Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton said President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was “exactly the right move to make” on Thursday’s Breitbart News Daily with SiriusXM host Raheem Kassam.
“Israel is one of the very few, maybe the only country in the world where the American embassy is not in its capital city,” Bolton pointed out. “From the American point of view, let’s start with us, it only makes sense to put our embassy where the institutions of government are located, in the country to which our diplomats are accredited. If we found, for whatever reason we came across a European country we didn’t have an embassy in – a new country was created, for example – we wouldn’t put our embassy in a city 50 miles away from the capital.”
“Why Israel should be different than any other country in the world, no one has been able to explain. What Trump has done is not extraordinary. It simply conforms Israel to the other 190 or so countries that we have diplomatic relations with. It is, from an efficiency and an effectiveness point of view, good for the United States,” he said.
Bolton said the arguments raised against moving the embassy are “arguments of blunt force and intimidation,” including threats of violence and warnings that moving the U.S. embassy will make peaceful negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians impossible.
“I think the United States should respect the opinions of people all over the world,” he said. “I think they’re entitled to it. I have no problem in giving them serious consideration. But let’s be clear: nobody has a veto over the United States when it comes to locating our embassy in an allied country.”
“President Trump was very careful yesterday to say that that obviously the embassy is going to be in West Jerusalem, which nobody has ever claimed would go back to Palestinians under any conceivable settlement, so it doesn’t prejudice the final status of Jerusalem,” he noted.
“If people want to walk away from the Middle East peace process, they’re welcome to do it. Do they think there’s another act in town, other than the United States?” Bolton scoffed. “I think people will huff and puff. I hope there’s no violence, but some leaders in the region may be invested in creating it. But by and large, even the New York Times this morning has an interesting story saying, ‘Well, maybe the fire over Jerusalem isn’t what it used to be.’”
“It’s too soon to take the events of the past 24 hours as vindication. I think we have to see what comes out after the Friday prayers tomorrow across the Middle East. I just think this is one of these bubble-popping incidents where the president has defied the conventional wisdom and shown that it was completely hollow,” he said.
Bolton noted that the State Department has prudently issued guidelines to U.S. missions across the Middle East to be prepared for any violence that might ensue. “By the way, guidance comparable to what should have been sent out on September the 11th, 2012 before our ambassador and three other Americans were killed in Benghazi by terrorists,” he added trenchantly.
Bolton said recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel “breaks so many illusions that people have been holding.”
“If there’s no capital city for Israel, some believe that maybe Israel won’t exist much longer either,” he said. “That punctures that. It punctures the idea of U.N. supervision over Jerusalem from a U.N. resolution in 1947. I think it therefore also makes several other related resolutions dead letters, like the resolution on the so-called ‘right of return’ of the so-called ‘Palestinian refugees’ who are now four generations removed from that event.”
“I think this is actually a positive contribution to the Middle East peace process,” he proposed. “You cannot build a durable peace on soap bubbles. I think by eliminating a lot of these illusions you’ve actually really pushed people to say, ‘Okay, let’s look at the situation as it is now and bargain from reality, not from ideology.’”
Bolton credited Trump for making a bold move “on the international stage, and on the domestic stage as well.” In the latter case, he said Trump is building a reputation for keeping campaign promises such as recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
“In contemporary American politics, that’s revolutionary, because normally politicians say whatever it takes to get elected and then promptly forget about it,” he said wryly. “It’s one of the things that marks Trump as a very different kind of contemporary American leader.”
“And it has the same or maybe even a bigger impact internationally,” he continued. “You’ll notice that in the commentary around the world, you get what you’d expect from a lot of the Middle Eastern countries, but where you really get the ire is from our so-called European allies who just don’t want to be put in a difficult position.”
“This is the sort of action by the president that actually constitutes American leadership in the world. American leadership does not consist, as Barack Obama thought it did, of doing what the Europeans want. It consists of doing what we think is right for the country and bringing the others along. I think that’s what Trump did yesterday,” he said.
Bolton noted that most other countries base their foreign policy on their own national interests, but the United States is “the country that seems to succumb most often to ideas that are not really necessarily in our direct national interest.”
“What Trump did yesterday, I think, was show he was a force to be reckoned with. He’s not a conventional politician. He’s certainly not Barack Obama. I think Arab leaders respect that kind of integrity and strength. It’s something they’ve missed for the eight years under Obama. They want American leadership. They don’t like to say it publicly, but they know that they live in a much more dangerous world if we’re not being leaders,” he said.
Bolton said it was very important for Trump to “carry through on what he said yesterday, and that means looking at where the real opposition to moving the embassy lies – and that’s in the U.S. State Department.”
“In the Near East bureau, in the Legal Adviser’s office, and other bureaus, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anybody who in his or her own personal view thinks this was a correct decision,” he explained. “Somebody needs to stay on the State Department day-by-day to make sure that what the president said, getting architect and engineers and planners started to create the new embassy. Otherwise, three years from now we’ll find they haven’t even picked a site for it.”
Turning to another significant difference of opinion between the foreign policy apparatus and the Trump White House, Bolton said he is a very strong supporter of NATO, which he described as “the most successful politico-military alliance in history,” but agreed with Trump’s campaign criticism that America’s allies have not been “pulling their weight, by and large.”
“To have an alliance, you have to have a feeling that you’re all in it together. I think too many Europeans have sheltered under the American nuclear umbrella during the Cold War, and American conventional power since then,” he contended. “They’ve decreased their defense expenditures. They’ve increased their welfare expenditures. They’ve pushed themselves further and further away from the nation-state into the European Union.”
“And now with Britain having withdrawn, maybe the European Union will want its own military force. If they do, I think sad to say it’s the end of NATO, but it will be a choice they’re making,” he anticipated.
“I think it’s only when you get strong American action that wakes them up and creates a new reality. For the same reason, for example, I think President Trump should just flat-out abrogate the Iran nuclear deal, and tell the Brits and the French and the Germans there’s a new reality out there now. That’s how you move forward. We’ll see how they react as these days go on. If we did everything along the lines the way the Europeans wanted, we’d just be another European country. I don’t think that’s America’s destiny,” said Bolton.
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