Donald Trump’s unhinged press conference from a few days ago has gotten overshadowed by the Brett Kavanaugh drama, but it is nonetheless worth further examination. Among the many crazy things Donald Trump sputtered out, were a couple of answers to a question about Israel:
“When we had in Saudi Arabia, we had one of the great conferences in history. Many of you were there, probably all of you were there. It was one of the most beautiful two days, that and China, two of the most incredible events I have ever seen. I have never seen anything like it. And we had, I believe, 58 Muslim countries, the leaders, the kings, the emirs, the absolute leaders from every — there was nobody in second place. They were the leaders of the whole thing. And unbeknownst to anybody else, people would come up to me individually — it wasn’t a set-up. They would come up to me and say, sir, you can’t have peace in the Middle East without peace between Israelis and the Palestinians. I said why? What difference? Why does that matter so much? “
“So I heard that from one, the king of Saudi Arabia who is a great guy, King Salman, and then somebody else came up and he wasn’t told, oh, go up and say it. I know where they’re coming and then somebody else came up and he wasn’t told, oh, go up and say it. I know where they’re coming I must have had 12 leaders say it, and they just — and I started to realize that peace between Israel and the Palestinians for the Middle East is a very important thing.”
These answers by a sitting United States President are stunning. Donald Trump basically stated that he had no understanding of the importance of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Middle East. A sitting United States President did not know that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been at the centerpiece of Middle Eastern conflict for decades.
Donald Trump did not seem to know that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was responsible for the first of the radical Islamic terrorist attacks he constantly denounces, such as the Munich Olympics massacre:
The Munich massacre was an attack during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, West Germany, in which the Palestinian terrorist group Black September took eleven Israeli Olympic team members hostage and killed them along with a West German police officer.
Shortly after the crisis began, a Black September spokesman demanded that 234 Palestinian prisoners jailed in Israel and the West German-held founders of the Red Army Faction, Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof, be released. Black September called the operation “Iqrit and Biram“, after two Palestinian Christian villages whose inhabitants were expelled by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. The Black September commander, Luttif Afif, was born to Jewish and Christian parents. His group was associated with secular nationalism, working for the rights of Palestinians in Israel. West German neo-Nazis gave the group logistical assistance.
Police officers killed five of the eight Black September members during a failed attempt to rescue the hostages. A West German policeman was also killed in the crossfire. The other three Palestinian hijackers were captured. The next month, however, following the hijacking of Lufthansa Flight 615, the West German government released them in a hostage exchange. Mossad responded with the 1973 Israeli raid on Lebanon and Operation Wrath of God, tracking down and killing Palestinians suspected of involvement in the Munich massacre.
Donald Trump did not seem to know that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was responsible for the 1973 Oil Crisis that occurred when OPEC placed an oil embargo on countries, including the United States, that had sided with Israel during the Yom Kippur War.
This price increase had a dramatic effect on oil exporting nations, for the countries of the Middle East who had long been dominated by the industrial powers seen to have taken control of a vital commodity. The oil-exporting nations began to accumulate vast wealth.
Some of the income was dispensed in the form of aid to other underdeveloped nations whose economies had been caught between higher oil prices and lower prices for their own export commodities, amid shrinking Western demand. Much went for arms purchases that exacerbated political tensions, particularly in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia spent over 100 billion dollars in the ensuing decades for helping spread its fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, known as Wahhabism, throughout the world, via religious charities such al-Haramain Foundation, which often also distributed funds to violent Sunni extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
Donald Trump did not seem to know that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was responsible for the formation of Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed political and militant group that Trump has repeatedly denounced.
After the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, Israel occupied a strip of south Lebanon, which was controlled by the South Lebanon Army (SLA), a militia supported by Israel. Hezbollah was conceived by Muslim clerics and funded by Iran primarily to harass the Israeli occupation. Its leaders were followers of Ayatollah Khomeini, and its forces were trained and organized by a contingent of 1,500 Revolutionary Guards that arrived from Iran with permission from the Syrian government, which was in occupation of Lebanon at the time.
Donald Trump did not seem to know that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was part of the first Gulf War, as Saddam Hussein launched Scud missiles into Israel:
Iraq hoped to provoke a military response from Israel. The Iraqi government hoped that many Arab states would withdraw from the Coalition, as they would be reluctant to fight alongside Israel. Following the first attacks, Israeli Air Force jets were deployed to patrol the northern airspace with Iraq. Israel prepared to militarily retaliate, as its policy for the previous 40 years had always been retaliation. However, President Bush pressured Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir not to retaliate and withdraw Israeli jets, fearing that if Israel attacked Iraq, the other Arab nations would either desert the coalition or join Iraq. It was also feared that if Israel used Syrian or Jordanian airspace to attack Iraq, they would intervene in the war on Iraq’s side or attack Israel. The coalition promised to deploy Patriot missiles to defend Israel if it refrained from responding to the Scud attacks.
The Scud missiles targeting Israel were relatively ineffective, as firing at extreme range resulted in a dramatic reduction in accuracy and payload. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, a total of 74 Israelis died as a result of the Iraqi attacks: two directly and the rest from suffocation and heart attacks. Approximately 230 Israelis were injured. Extensive property damage was also caused, and according to Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Damage to general property consisted of 1,302 houses, 6,142 apartments, 23 public buildings, 200 shops and 50 cars.” It was feared that Iraq would fire missiles filled with nerve agents such as sarin. As a result, Israel’s government issued gas masks to its citizens. When the first Iraqi missiles hit Israel, some people injected themselves with an antidote for nerve gas. It has been suggested that the sturdy construction techniques used in Israeli cities, coupled with the fact that Scuds were only launched at night, played an important role in limiting the number of casualties from Scud attacks.
Donald Trump did not seem to know that the September 11 attacks were motivated by the Unites States support for Israel within the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:
Support of Israel by United States
In his November 2002 “Letter to America”, Bin Laden described the United States’ support of Israel as a motivation:
The expansion of Israel is one of the greatest crimes, and you are the leaders of its criminals. And of course there is no need to explain and prove the degree of American support for Israel. The creation of Israel is a crime which must be erased. Each and every person whose hands have become polluted in the contribution towards this crime must pay its price, and pay for it heavily.
In 2004 and 2010, Bin Laden again repeated the connection between the September 11 attacks and the support of Israel by the United States. Support of Israel was also mentioned before the attack in the 1998 Al-Qaeda fatwa:
[T]he aim [of the United States] is also to serve the Jews’ petty state and divert attention from its occupation of Jerusalem and murder of Muslims there. The best proof of this is their eagerness to destroy Iraq, the strongest neighboring Arab state, and their endeavor to fragment all the states of the region such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Sudan into paper statelets and through their disunion and weakness to guarantee Israel’s survival and the continuation of the brutal crusade occupation of the Peninsula.
And the list goes on. A sitting United States President stating that he was unaware of the importance of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict toward peace in the Middle East is not only embarrassing, but dangerous. As can be seen from the partial list above, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been influential with respect to United States actions toward Iraq and Iran. It has also influenced numerous terrorist attacks against the United States and allies, including 9/11. When Trump makes decisions regarding Middle East policy, such as relocating the United States embassy to Jerusalem, and pulling out of the Iran Nuclear Agreement, he does so against a backdrop that includes the Isaraeli-Palestinian conflict. The fact that Trump apparently has no idea about the importance of that conflict increases the chances that he will make a decision, maybe already has made a decision, that could have disastrous consequences. Ignorance is dangerous. And Donald Trump is stunningly ignorant.