Three days after the United Nations adopted a resolution calling on Israel to halt Jewish settlement activity on Palestinian territory, President-elect Donald Trump tweeted that the international body “is just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time.”
The harsh criticism, which Trump made Monday while vacationing at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, signaled he would likely challenge more than just the 71-year-old institution’s approach to the Middle East once he takes office.
While Trump did not elaborate on why he considered the United Nations ineffectual, he made it clear both before and after the Security Council adopted the resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem that he believed the United States should have blocked the move.
President Barack Obama instructed U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power to abstain from voting, on the grounds that the Israeli government’s continued support for expanding Jewish settlements could undermine any prospect of eventually reaching a two-state solution to the simmering conflict.
After the Security Council voted Trump tweeted, “As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th,” which is the day he will assume the presidency.
The United Nations has come under fire for years from critics on both the right and the left. Conservatives have attacked it for infringing on individual nations’ sovereignty as well as wasting resources, while many developing nations argue that most major decisions remain dominated by a handful of countries that were influential when the United Nations was established decades ago.
In recent years, some of its peacekeeping troops have been repeatedly accused of raping civilians they were sent to protect, and this August the office of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon formally acknowledged that Nepalese peacekeepers sent by the United Nations to Haiti six years ago contributed to a cholera outbreak there even as U.N. officials maintained they have legal immunity in connection to the epidemic.
But the United Nations continues to play a key role in helping deliver humanitarian assistance across the globe, brokering cease-fires during conflicts and serving as a forum for sprawling issues such as how best to address climate change.
Obama has worked doggedly during his time in office to support multilateral institutions such as the United Nations. He has used his speech each year before the U.N. General Assembly as a way to lay out his vision for foreign affairs and has convened summits there to tackle questions that include the global refugee crisis and the fight against terrorism.
Earlier this month, the president stopped by to personally thank Ban for his work when the secretary general, who is stepping down at the end of the month, was meeting with national security adviser Susan Rice at the White House.
During a new conference last month, Obama emphasized that the United States must continue to play the leading role in maintaining “the basic framework of the world order” that was established after World War II.
“And I’ve said before, that’s a burden that we should carry proudly,” Obama said. “And I would hope that not just the 45th president of the United States, but every president of the United States understands that that’s not only a burden, but it’s also an extraordinary privilege. And if you have a chance to do that right, then you should seize it.”
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Juliet Eilperin