled as Israel, Israel could legally build border walls with all her Arab neighbours and have Judaism as the official recognised religion with no other having any official status.
Inversely, if the entire region was Palestine, leftist Palestinian groups could form an Arab socialist Republic or perhaps Hamas could form something resembling a Muslim Brotherhood style Sunni theocracy.
The question therefore is only one of sovereignty. Moral debates are important and moral atrocities anywhere in the world are of course a tragedy. But these debates rarely solve problems and politics is nothing else if not the art of problem solving. Wars over borders are often inevitable, but wars over ideology are preventable if a conservative political will exists.
Donald Trump seems to support Israel on the basis that it is a UN recognised state and for him, it means Israel can do more or less what it wants. Iran by contrast recognises a Palestinian state and wants it to be established and recognised by the UN. Then Iran too will say that Palestine can do whatever it wants.
Like Trump, the Iranian leadership speak in colourful tones but ultimately act pragmatically. Trump has done this as a man and I believe he will do it as President, so long as the neo-cons and Democrats do not subvert him.
In this sense, Donald Trump gives me hope. Whether there are two states living peacefully side by side or one state that is at peace with itself and all its citizens irrespective of background or belief, the issue can only be solved by addressing the issue of sovereignty rather than morality.
My personal view is that it would be impractical to say that immigrants to the region since 1948 must be kicked out, but it would be equally wrong to allow the theft of Palestine to become normalised.
Far from an exotic solution, it is the solution that ended apartheid in South Africa. I am not saying modern South Africa is perfect, it is far from perfect in more ways than one, but it is a problem that South Africans and no one else will have to ultimately deal with.
Such a solution is increasingly possible, though still probably a long way off. Donald Trump’s unwillingness to act as a power broker and his insistence that both sides must negotiate a peace deal directly, may prove to be a catalyst for positive movement on the issue. Trump has effectively washed his hands of the issue and given America’s record in the region, this is a positive development.
When in the future the issue is solved, it will neither be up to Washington nor Tehran nor anyone else when it comes to what future Israelis and future Palestinians do with their state or states. They will both have the sovereign right to do whatever they want, just as America and Iran do today.
The road to war is paved in ideology, the road to peace, however difficult is paved in pragmatism.