While they began by preparing papers on question like where is the Middle East headed in the Trump era and what should Israel do, in the past two weeks the army has been dealing with the implications and required preparations for the possibility that the new administration will implement Trump’s commitment to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.
As no one knows what Trump will really do, the defense establishment has created a series of possible scenarios – starting with a situation in which the Americans announced the construction of an embassy building and immediately place bulldozers on the ground, to a continuation of the current bluff in which declarations are made but nothing is done.
In between, the other alternatives deal with the possibility of a gradual, long-term implementation, which will include festive cornerstone laying ceremonies followed by years of engagement in construction and logistics. Each alternative will have a different effect on the magnitude of the response in the Muslim world, and the army is also preparing for different levels of violent outbursts.
The assesment is that any American move – whether declarative or practical – will echo on four different circles. The first circle is Israel’s Arabs. The Islamic Movement’s northern branch, which is looking for any chance to inflame the street over the Temple Mount issue, will jump at the opportunity. Today, the southern Islamic Movement can be added to this circle as well, taking advantage of the wave of Bedouin riots in the Negev. In general, the fundamentalist Muslims oppose any sign of Jewish or Christian rule in Jerusalem. As far as they are concerned, a Christian American embassy in Jerusalem is a reason for inviting the radical Islamic world to fight the return of the Crusaders. Hamas, which sees itself as a patron on Jerusalem affairs, will join the incitement celebrations as well.
The second circle is the Palestinian Authority, which is in a state of complete panic in light of the change of administration in the US. Its leaders realize that they will have to lead a protest move on the street, but such a move could cause them to lose control and collapse.
The third circle is the street in the region’s Sunni countries. Moving the embassy could be the last nail in the coffin of regimes that are already shaky as it is. King Abdullah discovered recently that 10 percent of Jordan’s population support the radical Islamic movements.
Jordan needs Israel, and it needs the US even more, in order to secure its regime. But as the country in charge of the arrangements on the Temple Mount, it will have to lead the battle against the embassy’s relocation to Jerusalem. Moving the embassy could stimulate the street in Egypt as well, where the president’s standing – against the backdrop of the economic situation – is not that great.
The fourth circle has to do with the incitement of Islamic communities around the world, which could have implications on international Israeli assets and interests.
Not a single move has been made yet, but the ground is already sizzling, at least on the declaration and incitement level. So before any practical American move is made, the four circles of unrest have to be dealt with in order to soften the blow. Without preliminary American diplomatic and political activity, the implications may fall primarily on the IDF’s shoulders.