Donald Trump makes no secret of the fact that he has no use for subject-matter experts. By all appearances, the president is especially indifferent to the judgment of scholars and authorities in matters of foreign policy.
The Washington Post had an interesting piece last week on Trump’s approach to international affairs, which is driven by his confidence in a “gut-driven” approach that he sees as effective, despite experts’ warnings. In particular, his decision to relocate the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem is, in Trump’s mind, a great example of his wisdom.
The article quoted on U.S. official saying that the Republican president heard “all kinds of warnings” about the move, including the prospect of violence, “virtually none of which have proven to be the case, at least thus far.”
Even at the time, this seemed like a misguided posture. Palestinian officials, for example, no longer trust – and will no longer speak to – U.S. officials as a result of Trump’s decision. It also was the unnecessary source of strained ties between the White House and European allies who urged the American president to choose a different course.
But even putting all of that aside, I can only hope Trump’s confidence in his instincts was shaken by today’s bloodshed.
At least 52 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces and almost 1,960 others were wounded Monday after thousands of protesters converged on the razor-wire fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel as the U.S. Embassy opened in Jerusalem.
The Israeli Defense Forces opened fire on protesters approaching the barrier and accused Hamas of “leading a terrorist operation under the cover of masses of people,” adding that “firebombs and explosive devices” as well as rocks were being thrown toward the barrier.
The report added the Gaza protest started in late March, though today’s demonstration “was meant to express anger over the U.S. Embassy’s inauguration.”
As the violence continued, and dozens of Palestinians were killed, Donald Trump declared via Twitter, “Big day for Israel. Congratulations!”
There’s no shortage of questions for the White House to consider, starting with this: did Trump not know about the violence when he issued his congratulatory message, or was he fully aware of the bloodshed and decided to publish it anyway?
Is the president prepared to rethink some of his assumptions in light of today’s casualties? Does he accept any responsibility for what transpired?
And what is Trump’s message to those who lost loved ones in today’s violence?