Trump Administration ends 2017 on a Sour Note

"Outlaws trying to dictate the law" used gutter tactics to threaten UN member states that dared "disrespect" America's crazed foreign policy

As if Trump’s crass announcement moving the US embassy to Jerusalem wasn’t enough, his minions on Monday vetoed a UN Security Council draft resolution calling on the President to withdraw US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Even his hand-in-hand friend Theresa May, another pimp for Israel, is against him in this. “On Jerusalem, I made it clear that we disagree with the United States’ decision to move its embassy and recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital before a final status agreement,” she declared. “Like our EU partners, we will not be following suit, but it is vital that we continue to work with the United States to encourage it to bring forward proposals that will re-energise the peace process. That must be based around support for a two-state solution and an acknowledgement that the final status of Jerusalem must be subject to negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.”

What exactly would final status and a two-state solution look like? Nobody is saying. Possibly because they all know that the idea has been filed in the too-difficult tray for at least 20 years. There was nothing wrong with the original UN plan to make Jerusalem an international city under separate control. Why not revive that? And if the international community really wanted two states why did they spend decades giving Israel endless opportunities to establish irreversible ‘facts on the ground’ designed to make the occupation permanent? Nothing will now change without the use of force or extreme sanctions. And there’s no sign of that happening.
So please do everyone a favour, US, UK and EU. Spare us that tired old mantra.

Trump’s interference in Jerusalem’s status “null and void”

The draft resolution vetoed by the US was supported by all 14 other members of the Security Council. It called on the US President to withdraw recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and said “any decisions and actions which purport to have altered the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void, and must be rescinded in compliance with relevant resolutions of the Security Council.” It required all countries not to establish diplomatic missions in Jerusalem.

America’s ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, stretched credibility far beyond breaking point by saying that the veto was “in defense of American sovereignty and in defense of America’s role in the Middle East peace process…. The United States will not be told by any country where we can put our embassy.

“Today” she said, “for the simple act of deciding where to put its embassy, the United States was forced to defend its sovereignty… Today, for acknowledging the basic truth that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, we are accused of harming peace. The record will reflect that we reject that outrageous claim.”

When did Israel’s claim to Jerusalem become a “basic truth”?

Haley boasted that the US had done more than any other country to assist the Palestinian people, providing them with more than $5 billion in assistance since 1994 and funding 30% of the UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) budget. In reality these mighty sums subsidise Israel’s ongoing illegal military occupation. Had Palestinians been left in peace they would be making their own way in the world at no cost to others.

Haley also seized the chance to slam UN Security Council Resolution 2334 adopted a year earlier. Obama, who was President then, opted to abstain rather than veto the measure, allowing it to pass.

2334 reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace;

It reiterates its demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and that it fully respects all of its legal obligations in this regard;

It underlines that it will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations;

And it stresses that the cessation of all Israeli settlement activities is essential for salvaging the two-state solution, and calls for affirmative steps to be taken immediately to reverse the negative trends on the ground that are imperiling the two-sate solution.

What is there not to like or understand about that? Nevertheless, “Given the chance to vote again on Resolution 2334,” Haley said, “I can say with complete confidence that the US would vote ‘no’; we would exercise our veto power.”

Netanyahu’s reaction to UNSC Resolution 2334 had been entirely predictable: “Peace will come not through UN resolutions, but only through direct negotiations between the parties.” He would say that, wouldn’t he, with his military jackboot on the neck of the Palestinian people. His style of negotiation, as always, is holding a gun to the head of the other party. As everyone, especially America, knows, peace doesn’t suit Israel’s purpose although the pretense of seeking peace does.

What sensible peace proposals have there been?

Haley insisted that while Resolution 2334 described Israeli settlements as impediments to peace, it was the resolution itself that was an impediment. “Misplacing the blame for the failure of the peace efforts squarely on Israeli settlements, the resolution gave a pass to Palestinian leaders who for many years rejected one peace proposal after another,” she said.

Have there been any credible peace proposals? By now, surely, everyone realises that the Israeli regime has never wanted peace. They’ve said so loud and clear. Land-grabbing and ethnic cleansing is what they do, so the jackboot of Israeli occupation must remain firmly on the Palestinians’ neck.

And as far as I’m aware, no-one has actually told us what the two-state solution they keep banging on about would look like. No-one, that is, since Ehud Barak and his “generous offer” to the Palestinians in the summer of 2000. Zio enthusiasts like Haley, to this day, heap blame on the Palestinians for turning down Barak’s bizarre plan and others like it.

So what did this amazing deal amount to? The West Bank and the Gaza Strip, seized by Israel in 1967 and occupied ever since, comprise just 22% of pre-partition Palestine. When the Palestinians signed the Oslo Agreement in 1993 they agreed to accept the 22% and recognise Israel within the internationally recognised ‘Green Line’ borders (i.e. the 1949 Armistice Line established after the Arab-Israeli War). Conceding 78% of the land that was originally theirs was an extraordinary gesture on the Palestinians’ part.

