US at UN: Always to Israel’s defence

Now, Washington has started threatening countries, which vote against its policies, with aid cuts

Dubai: Since 1970, the US vetoed 43 resolutions at the UN Security Council that criticised Israel or denounced the measures it takes against the Palestinians. The last incident was on December 18, 2017, when Washington vetoed a draft UN resolution that rejected President Donald Trump’s move to recognise occupied Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. For decades, the US has defended Israel and protected it with the veto power it has. However, the US administration recently took an extra step: Threatening countries that vote against its policies with aid cuts, a move that surprised many members and has backfired on Washington.

Analysts say the US action should come as a wake-up call for the Palestinians and Arabs to look for other options.

“Under (US President Donald) Trump, we will not witness any American positions that allow any resolution that Israel does not approve [to pass],” said Gassan Al Khatib, a political scientist and former member of the Palestinian negotiations team in both Madrid and Washington.

In one instance in December 2016, however, the US abstained from voting, paving the way for the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2334. The move was hailed by the Arabs and most of the international community. The resolution dealt with Israeli colonies in “Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem”. It stated that Israel’s colonial activities constituted a “flagrant violation” of international law and have “no legal validity”. It demanded Israel to stop such activity and fulfil its obligations as an occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

UN Resolution 2334 was the first such specific one since 1980, when Resolution 465 was adopted unanimously on illegal Israeli colonies on occupied Palestinian land.

Resolution 2334 was passed a few weeks before the end of former President Barack Obama’s second term.

The Obama administration, Al Khatib said, “believed in a two-state solution, while Israel did not. It was then that the strategic conflict occurred, resulting in tense relations between Washington and Tel Aviv, and culminating in 2334”.

However, the Trump administration has a vision that is more in line with that of Israel, Al Khatib added.

Asked about US vision for peace when the negotiations first kicked off, Al Khatib said, “The US was interested in finding a solution. But it was not clear, ever, what kind of solution it would be. It always acted as if its efforts were open-ended. It sponsored the talks and showed it supports whatever the parties agreed on. But what kind of solution the Americans sought was never disclosed.”

So far, Trump’s decision led to 14 countries out of 15 voting against it in the Security Council, and 128 out of 193 in the General Assembly.

“This is not an easy thing for America,” the world’s super power, said Al Khatib.

Trump administration’s approach

Trump has now erased two main aspects of America’s strategy. The first concerned the West Bank and Gaza, including East Jerusalem, occupied lands from the legal point of view. The second was US support for the two-state solution. This explains the verbal criticism by Washington of Israel’s colonial policies in the past. When Trump came to the White House, he introduced “dramatic changes” in US policy, analysts said.

“There are many explanations for the Trump administration’s behaviour,” said Cairo-based researcher at Al Ahram Strategic Studies Centre Mohammad Izz Al Arab. “Trump needs some issues to divert public attention from inside [the US] to outside.

“Secondly, the Jewish lobby in the US can stand up for Trump, and he wants to have their support.

“The third explanation is Arab countries and the Palestinians are at their lowest point,” Al Arab said.

He added: “I also think we [Arabs] were partners in this. When we took Trump’s bait when he manipulated Arab feelings … we thought he would have a vision in dealing with some of the regional crisis.”

Arab countries need to look to other options for financial investments and arms deals than the United States, and at the same time take steps to boost relations with other world powers.

Today, “We are in a multi-polar world”, said Al Arab.

Both Al Arab and US analysts from outside the Trump administration agree on one thing: It is the US that will pay a “heavy price” for Trump’s decisions.

“The organising principle of every nation’s foreign policy must be protection of the homeland,” wrote Aaron David Miller, former US envoy to the peace talks in his book “The Much Too Promised Land”. “We have an obligation and responsibility to our own citizens to do everything within our power to support our friends, marginalise our enemies, and enhance our credibility and influence. We will be in the Middle East for generations. The Arab-Israeli issue will continue to rattle around out there, providing opportunities for our enemies to exploit,” Miller said.

Miller, though not an orthodox Jew, had once called for a break at one point during the peace talks for his daily prayers, according to reports.

Finding a solution should be “above partisan politics … I am absolutely convinced there is no contradiction between America’s special ties with the Israelis and our capacity to act as an effective mediator, being both tough and empathetic with Arabs and Israelis alike”.

At the same time, he said, US policies should not be dictated by Israeli wishes, or be subjected to an “Israeli veto over American negotiations positions”.

“If we don’t show resolve, independence, and toughness, we’ve got no business being in the peacekeeping business,” Miller said.


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