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Editorial: Erratic Trump needs to dispel distrust in him in Middle East

  • May 26, 2017
  • , The Asahi Shimbun , 2:30 p.m.
  • JMH Translation

Next year will mark the 70th anniversary of the creation of Israel. But there are still no signs of hope for the peaceful coexistence of the Jewish country with Palestine.


U.S. President Donald Trump has visited the Middle East during his first overseas trip since he took office in January. He expressed willingness to grapple with this long-standing challenge.


If Trump, who has advocated an “America First” policy agenda, has shown a commitment to make serious efforts to promote a Middle East peace process instead of focusing on domestic interests, we will welcome it.


Even though its international clout has shown signs of waning, the United States, which still exerts more influence in the Middle East than any other country, has a vital role to play in building peace in the region.


A complicated web of factors is behind conflict between countries in the region. To act as a mediator to dispel mutual distrust, the United States has to demonstrate a sincere and fair attitude toward all the parties involved.


From this point of view, there were, unfortunately, some worrisome elements in Trump’s remarks and actions during his visit.


His trip was criticized as an attempt to distract public attention from the political turmoil at home.


If there remain such doubts, Trump will be unable to win international trust in his foreign policy.


He should first make a sincere review of his trip and announce a serious policy toward the Middle East.


There are two key questions for the peace-building process. One is how the territories seized and occupied by Israel through wars should be returned. The other is whether and how it is possible to establish a Palestinian state while ensuring the safety of Israel.


One big problem is Trump’s clearly pro-Israel policy stance.


Trump became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Jerusalem’s Western Wall, or Wailing Wall, a holy site for Jewish people.


Since it is located in East Jerusalem, which is occupied by Israel but regarded as Palestinians as the future capital of their state, successive U.S. presidents avoided visiting the wall.


A second worrisome element is Trump’s attempt to stir up antagonism against Iran, a major power in the region.


It is said that Trump tried to cast Iran as a common enemy to bring Israel and Arab states of the Persian Gulf closer, including Saudi Arabia.


But Iran wields strong influence in wide areas in the Middle East, not only over the Palestinian militant Islamist group Hamas, but also over the regimes of Syria, Iraq and other countries.


If Washington tackles the Middle East issues under a strategy designed to exclude Iran, its actions are likely to widen the rift between Iran and Arab states, causing tensions in the entire region to rise further.


Trump’s words and actions have shown a complete lack of consistency.


Immediately after he came into office, Trump issued an executive order to block citizens of certain predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States.


In his speech in Saudi Arabia, however, he praised Islam as “one of the world’s great faiths.”


Local residents staged protests when Trump visited an area under control of the Palestinian Authority.


Many people in the Arab world still harbor complicated feelings toward the U.S. president.


If he wants to act as a mediator of peace, Trump first needs to make real efforts to win the trust of all the regional parties involved.

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