Richard Haass (president, CFR)
Expert Voices Featured

Recognizing Jerusalem dims hopes for peace

A view of the Western Wall and the golden Dome of the Rock Islamic shrine in Jerusalem on Dec. 6, 2017. Photo: Lior Mizrahi / Getty Images

President Trump today officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, arguing that doing so reflects reality and that decisions by his predecessors to hold back failed to advance the cause of Middle East peace. True as that is, expecting such restraint to do so was misguided. The reason peace talks have stalled is persistent divisions within the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships and between them.

American recognition of Jerusalem will not ripen diplomatic prospects; to the contrary, it is likely to diminish what little opportunity for progress exists, as this unilateral U.S. action demands nothing of the Israeli government and gives nothing to the Palestinians in Jerusalem or anywhere else.

Why it matters: Jerusalem has been relatively calm amid an unraveling Middle East. The danger is that Trump's announcement could trigger violence in that city and beyond, further impeding cooperation between the United States and Arab and Muslim governments around the world.

Expert Voices Featured

Diplomacy is best response to North Korean missile launches

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

North Korea's first ballistic missile test in more than two months is the latest sign that pressure to halt its development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles is not working. The test follows a visit to Pyongyang by a high-level Chinese envoy, the U.S. government's re-designation of North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism, and the deployment of three American carrier task forces to the region.

U.S. options — a military attack or a mix of deterrence and defense — have not changed or improved. What's needed is a serious diplomatic effort to freeze weapons testing. This would not solve the problem, as North Korea already has dozens of warheads and missiles, but it would at least limit the strategic threat to the United States.

At this stage, calling on North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons and missiles no longer counts as serious diplomacy. The Trump administration should make clear what it is willing to offer in exchange for such a freeze, whether sanctions relief, a formal end to the state of war or an adjustment to U.S.–South Korean military exercises.

What's next: There is no certainty North Korea would accept such an offer, but it might. And if not, having tried would make it less difficult to rally international support for further pressure on the regime — or, ultimately, to make an unattractive choice between attacking North Korea or resigning ourselves to its long-term U.S. security risks.

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Trump's biggest mistake in Asia: rejecting trade

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

Reactions to President Trump's Asia trip have focused on a few key themes: his continued unwillingness to confront Vladimir Putin, his public trashing of U.S. intelligence officials, his exchange of personal insults with Kim Jong-un, and his uncritical embrace of Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte.

But when the history of Trump's trip is written, it will be his decision to opt out of an Asian trade framework, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that has the gravest and most lasting consequences.

His approach marginalizes the United States in a region that will define the 21st century. American businesses will find themselves unable to compete in Asian markets, and no laundry list of one-off deals and bilateral accords will compensate for the losses. Trump's policies will exact a strategic price as well, leaving U.S. allies on their own to contend with China's massive economic weight.

The bottom line: All this stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of trade. Yes, trade agreements tie our hands, but they also tie the hands of others. The United States has reaped enormous economic and strategic benefits from multilateral trade pacts and only stands to lose by walking away from them now.