Mon | Aug 3, 2020

Editorial | Rules-based diplomacy matters in the era of Trump

Published:Tuesday | May 15, 2018 | 12:00 AM

The grave danger of Donald Trump is that he has neither ideology nor philosophy, except when defined as a hankering for glory and the concomitant acknowledgement, and praise, of his being. Thus, as a mass of ill-defined concepts and half-shaped ideas, Mr Trump represents a moral vacuum, capable of accommodating or tolerating any action or behaviour which, in his perception, causes him to look good.

So, in the United States of Donald Trump, America's support of Israel is unaffected by the traditional restraints of international diplomacy or the interests of Palestinians, so long as what he does is cheered by his base and applauded by Israel's supporters. In that sense, the America of Mr Trump, as Israel's benefactor, enabler and primary guarantor of its existence, has given the Israelis a blank cheque that Benjamin Netanyahu's government has been cashing in with impunity.

On Monday, Israel's soldiers, with the United States as their enabler, shot dead 58 Palestinian demonstrators, and injured nearly 3,000 others, at its 'border' with Gaza, an action that Michael Lynk, the United Nations' (UN) special rapporteur for human rights, characterised as an "eye for an eyelash" and a possible war crime.

Others have called the killing of the mainly peaceful demonstrators, at best, disproportionate, or a massacre that deserves independent investigation, a suggestion that has the backing of even America's closest international partner, the United Kingdom. Yet, at the UN, the United States blocked a statement calling for such an investigation, and blamed the Palestinian militant group Hamas for the border violence of the past six weeks, in which over 107 Palestinian civilians have been killed and over 12,000 injured.

Seventeen people were killed on the first day of demonstrations, March 30.

Nikki Haley, Mr Trump's UN ambassador, claimed that Israel has acted with restraint in the face of provocations by people wanting to destroy it. "Such a motivation - the destruction of a United Nations member state - is so illegitimate as to not be worth our time in the Security Council, other than the time it takes to denounce it," said Ms Haley.

Except that the recent demonstrations, unlike the intifadas of recent years, weren't the initiative of political militants, but inspired by a journalist's hashtag, encouraging peaceful action to make the case for the return of Palestinians to lands from which they were displaced at Israel's creation in 1948.




The tens of thousands who turned up on Monday were protesting that day's official move of America's formal opening of its embassy in Jerusalem, which was condemned by most of the world. However, it was a vote against which Jamaica abstained at the UN, although it flew in the face of the US's supposed honest broker in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by taking a firm position on the future status of a city that both sides declare to be their capital.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given Jamaica's recent opaque meanderings in its relations with Israel and President Trump's America, our Government has, thus far, failed to comment on the killings, probably for fear of offending either country.

We, in this regard, remind the Government of the observation of Foreign Affairs Minister Kamina Johnson Smith when she addressed a Diplomatic Week function earlier in the year: It was about Jamaica's support for a balanced, rules-based system of international relations.

Indeed, it is the only system upon which small, poor countries, without powerful armies and economic clout, can truly rely. It is a principle that has served Jamaica well for more than half a century, which it should not forget.