The purpose of the United Nations is to maintain international peace and security, but Donald Trump has managed to upset on both fronts with his excoriation of nation states that refused to back his decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
If the United Nations is to develop friendly relations among nations based, as its Charter states, “on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples” it cannot be subject to bullying tactics by its most powerful member. Blackmail is the word for making a supporting vote a condition of US aid.
Trump’s bluster ignores the fact that the UN is already heavily weighted in favour of the great powers. While each nation has an equal vote in the General Assembly, some nations – the great powers – have veto powers over collective action. This itself is controversial: for the interests of some states should not trump the freedoms and sovereignty of others. The General Assembly voting process is actually an important balancing of the equation, giving the UN a more democratic flavour.
Trump’s bluster would never be acceptable in a democratic state where public officials are elected to serve all without fear or favour, affection or ill-will. So why is it okay for him to take this approach at the UN, one of the pre-eminent organisations working to bolster democracy around the world?
As is the case with so much involving Trump, his stance is more about playing to his American fan base than being related to the real world. Conservative Christians who support Trump likely venerate Jerusalem and will conflate the political designation with ideological belief.
Yet, Trump’s fans are yet to appreciate the damage done by the move. Recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel undermines the two-state solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict, provokes Saudi Arabia, America’s best ally in the Middle East, and further deepens the US’s self-imposed exile from its closest allies. This is a ticking time bomb.
Trump’s action also undermines the UN as the US will proceed with its plan, albeit in 2020, notwithstanding an overwhelming resolution against it.
“No vote in the United Nations will make any difference,” said US ambassador Nikki Haley. That’s normally what the enemies of peace say before they unleash their devastation. Had Trinidad and Tobago voted in favour of the censure of Trump’s plan, it would not have been a mark against us, given our long record of supporting key measures backed by the US.
But in Trump, the world is dealing with a tyrant who, last week, succeeded in making 35 nations, including our own, abstain as if cowering in fear. A further 21 countries missed the vote. These matters do not involve us, some say. Or do they?