On Thursday, the UN General Assembly defied massive US diplomatic pressure and threats of major cuts in US aid to many nations and voted by a margin of 128 nations to nine to condemn the planned move. Apart from Israel, only seven other countries, four of them tiny Pacific islands, backed the United States.
"Unfortunately, I doubt it will happen," Jatras said on Friday. "What are we going to do, tell South Korea, ‘Alright, no THAAD systems for you!’? Not likely. Perhaps a few will be held back to make a point, but that’s it."
Jatras noted that US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley had threatened many nations with retaliatory cuts in US aid but they had almost all defied her.
Jatras also expressed skepticism about reports suggesting that Trump would follow his controversial decision to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem with a new, impressive peace plan for the Israelis and Palestinians.
"The suggestion has been made that Trump has undercut some super-secret, super-genius peace plan concocted by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner… The patent absurdity of such claims isn’t worth refuting," he said.
Jatras also expressed his disbelief at suggestions that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman might participate in the still hypothetical Kushner peace plan."Mohammad… couldn’t care less about the Palestinians. He’s preoccupied with figuring out how to drag the United States into a war with Iran," he said.
Jatras acknowledged that Trump’s embassy initiative and the enormous global rejection of it might start a long-term process of US disengagement from the Middle East and said he personally favored such a development from the perspective of US national interests.
However, Jatras also said he believed a major motive for Trump’s decision to move the US embassy was to please the Evangelical Christian movement within the United States, estimated as involving up to 60 million people who support Israel.
"This is for Trump’s domestic base, not so much American Jews but pro-Israel evangelical Christians… The real benefit is the appearance of standing strong, standing by Israel, and telling cheapskate foreigners to go to hell. Trump’s domestic base loves it. It’s a big victory," he said.
Jatras added that Trump had ended the 40-years-long fiction that successive US governments had tried to act as honest and even-handed negotiators to try and bring peace to the Israelis and the Palestinians.
"What has changed? Not much except ending the charade that the United States was in any sense a neutral broker between Israel and the Palestinians. That’s over. The Palestinians will get what, and only what, the Israelis are prepared to give them, and Washington will back them up 100 percent," he said.
However, Trump had improbably succeeded in bringing traditional enemies for centuries around the world together in agreement in rejecting his Jerusalem embassy announcement, Jatras commented.
"Who else could bring together… North and South Korea, Greece and Turkey, India and Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia?" he asked.
On December 20, Trump threatened to withhold US aid from countries that condemned the embassy move in their UN votes.
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