The abdication of global leadership

Jeremy Ben-Ami Image
Jeremy Ben-Ami
on December 20, 2017

14 to 1.

That was the vote in the UN Security Council this week on a resolution rebuking the Trump administration’s change of policy on Jerusalem.

The United States stood alone in opposition to the world’s reaffirmation that Jerusalem is a sensitive final status issue — and that no country should act to alter its status in advance of a negotiated agreement between the parties to the conflict.

The vote was the latest example of just how isolated the United States is on the world stage under President Trump — and of this administration’s frightening abdication of the global leadership role the US has played for the better part of the last century.

Tomorrow, the entire General Assembly is expected to vote on the issue — and we can be sure that vote, too, will be hugely lopsided. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley has written that the US will be closely watching who votes against it — and threatened that “the US will be taking names.”

She’d have a far easier time instead keeping track of the tiny number of countries that will vote with her.

President Trump likes to talk about how his foreign policy is all about “America First” — and that was a key component of the National Security Strategy he unveiled this week.

But on Jerusalem, as on so many other issues, “America First” looks like “America Alone.”

Israel’s capital is in Jerusalem — and it should be internationally recognized as such in the context of an agreed two-state solution that also establishes a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem. The Trump administration’s move has only made that ultimate agreement much harder to achieve.

The White House may have made its decision to score some political points with its evangelical and hard-line base — and certainly that explains how Haley, Vice President Mike Pence and Ambassador David Friedman won the internal debate over the national security and diplomatic veterans who advised against it.

But sadly there is meaningful fallout from this reckless move, which has only further undermined US standing with the Palestinians, regional Arab leaders and key allies around the globe. Any hopes the president’s team may have harbored of launching an Israeli-Palestinian peace process are now on life support, at best.

This is what happens when American foreign policy is driven by partisanship and ideology, rather than by facts, experts and long-term interests.

Yet, just as President Trump seems determined to to reverse the key diplomatic achievements and goals of his predecessors, future administrations can reclaim the mantle of global leadership, featuring pragmatic problem-solving and diplomacy, rather than bombastic saber-rattling.

Policies do change, elections do have consequences and what’s been done can be undone.

That’s why J Street will fight harder than ever in 2018 — both in the elections and in the halls of Congress — for strong diplomacy and for policies that are truly pro-Israel and pro-peace.

Thankfully, there are many strong voices in American politics who understand that US policy on Israel and around the world can and must look far different than it does under this administration.

In the past few weeks, we’ve seen many members of the House and Senate come forward with concerns and criticisms of the Jerusalem decision.

We’re working to support these voices — and to add to their ranks by helping to elect a new wave of leaders in 2018 to serve as a powerful bulwark in Congress against the Trump administration’s most dangerous actions.

We’re doing everything we can, in the Jewish community and in our politics, to push back against the far-right forces influencing this White House.

But we couldn’t do any of it without your support.

America’s reputation can recover — but it’s the Israeli and Palestinian peoples who will the suffer the real consequences of decisions and rhetoric that exacerbate conflict. We can’t forget that.

For their sake, we have to keep standing up for what we know is right — and recommit ourselves to the struggle for progress and for peace.

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