Shockwaves in the Global Order

While the U.S.–Israel alliance has become isolated, new ones are emerging.

Helena Cobban in the Boston Review: Just days before October 7, President Joe Biden’s national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, was radiating confidence that Washington had effectively brought all of West Asia’s long-roiling conflicts under control. Washington could now, he believed, accelerate the pivot of attention, forces, and funding toward what had long topped Biden’s agenda: containing Chinese power in East Asia. Then came the Hamas-led attack on Israel and Israel’s onslaught on Gaza. By late January, Sullivan was flying to Bangkok to plead with top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi for help in defusing the sharp, Gaza-spurred conflict that had erupted in the globally vital waterway of the Red Sea. (Wang politely blew him off.)

Over the past four months, the United States has become increasingly isolated on the world stage. In October and again in November, the United States vetoed resolutions at the UN Security Council that called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza on the grounds that they did not condemn Hamas. Then, on December 12, a special session of the UN General Assembly—where no country has veto power—voted 153 to 10, with 23 abstentions, in favor of a ceasefire resolution that made no mention of condemning Hamas. Those supporting the resolution included the BRICS group of nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), nearly all the other nations of the Global South, and some West European states, including France and Spain. The only states that joined the United States and Israel in voting against it were Austria, Czechia, Guatemala, Liberia, Paraguay, Papua New Guinea, and the tiny countries of Micronesia and Nauru.

In late December South Africa brought an impressively documented case against Israel to the UN’s highest judicial body, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), claiming that Israel had been committing genocide in Gaza and was likely to continue doing so unless the ICJ ordered it to comply with a set of strict “provisional measures.” Biden’s Secretary of State Antony Blinken impatiently dismissed the suit as “meritless.” On January 26, the veteran (and U.S.-nominated) ICJ President, Judge Joan Donoghue, delivered the court’s ruling: it was “plausible” to conclude that some of Israel’s actions in Gaza since October 7 could constitute genocide, and Israel should therefore comply with six of the nine provisional measures South Africa had requested. Washington issued no comment on the ruling and made no move to condition the “ironclad” military and political aid it was continuing to give Israel on the latter’s compliance with the ICJ’s orders.

Today Gaza stands at the fulcrum of world history. As its people slog on under Israel’s unrelenting assault, they have won the empathy and support of the vast majority of the world’s peoples. And over the past few months, it has become increasingly clear that the close ties Biden has retained with Israel have gravely damaged the United States’ global standing. The actions that the two countries have taken throughout the crisis have posed an increasingly serious challenge to the whole system of governance that since 1945 has preserved, with many lacunae, the global peace. And they have brought the United States ever closer to the brink of a major war in West Asia. More here.

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