In a new diplomatic blow against Trump, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly voted in favor of a resolution rejecting Trump’s stance on Jerusalem, deeming it “null and void”. The vote, which is non-binding and mostly symbolic, is a clear condemnation of Donald Trump’s pledge to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv into the city.
Over 128 countries voted in favor of the resolution condemning the United States, despite threats from Nikki Haley, the UN ambassador for the USA and Donald Trump who threatened to cut funding to any country that voted against the US. Only 9 countries including Israel, voted against the resolution while another 35 countries abstained including traditional allies Australia and Canada. Those who abstained will be interesting as it seems to suggest that Trump’s that had some effect.
However, the clear majority of votes will only serve to further isolate the US on the world stage as many in the UN rail against the abrasive threats and bellicose rhetoric from a President who has lost the confidence of America’s allies. From Saudi Arabia, a key ally in the Middle East, to the UK and France, Trump has broken with the diplomatic norms and used what some have termed ‘blackmail’ in order to get his way.
The vote also followed from a decisive defeat earlier in the week when the Security Council voted 14-1 against Donald Trump’s decision with Nikki Haley casting the only vote for the decision in the form of a veto, a clear sign that America’s diplomatic efforts have backfired. Haley has since stated that the US will seek to move the embassy anyway, regardless of the vote.
Donald Trump’s threat to cut funding from countries that voted against it, and to the UN itself, runs the risk of being an expensive tug-of-war. Trump, like many conservatives, has long considered the UN to be anti-American as well as corrupt and wasteful of American tax dollars. The rhetoric of Trump’s attacks certainly seems more suited towards his domestic audience rather than towards the international forum, striking the same populist tone as many of his other speeches.
For their part, the United Nations has become increasingly concerned with Trump’s handling of international affairs. From provoking North Korea via Twitter to public feuds with British Prime Minister Theresa May, much of the earlier hopefulness of Trump’s first speech to the UN three months ago has vanished. Judging by the number of votes supporting the resolution, it is clear that Trump’s threats merely hardened the resolve of many nations and made it easier for them to oppose America. Some countries in the Middle East and Latin America will even consider it a badge of honor to defy Trump and what they have long regarded as a bullying superpower.
Will Trump cut the UN’s funding now? Many hope he won’t. It is true that America is one of the largest donors to the United Nations, perhaps the largest, but it is far from the only one. The idea of Trump pulling its funding is a worrying scenario that will only weaken the UN in the long-term and hamper peacekeeping efforts aboard. For America’s part, it will be further isolated as Trump takes America off the world stage and distances himself from traditional allies while forming disturbingly close relationships with authoritarian leaders.
Worse still, Trump’s intervention takes the seriousness out of the discussion. The decision to move the US embassy has been treated by the White House as a real-estate decision, but the reality is much grimmer. It all but ensures that the peace process and the two-state solution will never be revived in our lifetime, going against 40 years of diplomatic thinking in Europe and the US. Saudi Arabia will be hard pressed to reject Trump’s decision while Iran sees an opportunity for mischief after they too suffered from Trump’s impulsive actions.
No amount of bluster, no amount of threats, no amount of cheering pro-Israeli conservatives rallies can disguise the fact that Trump has made a critical blunder on the world stage. The United Nations is now facing a grave threat from one of its own founding members as Trump seeks to undo 60 years of hard work in just four years. America has lost decades of hard-earned trust and loyalty among its allies while handing a golden opportunity to its main rivals, China and Russia, to take its place on the world stage.
Remember when North Korea was the greatest threat to world peace? Oh, to have those simple times back again…