Trump’s Jerusalem stunt
The Philippines can say “No” to Israel because it is a staunch friend of long standing; it can say “No” to the United States because, as President Duterte has repeatedly said, it is high time the country pursued a truly independent foreign policy. But when push came to shove at the United Nations last week, in the emergency session of the UN General Assembly called to repudiate US President Donald Trump’s irrational, irresponsible decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the Philippines forgot its history, chose to ignore the declared policy of independence—and abstained.
In the context, abstention can only be understood as a concession to the United States. The American ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, had twice issued threats against countries voting in favor of the resolution which reiterates a 50-year-old international consensus: that the status of Jerusalem should be resolved between Israel and Palestine as part of a final peace agreement. Speaking like the representative of a criminal syndicate rather than the world’s oldest constitutional democracy, Haley first said that the United States “would be taking names” of those who vote for the resolution, and then just before the vote she said: “I must also say today: When we make generous contributions to the UN, we also have
expectation that we will be respected. What’s more, we are being asked to pay for the dubious privileges of being disrespected.”
This is language that plays to Trump’s white nationalist base at home, but falls flat abroad; it disrespects the sovereignty of other UN members. And as observers noted, it seemed only to have motivated more countries to reject Trump’s decision; the final tally was 128 in favor of the resolution which reaffirms 10 previous Security Council resolutions and declares American recognition of Jerusalem as null and void, and only nine countries—including Israel and the United States—against. A total of 35 countries abstained. Another 21 countries managed to miss the vote.
Haley later issued an invitation to the countries who voted against the resolution or abstained or missed the vote altogether to a special reception on Jan. 3, “to thank you for your friendship to the United States.”
The Philippines is a proven friend of Israel’s, with ties that go back even before the modern state of Israel was founded in 1948. It hosted hundreds of European Jews driven out by Hitler during the Holocaust, and was ready to welcome thousands more until World War II made safe passage impossible. The Philippines was one of 33 countries, and the only one from Asia, that in 1947 supported the creation of Israel. It has consistently supported Israel in previous UN votes.
But last week’s resolution was different, because it marked a departure from Israeli diplomacy. While Tel Aviv has always regarded the ancient city of Jerusalem as its capital, it has largely respected the international consensus, going back to 1967, that holds that the status of Jerusalem must be resolved by Israel and Palestine together.
Trump, eager to provoke a controversy that will distract the media from the federal inquiry into allegations of collusion between Russia and his presidential campaign, officially recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Dec. 6—overturning decades of official US policy, promoted by both Republican and Democratic administrations, that acknowledged the complicated nature of the issue and left the resolution of the status of the ancient city to peace negotiations. In the process, he also upended decades of effort to forge a lasting peace between Israel and Palestine.
Only the right-wing Netanyahu government welcomed Trump’s decision; the great powers rejected it. Prior to the vote in the General Assembly, the United States had lost a vote on the same issue at the Security Council, 14-1. Even its traditional allies, the United Kingdom and France, voted to nullify Trump’s decision. Russia and China, the other permanent members of the Security Council, rejected Trump’s action.
The Philippines should have rejected Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem and affirmed decades of standing UN policy because it was the right thing to do. Trump’s unilateral move runs against Israel’s highest interests, and gravely undermines the role of the United States as a peace broker
in the Middle East.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.