Espanol / English

Middle East Near You

Free at last: A UN without US diplomatic blackmail

The voting results are displayed on a screen during the emergency special session over Jerusalem held by UN General Assembly in New York, US on 21 December 2017 [ Abdülhamid Hoşbaş/Anadolu Agency]

Not for the first time, the free world has stood up for truth and justice in Palestine. The General Assembly’s vote against President Trump’s decision on Jerusalem was a victory for the rule of law over the law of the jungle. It now leaves both the US and Israel isolated, disgraced and humiliated.

Washington’s threat to cut aid to countries that voted not to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was an insult to the UN and a vicious assault on the sovereign rights of its members. In their customary delusional manner, Israelis believed the US threat was enough to force compliance. They were mistaken; people around the world are simply tired of their arrogance and unethical conduct.

As it stands, Trump’s threat is consistent with a long-standing policy of US blackmail and intimidation exerted within the UN to further Israel’s illegal claims. It was no different from the threats issued to impoverished nations to extract the controversial UN Partition Resolution 181 in 1947.

Read: Trump is a bully, the UN must stand up to him

When that vote was taken, it narrowly gained the two-thirds majority to be adopted – 33 countries voted in favour, 13 opposed and ten abstained. Haiti, Liberia and the Philippines all opposed the partition plan initially but were forced to change their position following the intervention of officials “at the highest levels in Washington”, including President Harry Truman. They were threatened with the withdrawal of US financial aid. James Forrestal, the then Secretary of Defence admitted that “the methods that had been used…to bring coercion and duress on other nations in the General Assembly bordered closely onto scandal.”

By allowing itself to be used in such a scandalous manner to facilitate the claims of one people, the UN had done immense damage to its credibility. It had, in fact, violated one of the most fundamental principles of its Charter namely, “respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples” (Article 1).

There were, apart from Forrestal, other US officials who were prepared to acknowledge the wrong done to the Palestinian people. Commander E.H. Hutchison, who chaired the Jordan-Israel Armistice Commission after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, recalled that “every step in the establishment of a Zionist state” was “a challenge to justice”.

While there are parallels between what happened in the General Assembly in 1947 and 2017, there are, nonetheless, striking differences. Both presidents, Trump and Truman, sought to exploit an international crisis to bolster their domestic standings. However, what the incumbent president does not realise is that the free world has moved on from the days of diplomatic blackmail. So, whereas two-thirds were coerced to vote for partition in 1947, 70 years on two-thirds exercised their free will and voted for peace and the rule of law.

People attend a demonstration against US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, at the Times Square in New York City, United States on December 09, 2017 [Mohammed Elshamy / Anadolu Agency]

People attend a demonstration against US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, at the Times Square in New York City, US on 9 December 2017 [Mohammed Elshamy / Anadolu Agency]

Where does this crushing defeat leave Israel and its mercurial Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu? For sure, Israel will become more isolated among the community of nations. Instead of countries moving their embassies to Jerusalem many will now consider severing or curtailing diplomatic contact with the Zionist state. South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) has taken the lead by adopting a resolution at its national conference to downgrade the South African embassy in Israel to a liaison office

Read: We are all to blame for Trump’s decision on Jerusalem

As for Netanyahu, the UN defeat will, almost certainly, increase calls for his resignation. He is, in political terms, damaged goods, even to the point of being toxic. Only the delusional would want to be associated with him.

Instead of disparaging the UN as “the house of lies”, the Israeli prime minister and his fellow travellers should be eternally grateful to the world body for voting to partition Palestine. Gratitude, regrettably, has never been in their lexicon.

In years gone by, Israel was aided and encouraged by a combination of blind American support; indifference on the part of western powers; and the complicity of “leading” Arab countries. If nothing else, yesterday’s vote at the UN on Jerusalem must mark the beginning of the end of that long chapter of subterfuge.

Read: What does Trump’s Jerusalem decision actually mean?

Political disasters can sometimes be turned into opportunities. This scandalous attempt by the Trump administration to trample roughshod over the UN, in defiance of international norms and standards, must be seized as an opportunity to review Israel’s membership of the world body. After all, it was admitted to the world body on condition that it respects the terms of partition and allows the Palestinian refugees to return (Resolution 273). Israel has not only refused to honour the terms of its membership; it has systematically undermined the UN Charter and brought the world body into disrepute. Surely, the UN would be a much better organisation without member states like this.

As for the Arab leaders who were misled into believing that Donald Trump can realise their grand ambitions, they too must think again.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

Categories
ArticleAsia & AmericasCommentary & AnalysisInternational OrganisationsIsraelMiddle EastOpinionPalestineUNUS