Coercive Diplomacy Blowback

Strong and coercive language from United State’s envoy to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, following the General Assembly’s Emergency Session vote on the status of Jerusalem in late December, has been met with blowback. While Haley declared the “vote will be remembered” as a point of attack and acute “disrespect” against the US, the outcome cast by sovereign states indicated an overwhelming resilience to not undermine an agreed UN resolution. The vote has also encouraged representatives of the Arab League to formally seek UN recognition of Palestine as a sovereign state in order to advance the Two State Solution. Their approach is yet to be declared, but gestures a rising level of impatience with the pace of regional developments, and an apparent loss of confidence in US capacity to lead negotiations in the pathway settlement.

The US’s unilateral decision on December 6th to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was strongly rebuked by members of the UN Security Council and raised serious concerns from the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, following the last reporting period (20th September – 18th December 2017). Mladenov declared regional tensions had spiked, threatening to destabilize achievements thus made as part of the Two State Solution road map. Mladenov further cited the US’s declaration on Jerusalem, and their petition to other member states to follow their lead, had eroded trust and damaged the openness of dialogue with and between neighbouring states who now feared a wider sphere of destabilization and potential violence.

Following from this, and December 18th’s US veto of Egypt’s drafted resolution at the Security Council, an Emergency Session was called by the General Assembly (GA). This was the tenth emergency session called by the GA, to bring members together to vote to reaffirm the UN’s collectively agreed resolution which states “any decisions and actions which purport to have altered, the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded in compliance with relevant resolutions of the Security Council.”

The outcome of the emergency vote on December 21st delivered a clear message of majority supporting the commonly agreed resolution. Yet, although the vote defined a collective determination in broad support of the UN and the Two State Solution, the US remains undeterred and unapologetic over their aggressive actions, which they have clarified to be in line with their US ‘America First’ policy.

It is however potential to consider that the US failed to estimate the swing against them would be so decisive, considering the coercive pressure they applied on member states, and the threats they made to cut funding for projects and state recipients who returned a supportive UN vote. Although around 20% of member states, including mostly small and middle state allies and neighbours to the US, abstained from delivering votes, the event helped to empower the voice of the world’s majority, and that of regional Arab League states.

While many Arab League states have been long-standing allies of the US, their interest in this debate, as direct stakeholders, has been to support diplomatic discussions and solutions that will help establish lasting regional stability, resilience and prosperity. The Two State Solution pathway, while often criticized as a deeply flawed negotiation pathway, has been the one tangible negotiation process to achieve broad international support that has propelled positive momentum capable of delivering change.

The swell in confidence raised by events of the past month have now upped the assertiveness of Arab League stakeholders to pursue a decision at the UN on the sovereignty of Palestine. This is seen as a key element to achieving an equitable and respectful outcome to the Two State solution, but is likely to be met with strong resistance from the US and its outnumbered supporters.

In anticipation of a formal petition from Arab League leaders to the UN, and the potential outcomes and discussions that may ensue, the constant actions that should accompany all  interactive engagements include the observance of and adherence to internationally agreed resolutions, and the respectful consideration of multiple perspectives to help broker mutual understandings and outcomes.

Carolina Morison