The protests in Beirut’s southern suburbs on Dec. 11 were as predictable as they were angry. The neighborhoods are a stronghold of Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shiite militia, and President Trump’s decision a few days earlier to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital struck at the core of the group’s mission: the continued struggle against the Jewish state. Thousands of protesters chanted, “War, war until victory” and waved Palestinian flags. Hezbollah’s chief, Hassan Nasrallah, appeared by video link projected onto an outdoor screen to urge all “resistance groups” to unite. “Trump’s decision will be the beginning of the end of Israel,” he declared.
The call to arms wasn’t entirely confined to militants backed by Iran, yet they might as well have been. By comparison, reaction across much of the Arab world was muted. While Trump’s Jerusalem announcement was meant to appeal to his conservative base, including evangelicals and pro- Israel hawks, it also appears to have played into the hands of Iran, the very country in the Middle East he’s most interested in antagonizing. By giving the Israelis such a large symbolic win, Trump has buttressed Iran’s argument that it—and not its rival and longtime U.S. ally Saudi Arabia—is the true defender of Palestine. “Trump’s decision is a gift on a silver plate to Iran,” says Ghanem Nuseibeh, founder of