Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and by strong implication the whole of Jerusalem including the eastern, occupied and Palestinian, part of the city has been rightly condemned.
It is largely a symbolic move. Russia recognised (West) Jerusalem as Israel's capital in April 2017, but no other country, surely no EU country, is likely to follow the example of Putin and Trump.
This was, however, a very powerful symbolic move, a staggering act of vandalism against the prospect of peace talks in which the status of Jerusalem will be decided as part of a long-term settlement.
It which will galvanise and boost the majority of Israeli legislators who support the idea of a united Jerusalem (i.e. the whole of Jerusalem) as Israel's capital. Some link that principle to support for some kind of two-state solution in Israel-Palestine, others do not.
Why has Trump made this move? It has been said that he wishes to appease US Christian fundamentalists who believe giving back the Holy City of Jerusalem to the Jews in the partial enactment of a prophecy. Such a motivation is always a possibility with Trump.
More likely there has been some kind of diplomatic agreement between the US and Israel's current Likud-led coalition government. Or maybe Trump's boast that this move will help secure the ultimate peace deal simply suits Israel. It will certainly end the hiatus in peace talks (last attempted in 2013-14), but not by actually resuming peace talks. Instead, by metaphorically smashing the Palestinians over the head.
It pushes towards a bad and an imposed deal. It indicates something like the permanent loss of East Jerusalem, or most of it, continued militarisation of the West Bank, intact and even expanded Israeli settlements in the West Bank. And this is the ultimate peace deal? It would be a peace deal like no other, that's for sure. Not a peace deal and not a deal. It would condemn the Palestinians to a permanent status of occupation and statelessness.
Trump is also doing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a personal political favour. In recent weeks he has been troubled by mass demonstrations against corruption in his government. The last demonstration on 9 December in Tel Aviv numbered 10,000 (a very big demonstration for Israel). Netanyahu is himself under criminal investigation. There are two accusations against him. The first involves receiving gifts from businessmen, the second involves negotiating a deal with a newspaper owner for better coverage in return for curbs on a rival daily.
Making deals for short-term gain is second nature to both Trump and Netanyahu. The Jerusalem announcement may give Netanyahu the chance to salvage his reputation, and big himself up as a national and populist leader. In addition, many of his opponents on the corruption issue are from the Labor Party/Zionist Union, and a result on the Jerusalem issue will undermine their, recently revived, campaign around a two-state solution. That said, Labor leader Avi Gabay's support for a united Jerusalem should dismiss any idea that Labor can deliver a democratic and just settlement.
Shortly after Trump's announcement Netanyahu visited the EU headquarters in Brussels where in a speech he claimed, recognising reality [i.e. that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel] is the substance of peace. Most EU leaders where not impressed and were vocally against the notion that East Jerusalem should be lost for the Palestinians.
Possibly Netanyahu had calculated that some right-wing EU leaders, in the Czech Republic and Hungary, would give support to the Jerusalem initiative. So far, those leaders have failed to do so, or perhaps cannot yet see how their interests, as part of the EU bloc, square with support for Trump.
As the US made this announcement, they and the Israelis openly expected days of protests in Palestinian territories and elsewhere in the Middle East. They also expected the protests to eventually calm after no little state repression, and as we go to press this is happening. That the limited backlash was part of their cynical calculation shows how they build their policies on a level of despair and hopelessness among Palestinians.
Socialists have a duty to reassert our solidarity with the Palestinian people, based on ending Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories including East Jerusalem, and a democratic two-states solution in Israel-Palestine.