But it wasn’t enough for greedy Israel. Barak’s oh-so-generous peace offer demanded the inclusion of 69 Israeli settlements within that 22% Palestinian remnant. It was obvious on the map that those settlement blocs created impossible borders and already severely disrupted Palestinian life in the West Bank. Barak also demanded the Palestinian territories be placed under “Temporary Israeli Control”, meaning Israeli military and administrative control indefinitely. The offer also gave Israel control over all the border crossings of the new Palestinian State. What nation in the world would accept that? Of course, it was rejected. But the ludicrous reality of Barak’s two-state solution was cleverly hidden from the rest of the world by elaborate propaganda spin.

Later, at the Taba talks, Barak produced a revised map but withdrew it after his election defeat. The ugly facts of the matter are well documented and explained by organisations such as Israel’s own Gush Shalom, yet Israel lobby stooges continue to peddle the lie that Israel offered the Palestinians a deal they couldn’t refuse. Is Barak’s crazed vision of two states the one the US, UK and EU still have in mind when they prattle on about a peace process?

Crude blackmail

In response to America’s veto an emergency meeting of the UN General Assembly (where vetoes are not permitted) was called on Thursday to consider a resolution, co-sponsored by Turkey and Yemen, calling Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel “null and void” and reaffirming 10 security council resolutions on Jerusalem, dating back to 1967, including the requirement that the city’s final status must be decided in direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

It also demanded that “all states comply with security council resolutions regarding the holy city of Jerusalem, and not recognise any actions or measures contrary to those resolutions”.

Trump had threatened to withhold $billions of US aid from countries that voted in favour. Ambassador Haley wrote to about 180 of 193 member states warning she would be “taking names” of countries that voted for the resolution.

The Guardian reports Trump as saying: “Let them vote against us. We’ll save a lot. We don’t care. But this isn’t like it used to be where they could vote against you and then you pay them hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said. “We’re not going to be taken advantage of any longer.”

His remarks appeared to be directed at UN member states in Africa, Asia and Latin America who are vulnerable to US pressure, including Egypt which drafted the UNSC resolution vetoed by the US and which received $1.2bn in US aid last year. Trump’s threat could also affect the UK which hopes to negotiate a favourable post-Brexit trade deal with Washington.

But his gutter tactics backfired spectacularly. 128 member countries including, I’m glad to say, the UK voted in favour of the resolution supporting the longstanding international consensus. Only nine states – including the United States and Israel – voted against; the rest either abstained or stayed away. A stinging rebuke, then, for Trump and his delinquent diplomacy.

Iran vilified as usual

Earlier, we saw a Saban Forum interview with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son in law and senior adviser on Middle East peace. Questioned about why his ‘team’ had no experts, Kushner replied: “It’s not a conventional team, but it’s a perfectly qualified team. When we were thinking how to put a team together, the President and I focused on who are the most qualified people, who had the right qualification and whom we both trusted.”

So they opted for a real estate lawyer and a bankruptcy lawyer. They have nobody truly qualified in Middle East affairs.

Talking about the Palestinians and Israelis Kushner insisted that “both sides really trust the President, and that’s very important”.

He observed: “Many countries in the region see Israel as a much more likely ally than it was 20 years ago because of Iran, because of ISIS.” He spoke of issues of great concern: “You have Iran and their nuclear ambitions and their expansive regional mischief…”

No mention, of course, of Israel’s nuclear domination and expansive regional mischief.

And he simply couldn’t stop himself demonising Iran. “A lot of countries felt Iran was being emboldened and there was no check on their aggression,” he added. “The president has been very clear about his intentions on this issue, and going to Saudi Arabia and laying out a priority of fighting Iran’s aggression was significant.” Kushner said that unifying everyone against Iran’s aggression is a “world problem”.

He should read the history of US (and UK) aggression against Iran before opening his mouth again of this subject.

There was no mention of international law in the interview, just getting deals done. Peace and strengthening US-Israel relationship is central, according to Kushner. Which, of course, disqualifies the US as a broker.

The Saban Forum interview is touted by some as a humiliation for Kushner. I don’t agree. Jared Kushner came across as an intelligent and even likable specimen of Zionism, thoughtful and with none of the usual arrogance. But he was shown up as naive, out of his depth and unfit to serve in that position. His performance also emphasised the lunacy of allowing the commander-in-chief of a so-called democracy to bring in his family members and business cronies to meddle in the affairs of state. There’s an unfortunate word for that: nepotism.

It is surely time for Trump, as a world leader, to decide whether to live up to his responsibility to respect and uphold international law and the norms of human conduct. Otherwise he should find other employment before he does any more damage.

The last word goes to the Palestinian ambassador in London, Prof Manuel Hassassian, who hits the nail smack on the head:

The US has dug itself into a position where it is set to find itself, alongside Israel, in a face-off with the majority of world nations – outlaws trying to dictate the law. We hope and trust the global community will not waiver in the face of such bullying tactics and do the right thing under international law and the right thing for Palestine and the Palestinians.

Stuart Littlewood’s book Radio Free Palestine, with Foreword by Jeff Halper, can now be read on the internet by visiting radiofreepalestine.org.uk. Read other articles by Stuart.