Most of the world opposes Israel’s occupation and colonization of Palestinian land on the West Bank, but nobody is willing to do anything concrete about it. That’s mainly because the world’s most influential country, its only genuine superpower, stands ready to defend Israel against any serious attempt to curb its predations. This state of affairs played out after Donald Trump put another nail in the coffin of the two-state solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict, recognizing Jerusalem (not West Jerusalem but an undefined Israel-controlled Jerusalem) as Israel’s capital. The UN General Assembly appropriately censured the US move, despite bullying threats by the Donald, which were amplified by his UN mouthpiece, Nikki Haley. The vote was 128 to 9, with 35 abstentions and 21 absences.
The isolation of the US was fairly complete. Unsurprisingly, the Muslim world fairly unanimously defied Trump, but so did almost every major US ally—Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, etc. (Exceptions: Canada and Australia abstained.) The seven states that voted with the US and Israel included such respected giants of the international community as Micronesia, Palau and Togo. Also two dependable US clients in Central America–Honduras, whose current dubiously legal government largely owes its existence to US patronage–and Guatemala. Even the pro-Trump, authoritarian semi-democracies Poland and Hungary only abstained.
So what happens next? Don’t hold your breath. The US has dropped all pretense to a role as honest broker between Israelis and Palestinians, so forget Jared Kushner’s assignment to forge a deal in the Middle East. I will admit to a faint hope that this most recent dramatization of US isolation from the international community, combined with the more general revulsion toward the current US president, would spur others to a new assertiveness in pressing for a just solution in Israel/Palestine. Realistically, though, that’s not likely to happen. The main candidate for such “others” would be the European Community. But the fact is, most European governments, though sympathetic to the Palestinians’ plight, don’t care enough about the issue to embark on a direct collision course with the US. Saudi Arabia, which once authored a genuinely decent peace plan that was scorned by the Israelis, is now too caught up in its sectarian/geopolitical war with Iran (in which both Israel and the US are effectively Saudi allies) to be interested in Palestine.
For all the problems presented by the Palestinian leadership, the one really intractable obstacle to a just peace is Israel’s determination to take as much of the West Bank for itself as it can get away with. As long as it has the effective backing of the US in that project, symbolic votes in the UN serve little more than to remind us of how little has changed.