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Michael Jansen: A slap in Trump’s face
December 25, 2017
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The Trump administration and Donald Trump himself endured a humiliating foreign policy defeat when the UN General Assembly voted in favour of a resolution calling upon Trump to rescind his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The resolution was adopted by 128 votes in favour to nine against while 35 countries abstained and 22 did not attend the Assembly session.

The defeat involved a slap in Trump’s face as among the supporters of the resolution were key US allies Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, Italy, India, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Jordan. Russian and Chinese votes for the resolution meant the four other permanent members of the Security Council stood against Trump.

The list of those opposing the resolution was doubly humiliating because Guatemala and Honduras were the only independent countries that joined the US and Israel while the rest — Palau, Nauru, Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Togo — are US dependencies and normally vote with Washington whatever the issue.

Five other aspects of this vote were significant. Fourteen members of the Security Council, all but the US, had already backed this resolution. This was the 43rd veto cast by the US in the Council to benefit Israel. The General Assembly convened in an emergency session. The resolution was put forward under the 1950 “Uniting for Peace” procedure which has been invoked only when the Security Council cannot achieve unanimity on an issue.

“Uniting for Peace” has been used only 10 times in the past 77 years. The last time was in 2009 when the topic was East Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories. Those voting in favour of the latest Jerusalem resolution were casting principled ballots and abiding by international law which holds that occupying powers should not change the status of territories they conquer. Finally, Trump and US UN ambassador Nikki Haley had threatened countries voting in favour could face cuts in US aid. Major recipients Egypt, Jordan, Afghanistan and Pakistan braved Trump on this issue and, due to their importance as US allies, it is unlikely he will turn against them and cut aid. The US aid budget is $41.9 billion, a mere one per cent of the federal budget, and much of it goes to pay for US weapons for the military in recipient countries rather than to uplift civilians. More than $3 billion goes to Israel in spite of its destructive and deadly treatment of Palestinians.

Many of the countries that abstained — including Australia, Hungary and the Czech

Republic — were motivated by internal politics rather than Jerusalem. Mexico’s abstention cannot be explained. Canada shifted from voting against the resolution to abstention.

It is ironic that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu condemned the Assembly vote, calling the UN the “house of lies,” because in November 1947 the Assembly adopted the resolution that legitimised the creation of Israel. Furthermore, that resolution passed only because the US called for a pause to bully several countries, including the Philippines, to change their vote from “no” to “yes.”

Trump clearly did not take into consideration the consequences of his decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and shift the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He did not do his homework or accept the warnings of people well versed in the highly emotional politics on this region. Instead, he simply did what he wanted. As a result, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has cut all ties with his administration, declared the US unfit to mediate a settlement between Palestinians and Israelis, and said he would not accept any peace plan put forward by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Trump has simply finished off the fiction that the US can have a role in peacemaking although, since the Oslo Accord was signed in September 1993, the US has, as always, played Israel’s game. The game was spelled out in October 1991 when then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Shamir, who opposed negotiations with the Palestinians, said Israel would colonise the land while drawing out talks for a decade. Of course, the game has gone on for more than two decades while Israel has covered the West Bank landscape and Palestinian East Jerusalem with Jewish colonies. Israel has tripled the number of colonists in the West Bank from 116,000 to nearly 400,000 while the number of colonists in East Jerusalem increased from 120,000 to more than 200,000. Fully 10 per cent of Israel’s total Jewish population lives in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Unfortunately, there is no other power on earth that has any possibility of leaning on Israel to halt its colonisation and agree to negotiate seriously with Palestine over ending the occupation of the 22 per cent of their country Palestinians demand for their state.

The UN, with Trump’s enthusiastic backing, is willing and ready to impose tough sanctions on North Korea but not on Israel. The latest North Korean sanctions target fuel, ships and workers. Even if the US were to oppose sanctions, the European Union, Israel’s largest trading partner, and a host of other countries could impose sanctions on Israel for its illegal colonisation of Palestine and brutal treatment of Palestinians. So far, 11 have been killed and more than 500 arrested while protesting Trump’s Jerusalem declaration.

What is needed is not simply the current “boycott, divestment, and sanction” movement launched by private individuals and institutions, but a thoroughgoing collection of punitive sanctions implemented by governments with the aim of curbing Israel’s exports, foreign investment, cultural activities, and diplomatic events. The aim of this effort would not be to destroy Israel but to end colonisation, withdraw colonists from the 1967 territories, and reach a settlement with the Palestinians that would give them a state outlined by the 1948 armistice lines. This is, of course, wishful thinking. If the world community had seriously wanted to adopt such an effort soon after Israel conquered the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem in 1967 in order to compel Israel to withdraw, the “Palestine Problem” might have been resolved.

___________________________________________

The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East
affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict

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