By Owei Lakemfa
MANY maybe unaware that the on-going bruising battle between the United States , US, and the United Nations,UN, over the former’s unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is not the first altercation triggered by President Donald Trump.
Earlier in the year, the Trump administration had tried to bully the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, into submission over the issue of Jerusalem.
UNESCO was established on November 16, 1945 to build peace in the world employing education, science and culture, promoting human rights and integrating world values.
As part of its mandate, it resolved in December, 2016 to ask Israel to rescind all legislative and administrative measures capable of “altering the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem” and to rethink its occupation of East Jerusalem.
The Trump administration which came into office a month later, described the UNESCO resolution as an “anti-Israeli bias” and demanded it be rescinded. When this was not forthcoming, the American Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson wrote on October 12, 2017 withdrawing the US from UNESCO.
On December 6, Trump made his declaration recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by deciding to move the US embassy to the city contrary to a standing fifty-year declaration by the UN that the Palestinians have a right to a state and that the status of East Jerusalem, seized by Israel in 1967 will be determine by international negotiations.
There was outrage across the world and in two weeks, the US was forced to face the consequences of its act; it was shunned even by the tinniest of nations and its allies, forced to explain and defend its positions and humiliated. It started with the Monday December 18, 2017 meeting of the UN Security Council which voted that any recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli capital “must be rescinded in compliance with relevant resolutions of the Security Council”.
Fourteen members voted for while the US alone voted for itself. To stop the overwhelming majority decision, the US used the veto. It was the first US veto in six years. US Representative to the UN, Nikki Haley almost apologetically said of the veto: “This is not something that the United States does often… We do it with no joy, but we do it with no reluctance.
The fact that this veto is being done in defense of American sovereignty and in defense of America’s role in the Middle East peace process is not a source of embarrassment for us; it should be an embarrassment to the remainder of the Security Council.” In truth it was both an embarrassment and humiliation for the US.
To underscore this, President Trump lamented: “All of these nations that take our money and then they vote against us at the Security Council or they vote against us, potentially, at the Assembly, they take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars and then they vote against us”.
Following a call for a vote in the UN General Assembly to pooh-pooh the American veto, Trump threatened: “Well, we’re watching those votes… Let them vote against us; we’ll save a lot. We don’t care.”
With the General Assembly vote slated for Thursday December 21, America went into a panic mood. This had been heightened by the fact the day after the Security Council vote, the General Assembly had by 176 – 7 votes, reaffirmed the right of the Palestine to a state and self-determination. To stave off the looming disaster and shame, the Americans wrote an ill-advised letter of threat and intimidation to all countries warning them of dire consequences if they dared vote against the US. The letter signed by Haley told them: “As you consider your vote, I encourage you to know the President and the US take this vote personally. The President will be watching this vote carefully and has requested I report back on those who voted against us”. It was like a primary school Head Teacher warning pupils that the Headmaster was watching.
Predictably, many countries were incensed. The Bolivian Representative , Sacha Llorenty told Harley that the first name in her black book should be Bolivia.
The Republic of Botswana responded in a letter: “Botswana will not be intimidated by such threats and will exercise her sovereign right and vote based on her foreign policy principles which affirm that Jerusalem is a fundamental final status issue, which must be resolved through negotiations in line with the relevant United Nations resolutions. Despite the consequences, Botswana encourages all Member States of the United Nations to support the resolution on the Status of Jerusalem”.
The scenario reminds me of American threats in a January 3, 1975 letter signed by then President Gerald Ford warning African countries not to recognise the MPLA Government in Angola. In response, the Nigerian Head of State, General Murtala Mohammed had mounted the Organisation of African Union, OAU, rostrum to denounce America and declare: “ Africa has come of age. It’s no longer under the orbit of any extra continental power. It should no longer take orders from any country, however powerful.”
Last week, the UN General Assembly resolution urged nations to “refrain from the establishment of diplomatic missions” in Jerusalem and accept the consensus under international law that East Jerusalem should be the future capital of a Palestinian state. When the vote was taken, 128 countries voted against America and only 9 voted for with 35 abstentions.
The American humiliation was complete as its traditional allies like France, Britain, Germany and Japan voted against it as did countries under American military occupation like Iraq and Afghanistan. The disgrace was worsened by the fact that only five countries of substance voted for US; America itself, Israel, two Latin American countries, Guatemala and Honduras, and the black leg in Africa, Togo. The four other votes came from tiny countries dependent on America; Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Nauru and Palau!
An obviously confused Harley declared the UN vote “null and void” .The Americans railed: “We will remember it when we are called upon once again to make the world’s largest contribution to the United Nations”.
Although a bumbling apprentice President with no flare for learning anything new, nobody can dispute the fact that Trump is experienced in the stocks, except that he has ran down the American international stocks so much that it might achieve a junk status by the time he leaves power or power leaves him.
The US has obviously become a drag on the UN and world peace. Since it considers itself as the world, I wonder when it will depart the UN in peace as it did UNESCO. Please let us meet next week on ‘The Day the US departs the UN’.