For nearly seven decades, countries around the world have typically looked at the superpowers as global leaders that strive to make the world safer, happier and a just place for all of us.
In recent days, Washington announced that it has officially notified United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) that it is withdrawing its membership to the organisation because of “continuing anti-Israel bias” and “mounting arrears”.
The US would seek to “remain engaged ... as a non-member observer state in order to contribute US views, perspectives and expertise”, according to a statement from the US State Department.
Since his early days in office, it was clear that US President Donald Trump was not a staunch supporter of the UN.
On the contrary, at one point after his victory, the US president described the UN as just a club for people who are out there to “have a good time”.
I do not think he criticised the UN (which we all know suffers from a lot of bureaucracy) because he has his own plan to develop it.
The criticism was following the UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2334, in December 2016, which condemned Israeli colonies in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem.
The statement of Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the UN, on what can be dubbed as the “diplomacy of shoes” was a clear message that Washington will not allow anybody to criticise Israel.
“The days of Israel-bashing are over ... I wear high heels, it’s not for a fashion statement, it’s because if I see something wrong I will kick it every single time.”
After Thursday’s American decision, Israel said it would follow suit. This is not surprising, given that the UN has opposed Israeli policies and measures in the Occupied Territories several times.
The impact of US absence or the Israeli departure on the future of Unesco remains to be seen. Surely, the global body will survive. Unesco was founded three years before Israel was established in 1948.
However, Israeli and American withdrawal could also signify that the two do not want any liability under UN rules, or to be held accountable for Israel’s oppressive measures, or blamed for the consequences of its wrong decisions against Palestinians, or changing facts and history.
When Palestine was admitted as a full member to Unesco in 2011, the US administration of former president Barack Obama cancelled its contribution to the organisation in protest. However, the former US administration did not want to leave office with guilt. Days before Obama’s term in White House ended, the US abstained from a vote on UNSC Resolution 2334, which criticised Israeli colony activities in the Occupied Territories.
To many, that was a rare American measure. Throughout modern history, Arabs, and specifically Palestinians, are used to seeing Washington defending Israel at the UN and using its veto power to stop any attempt to criticise Israel at the UN. However, the difference between this US administration and previous ones is that former presidents did try to help solve the Palestinian question in one way or another before hanging their boots or withdrawing from UN organisations.
What Washington does not realise is that if it works towards achieving a peaceful solution to the Palestinian issue, it will serve its own interest as well as those of its ally: Israel. Washington will be relieved from all the military and political obligations, embarrassments and the ire of other nations owing to Israeli policies.
Likewise, Israel will be accepted in the region and full diplomatic relations will be established with it if it accepts a solution to the Palestinian issue according to UN resolutions — not by oppressing Palestinians and depriving them of their basic rights and expelling them from their homeland.
It is puzzling to see how the current US administration does not show interest in even attempting to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict. Instead, it simply ignores Israeli arrogance and Arab and Palestinian complaints.
Last August, Trump had asked Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and White House senior adviser, to head to the Middle East to revive frozen peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis. What was leaked to the press is that in his meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Kushner sought more time for the US administration before the Palestinians took any unilateral measure in the stalled peace process. However, when Kushner returned to Washington, he was quoted as telling a group of interns at the US Congress that he felt the current “US administration will not succeed like previous administrations. (And) undoubtedly, Trump administration will not find a solution that will achieve peace between Palestinians and Israelis”.
Even in international politics, powerful countries need to have a strategy. But the US doesn’t have any, it seems.
Analysts are confused. American policies not only lack a clear strategy, but they also do not befit the status of the US as a superpower. One non-Arab friend commented on Washington’s Unesco withdrawal, saying sarcastically: “It appears that this administration is not living on planet Earth. They live on another one!”
Some look at how successful the US president is as a businessman. But isn’t it also true that a good leader, even if he or she has a favourite staffer to socialise with, would still try to treat everyone equally at work? Americans need to realise that the biased policies of their government aren’t helping them. Such policies neither serve their interests, nor improve their image abroad. American people are known to be hardworking, honest, social and friendly. Is it worth tarnishing their image around the world?