That’s a succinct summation of Trumpian governing philosophy – the ethos of a confident dealmaker who’s willing to gamble to mix things up.
What’s been done before hasn’t worked, so the president is choosing to do something new – something a bipartisan majority in Congress explicitly endorsed more than 20 years ago.
But such logic begins to collapse in the morass that is the Middle East. It falls apart because of centuries of complicated history, of blood shed over spiritual and physical property, and of seven decades of American leadership that’s considered the case of modern Israel as the complex theological and geopolitical thicket that it is.
Mostly, though, it collapses because the plan from here … is no plan at all. Trump’s defenders are saying that you can’t blow up a peace process that doesn’t exist; his opponents might point out that this is precisely the point of why this could prove to be the wrong move at the wrong time.
Trump hailed his move as a “new approach,” and went out of his way to argue that the move does not pre-judge the outcomes of any peace negotiations.
“Those questions are up to the parties involved,” the president said. “The United States remains deeply committed to helping facilitate a peace agreement that is acceptable to both sides.”
Yet the U.S. role in facilitating Middle East peace – already a source of deep skepticism in the world community – is further drawn into question with the U.S. now planning on opening the only foreign embassy in Jerusalem. Israel’s seat of government is highly disputed territory that the Palestinian people consider to be their capital as well.
The broad peace-making initiative led by Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, was already foundering.
Now, some worry, it may be doomed.
“The peace process is finished. They have already pre-empted the outcome,” one Palestinian official, Hanan Ashrawi, told the Associated Press.
Allies and enemies alike are expressing fear of a return to the cycles of violence that have set back decades of efforts to achieve Mideast peace. The next few days will be tense, with small acts holding the potential to have enormous consequences.
The move was cast as the president delivering on a campaign promise, and catering to his political base. Indeed, prominent conservative Jewish and evangelical leaders applauded the move as a bold stand that puts the United States on the right side of a long history.
Trump is serving those constituencies, and also a broader base that is sick of politically correct policies leading to stagnant outcomes.
“We cannot solve our problems by making the same failed assumptions and repeating the same failed strategies of the past,” he said Wednesday.
The president himself has called Middle East peace the “ultimate deal.” It’s hard to see the latest announcement as a step toward long and lasting peace.