What’s the first thing you’re told by your parents as a kid when you’re anywhere near fire?
That’s right: don’t pour oil on it.
Well, ignore the advice and see for yourself – the fire will instantly erupt into a far larger and more furious ball of violent flame, endangering the lives of everyone in the immediate vicinity.
Today, President Donald Trump has taken a million-ton barrel of oil and tipped it all over the Middle East.
His decision to officially recognize Jerusalem as the new capital city of Israel, and to move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv, is a staggeringly reckless act of wilful provocation even by his tweet-enraging standards.
And it could very quickly turn out to be a far more worrying threat to world peace than even the North Korea crisis.
I don’t say this lightly.
U.S. President Donald Trump holds up the proclamation Wednesday that announces the United States recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moving its embassy there
To understand the enormity of this decision, it’s important to understand the history behind it.
Jerusalem is at the very heart of the Israel/Palestine conflict.
West Jerusalem is the home of Israel’s government; East Jerusalem is the home to 300,000 Palestinians.
Both sides insist it must be the capital of their states.
This is why America has trodden very carefully when it comes to Jerusalem, locating its embassy in Tel Aviv since Israel’s creation in 1948.
They are not alone in this. No other country in the world has their Israeli embassy in Jerusalem, acknowledging that to do so would be incredibly inflammatory.
Now President Trump is re-igniting this smouldering tinderbox in spectacular fashion.
He apparently considers it a roll of the dice worth throwing to force through a peace settlement.
Palestinian protesters burn the American flag and Israeli flag in the city of Gaza City on December 6 after Trump recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel
Almost everyone else sees it as a desperately dangerous gamble that could have disastrous consequences for the whole already war-ravaged region.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman told Trump personally in a phone call it ‘would constitute a flagrant provocation of Muslims all over the world’.
King Abdullah of Jordan said it would have ‘serious implications for security and stability in the Middle East’.
Turkish President Erdogan described it as a violation of international law and a ‘red line’ for Muslims that would force Turkey to sever all diplomatic ties with Israel.
China warned it could ‘sharpen regional conflict, initiating new hostility’.
Russia, a key Middle East player, agreed, expressing concern over ‘possible deterioration’.
‘I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,’ Trump said from the White House Wednesday. ‘It’s the right thing to do’
French President Emmanuel Macron, speaking in similar terms to Germany and the UK, told Trump to urgently reconsider the plan, stressing that the status of Jerusalem ‘must be resolved through negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians’.
Pope Francis spoke of his ‘deep worry’ about the situation and pleaded for ‘wisdom and prudence’ to prevail. He said: ‘I make a heartfelt appeal so that all commit themselves to respecting the status quo of the city.’
Palestinians, obviously, are livid. Their leader Mahmoud Abbas warned of ‘dangerous consequences’ and an end to the peace process.
Hamas, the extremist arm of the Palestinians, said it would constitute a ‘dangerous escalation’ that ‘crosses every red line’ and called for ‘days of rage’ to protest.
Despite this extraordinary global opposition, Trump has gone ahead and done it anyway.
As things stand, the only people who will be happy about this are Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his right wing government and their supporters.
And the Christian Right in America.
French President Emmanuel Macron (left) told Trump to urgently reconsider the plan and Pope Francis (right) spoke of his ‘deep worry’ about the situation and pleaded for ‘wisdom and prudence’ to prevail
Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital despite intense Arab, Muslim and European opposition
But this decision is not even something most Americans support.
A new poll by the University of Maryland found that 66% of Americans, including 44% of Republicans, oppose moving the embassy.
The majority of Americans, and American Jews, believe that international recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city can and should only come in an agreement with the Palestinians on a two-state solution.
And in that eventuality, parts of the city would be ring-fenced as Israel’s capital, other parts as Palestinian’s capital – with each side having sovereignty over the areas in which its citizens reside.
Jerusalem is one of the most sacred cities on the planet, home to Muslims, Jews and Christians and some of the most important holy sites of all those religions.
Trump’s decision tells the entire Arab and Christian world that it now belongs to the Jews of Israel and not them.
This incendiary move comes as a time when many were hoping real progress could be made in reaching some kind of two-state solution.
Palestinians play cards during U.S. President Donald Trump’s televised speech in the West Bank City of Nablus, Wednesday
Protesters shouts slogans against US President Donald Trump as they hold Turkish flags during a protest against the Israel in Istanbul
Indeed, Trump’s own son-in-law Jared Kushner has been working for months on behalf of the administration to forge new impetus for a peace deal in an attempt to finally end the conflict.
But all his efforts, and those of the myriad others who devote their lives to this, are now likely to go up, quite literally, in smoke.
I’m all for fresh new thinking when it comes to the Israel/Palestine crisis, as Trump put it today, because let’s be perfectly frank: none of the old thinking has worked.
This, though, is a terrible idea that will make things worse not better.
In the short term, Trump’s decision will inevitably spark a new wave of violence and instability across the region.
In the longer term, it will surely embolden Islamist terror groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS right and act as their greatest possible recruitment drive.
This, self-evidently, will make Israel less safe.
As for America, by moving from peace-broker to blatant side-taker, it is deliberately waving an Israeli red rag in the face of the Arab bull.
That can only make any resolution to this interminable issue even more unlikely.
And I fear it will also make America a less safe country, too.
An ultra Orthodox Jewish man rides a bicycle as US and Israeli flags are projected on the walls of Jerusalem’s old city, Wednesday
Donald Trump has already enraged the world’s Muslims on a regular basis.
During his election campaign, he called for a ban on all Muslims entering the US following a terror attack in California.
This week, his controversial watered down travel ban, that targets seven predominantly Muslim countries, was given the green light by the Supreme Court.
Last week, Trump retweeted three anti-Muslim videos posted by a racist, Islamophobe, criminal group named Britain First.
So Muslims already feel this President is their enemy.
Today’s announcement won’t just confirm that suspicion, it will heavily cement it.
The Palestinian ambassador to London said the move amounts to ‘declaring war on 1.5 billion Muslims.’
Hyperbole or not, there is no question that Donald Trump has just poured oil on the fire.
Or worse, as President Erdogan’s spokesman put it, he’s ‘plunging the region and the world into a fire with no end.’
God help us.