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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

The world has spoken and Trump doesn't like it

Israel has finally dragged the US into the pit of isolation it has long inhabited

Of the 193 member states of the UN, 128 voted to oppose to US president Donald Trump’s unilateral recognition of Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem.  Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / AFP
Of the 193 member states of the UN, 128 voted to oppose to US president Donald Trump’s unilateral recognition of Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem. Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / AFP

As rebukes go, the one delivered by the United Nations General Assembly to the United States and Israel was a stinging one. On Thursday, an overwhelming majority of 128 voted to oppose US president Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. They came in their droves to vote on the UNGA resolution, from Albania to Azerbaijan, from Botswana to Brazil and from Suriname to Switzerland. One by one, they all delivered their crushing verdict: Mr Trump’s unilateral recognition of Israeli sovereignty over occupied Jerusalem was unlawful. Even allies of Washington, among them the United Kingdom, France and Germany, did not hold back in expressing “deep regret” over the US decision and backing the resolution stating the Holy City was a “final status issue to be resolved through negotiations in line with relevant UN resolutions”.

Both the US and Israel have reacted with petulance and threats. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed the UNGA as a “theatre of the absurd” despite the fact Israel saw fit to vote on the resolution. Trump declared: “We don’t care” and threatened to cut financial aid to any countries who failed to back him. US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said she would be taking down names of those who voted and sent out invites for a party solely for members who stood by the US.

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What is clear is that the silent majority can be quiet no longer on an issue which has beleaguered the Middle East for too long. Israel has finally dragged the US, its longstanding patron and ally, into the pit of isolation it has long inhabited. Mr Trump has discovered the limits of his braggadocio, which failed to stop the world from formally censuring him. This is possibly the most devastating humiliation the US has suffered in a long time. Washington’s ability to act as an honest broker in a peace process is irreparably damaged; as Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said: “We will no longer accept any plan from the United States”. US credibility in the Middle East and beyond has dropped to a new nadir and the UN vote signals the emergence of a new, post-American world order. As Dr Anwar Gargash, the UAE's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, tweeted, it was a "victory for international legitimacy and the Palestinian cause".

Perhaps the US feels it can thumb its nose at the world because resolutions passed in the UNGA, for all their symbolic power, are non-binding; only measures passed by the Security Council carry the force of international law. The existing system, in which the votes of countries that account for billions of people can be ignored, cannot be sustained. But even with its imperfections, the UN sent out a message, loud and clear: the status of Jerusalem is not for the US to decide.

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