US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley (Image credit: U.S. Mission to the U.N. via Flickr)
When US President Donald Trump took office in January, he pledged to “drain the swamp” in Washington by cutting out excess spending, throwing out the detached and corrupt establishment, and replacing it with a new approach and fresh spirit.
His success on that promise may be debatable, but this month Trump delivered on another promise to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. In doing so, he has set his sights on a much larger “swamp” - the global quagmire bogged down in elitist bureaucracy, sunk in stale foreign policy paradigms, and steeped in an anti-Israel obsession that seeks to deny the Jewish people their historical homeland.
In tackling this myopic morass, Trump and his administration – with US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley leading the charge – is in effect creating a new world order. The globe is being divided into those who favor the US vision that recognizes Israel’s legitimacy, and those who are against it. America will apparently treat the world's countries accordingly, rightfully rewarding those that back it, and cutting support to those striving to thwart it.
The punitive part of this dual construct was displayed when Haley announced a budget cut to the tune of $285 million in the US budget to the UN. The cut was announced just days after a UN General Assembly vote condemned Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem.
By chipping away a considerable chunk of US funding to an organization opposing its sovereign action on the world stage, Trump’s administration sent a clear message that it intends to “drain the swamp” by getting rid of excess spending and cracking down on bloated institutions that play a hindering role.
Haley also made clear that cuts to the UN budget will only continue, begging the question: What about the UN headquarters in New York City? The building is a massive economic drain on the Big Apple and inflicts an undue burden on New Yorkers, while contributing nothing to the world but more anti-Israel resolutions and screed.
The cut followed Haley’s stellar speech at the UN Security Council, in which she vetoed a resolution similar to the one that later passed the General Assembly and slammed the international attempt to meddle in such American sovereign affairs as where it places its embassy. Her rebuff of the international body’s attempt to abridge national rights and dictate local policy echoes a rising “populist” movement seen, for example, in the British opposition to the monolithic EU imposition of policy on the continent from its elitist ivory towers in Brussels.
Haley later indicated Trump had asked her to be “taking names” of the countries opposing the US in the General Assembly vote, and that they could expect to stop receiving fat paychecks of US aid after their attempt to interfere in American policy.
While 128 countries went ahead and voted against the US anyway despite the likely repercussions in the offing, a full 35 countries abstained and 21 did not participate, in addition to the nine (including the US and Israel) that opposed the resolution.
Even some of those countries that voted against the US - which included all of the Muslim states - apparently have changed their tune to a degree in order to stay in Trump’s good graces. His proactive approach has put the Palestinian Authority on the defensive, and this in turn has reportedly ostracized it from Arab states that are keen not to have a wedge driven between them and Trump precisely when they are building toward a US-backed effort against the growing Iranian Shi’ite hegemony.
Leaving the Swamp in Droves
On the flip side of the equation, Trump is rewarding those who backed him on the world stage just as he has warned and penalized those who opposed him. These countries are already forming the nucleus of a steadily growing stream following the new US approach towards Israel.
Guatemala was the first to follow suit by publicly declaring it will also move its embassy to Jerusalem. Honduras and Panama have unofficially joined a lengthening list of 10 countries that are reportedly in talks to move their embassies to the capital, showing how Trump’s move is starting to have an impact on the ground. Perhaps the best part of this Jerusalem paradigm shift of global consciousness initiated by Trump is its organic nature, with Guatemala clarifying that it wasn't "pressured" by the US into moving its embassy to Israel's capital.
Those countries that did not actively vote with the US and Israel - but did not vote against them - are being rewarded with a “friendship” party thrown by the US in early January. The 65 countries invited to the reception could be the makings of a positive coalition, indicating Trump's clear battle lines demarcating the camp in his favor as opposed to those who are against him.
In fact, the embassy migration led by Trump may be bolder than is currently understood by the general public.
In an indication of its apparent intention to put its embassy in the Diplomat Hotel which it recently bought, the US has informed residents they have two years to clear out. As it is located next to the current consulate in the Arnona neighborhood over the “Green Line” – the 1949 Armistice line – in “East Jerusalem,” a new US embassy on this site would be doubly significant.
Such a move would be a clear statement that Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people, will not be divided. It is likely that the countries following Trump’s exodus out of Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would place their embassies near his, which would further cement Israel’s legitimacy in all parts of its capital, and would again show that Trump recognizes the city as a unified capital.
Where is Israel?
With all these positive developments, one is puzzled that Israel is not responding to the outpouring of bold support by making equally bold steps of its own.
Israel has been lackluster during these key few weeks. Its lone policy move has been to merely follow America’s lead in leaving UNESCO – and even that it has flubbed.
Now that Trump has opened up the path to a new approach, and the Palestinian Authority has effectively removed itself from any prospect of “peace negotiations” by refusing to even meet with US officials, the time is ripe for Israel to step in and propose a new policy vision asserting its needs and rights in light of Trump’s unprecedented backing. Instead Israel continues to freeze Jewish construction and refuses to implement the death penalty for callous Arab terrorist murderers.
Israel’s leadership appears content to let Trump take the reins and set the tone. For now he is doing it well, but a true change in the status quo for the better can only be accomplished by Israel asserting itself and, like Trump, demanding that the world side with it or against it, treating its backers and backstabbers in kind. Even if he desired to do so, Trump cannot force Israel to realize full sovereignty in all parts of its own country and decisively quell the terror threat.
Israel must be careful not to squander the rare opportunity presented by a Trump presidency which challenges existing notions and conventions. Instead of sitting back and hoping things will improve on their own, it should take the initiative of presenting an alternative plan, such as the “Zainichi solution,” and beginning to implement it.
Especially given Trump’s new national security strategy released this month, which determines that “Israel is not the cause of the region’s problems,” now is the time for Israel to replot its course.
Trump's new national security strategy indicates that he is open to Israel having leeway and freedom of action, for he rightly understands that its policies are not the cause of Arabs slaughtering each other from Syria to the shores of Tripoli. With this overdue recognition of its capital, Israel should capitalize on the growing new world order and start asserting itself.