Neither Benjamin Netanyahu nor Donald Trump seems to realize that it is no longer permissible for modern states to simply appropriate the territory of their weaker neighbors. By neglecting this pillar of modern international morality and continuing to construct Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory, Benjamin Netanyahu is aligning himself with authoritarian rulers such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin, who has used military force to annex parts of Ukraine and Georgia, and China’s Xi Jinping, who is using military force to occupy the entire South China Sea.
In a recent vote in the United Nations Security Council, the United States did not exercise its veto of a resolution condemning Israel’s growing occupation of the Palestinian West Bank. Donald Trump tweeted in response, “We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect. They used to have a great friend in the U.S., but…….” When did failure to block a country’s illegal occupation of a neighbor’s territory become “disdain and disrespect?” When did morality become a quality to be disdained?
The Arab-Israeli conflict is complex. Neither side has the moral high ground. However, in occupying an increasing percentage of the West Bank, Netanyahu’s government shows no shame in claiming the moral low ground, and Donald Trump, who has never expressed shame at any of his immoral actions, continues to shamelessly support Netanyahu’s outlaw actions.
Of course, the fact that Donald Trump would support a leader who is showing increasing authoritarian tendencies is nothing new. He has repeatedly expressed admiration for Vladimir Putin, and he seems to inclined to support Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Until about a decade ago, there was a sense that the world was becoming increasingly democratic and more respectful of human rights. That trend has since reversed. Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Benjamin Netanyahu, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and Nicolás Maduro are three examples of leaders, or of a future leader in Donald Trump’s case, who show authoritarian tendencies in countries that were once democratic.
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