Thursday, December 06, 2018

Lessons from the UN's Failure to Condemn Hamas

A UN General Assembly resolution that would have condemned Hamas for terrorism and incitement was rejected today. The resolution received a majority of votes (87-57, with 36 abstentions), but did not pass after an earlier vote pushed by the Arab League successfully required the resolution to secure a two-third majority.

Some lessons to draw:

  • Let's not get too excited about Israel's new "friendship" with Arab states. There's been a lot of talk about Israel's increasingly warm ties with Arab nations, and to be fair, it isn't entirely a mirage. But it hasn't progressed anywhere close to the point where an Arab state is willing to vote to condemn a Palestinian actor in an international forum. American diplomats had sought to pick off at least a few Arab League nations as aye votes -- not only did they not succeed, they didn't even convince these countries to adopt the potentially face-saving route of voting against the resolution while allowing it pass or fail on a majority vote. Push came to shove, and the Arab League continued to stand as a rock-solid wall against anything that looks like it might deviate away from the UN's extreme and reflexive anti-Israel slant.
  • Nothing that is viewed as a "victory for Trump" is going to pass easy, particularly when it comes to the Middle East. As much as everyone likes to tout Nikki Haley, miracle-worker, the fact is that the Trump Administration's bull-in-a-china-shop orientation to foreign policy has severely circumscribed its negotiating leverage in international fora. This resolution, had it passed, would have been viewed as a major international triumph for the Trump administration. Nobody wants to give Donald Trump a major triumph in anything right now. In large respect, the failure of this resolution is the fruit of Trump's alienating unilateral recklessness in decisions like the embassy move. Trump-tactics come with a cost, and it's paid in the defeat of resolutions like this.
  • Is criticizing Palestine the "last taboo" in international diplomacy? We hear so much about how it's "impossible" or "taboo" to criticize Israel. Clearly, nobody has ever told the UN that -- it criticizes Israel all the time (indeed, sometimes it seems like it literally spends all of its time criticizing Israel). But, as this resolution demonstrates, even a single solitary denunciation of Hamas (not even the Palestinian Authority -- just Hamas!) yields a knockdown, drag-out fight -- and a fight that few are surprised to see Hamas ultimately win. That's a testament to just how sacrosanct and untouchable the United Nation's anti-Israel orientation really is.
  • Chile, New Zealand, Norway, and Switzerland (among many others) are weasel states. I mentioned before that the Arab League successfully moved to require that the anti-Hamas resolution require a two-third majority. That vote was extremely close -- it passed by a 75-72 margin, with 26 abstentions. Among the abstaining states were Chile, Norway, New Zealand, and Switzerland -- all of whom proceeded to vote in favor of the resolution they'd just ensured could not pass. Nice try. Even worse than them were states like Argentina, Japan, and the Bahamas, who outright voted in favor of the two-thirds requirement before voting to pass the resolution. Nobody is fooled by this play.

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