The overwhelming rejection of President Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital by 128 member nations at the UN is a signal event of how far US international standing has slumped.
Leader of the free world? More like a miscreant whose overbearing megalomaniacal ego is no longer tolerable to virtually everyone else.
Even close US allies among the NATO military alliance voted against Washington’s position. Britain, France, and Germany joined with other international powers, Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, India, and Brazil, to repudiate Trump’s decision taken earlier this month to recognize Jerusalem.
In the end, only seven marginal states (no disrespect meant) voted with the US and Israel: Guatemala, Honduras, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, and Togo. Another 35 nations chose to abstain, including Canada and Australia, which would typically openly back America’s Mideast policies.
The outcome was in spite of shameless arm-twisting by the US ahead of the General Assembly vote, when President Trump threatened to cut off financial aid to nations going against American policy.
The day before the UN vote Thursday, Trump said: “They take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars, and then they vote against us. Well, we’re watching those votes. Let them vote against us. We’ll save a lot. We don’t care.”
In what has become a sulking mantra of Trump’s White House, he added: “We’re not going to be taken advantage of anymore.”
Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan – another key NATO ally – denounced Washington’s attempt at bribery, saying the US was trying to “buy votes.” He called on all countries to not sell democratic rights for “petty dollars” and for them to uphold past UN resolutions designating the status of Jerusalem as a matter to be resolved through Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.
Trump’s unilateral recognition on December 6 of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital overturned decades of international consensus, as well as Washington’s own stated policy of brokering a historic compromise between the Israelis and Palestinians.
The abrupt change in official US policy has provoked particular consternation among Arab and Muslim nations who together comprise nearly a quarter of the world’s population.
The General Assembly’s resolution this week is non-binding, meaning it has no mandatory legal power and therefore is largely symbolic. Nevertheless, the symbolism speaks volumes of changing times where the US has fallen spectacularly from grace in the eyes of the world.
The US declared truculently before the vote that it did not care and it would ignore the result come what may. Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu lavished praise on the US for its support and dismissed the UN resolution as “preposterous.”
Earlier in the week, on Monday, a draft resolution also rejecting Trump’s Jerusalem declaration was put to the UN Security Council and was approved by 14 sitting members. But American ambassador Nikki Haley cast her country’s veto to quash that resolution, which would have been legally binding.
Haley’s remarks to the General Assembly before Thursday’s vote highlighted Washington’s brazen contempt for democratic rights. In sinister tones, she warned that the US “was taking note of names” and reiterated Trump’s threats of taking retaliatory measures by cutting off financial aid. If looks could kill, Haley’s demeanor was armed and dangerous.
The American envoy also displayed a twisted logic that was as arrogant as it was flawed. She rebuked all nations for “attacking” the US “sovereign right” to nominate Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The fact is, it is the US which has attacked international consensus and UN resolutions regarding Jerusalem’s neutral status.
Haley also claimed the “will of the American people” was being assaulted by the UN. Her claim is not backed up by any polls. Indeed one recent poll conducted in November, just before Trump made his announcement, shows a big majority – 63 percent – of the American public are against any such move to recognize Jerusalem as the undivided Israeli capital.
So, if anything, it is Haley and the Trump administration that is snubbing the “will of the American people.”
For decades the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has galvanized world opinion more than any other issue. The preponderance of UN resolutions shows an international consensus in favor of recognizing Palestinian national rights. Yet, the United States this week slammed the UN for being biased against Israel.
What the US doesn’t seem to recognize is that the consensus at the UN is a reflection of international democracy. Washington’s disdain toward majority world opinion shows its underlying contempt for democratic principles and international law. The official American attitude is: if you don’t support our position, no matter how questionable that position, then your opinion is not valid.
However, this week shows how much Washington’s moral authority has deteriorated. Even among allies and foes, there was a common position of rejecting Washington’s unilateralism. Saudi Arabia and the Sunni Arab Gulf states lined up with arch-enemies Iran and Syria to reject the US position on Jerusalem.
Nations that are large recipients of US development aid were not cowered by threats of financial punishment: Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan joined with poor African countries, Ethiopia, Kenya and Niger, among others, to repudiate Washington. Yemen, war-torn and famine-stricken, also cast its vote against the US.
The overwhelming rejection by the General Assembly of American policy not only shows how out of line Washington is. It also shows an increasing number of states are willing to openly defy Washington’s bully tactics.
Ironically, President Trump earlier this week declared in his newly published National Security Strategy: “America is again leading the world.”
His signature on the portentous document testified: “Our founding principles have made the United States of America among the greatest forces for good in history… Around the world, nations and individuals admire what America stands for. We treat people equally and value and uphold the rule of law.”
Such lofty claims seem to be only true in the febrile imagination of American officialdom.
In reality, America’s virtuous pretensions are seen increasingly to be a ridiculous sham, flagrantly contradicted by its boorish, thuggish behavior.
There was a time perhaps when the US could command global leadership. That self-declared global authority was always over-rated, but there was a veneer of plausible appearance and credibility in Washington’s claims.
Now, Washington sounds like a pathetic, deluded narcissist, exposed by its own blatant contempt for the very principles it espouses to uphold: democratic rights, free speech, the rule of law.
This week at the UN General Assembly, the United States is no longer a world leader. It is more like a rogue state whose delusional greatness is belied by sordid acts of bribery, bullying, and intimidation. A tyrant whose time is over.
Most telling is that Washington’s threats of intimidation and “name taking” no longer have power. The threats are seen as just more bluffing and puffing by a washed-up superpower.
By Finian Cunningham