Rush by west to back Israel erodes developing countries’ support for Ukraine. #FT

20:24, Wednesday, 18 October, 2023
Rush by west to back Israel erodes developing countries’ support for Ukraine. #FT

Western support for Israel’s assault on Gaza has poisoned efforts to build consensus with significant developing countries on condemning Russia’s war against Ukraine, officials and diplomats have warned. The reaction to the October 7 attack on Israel by Islamist militant group Hamas and to Israel’s vow to hit back against Gaza has undone months of work to paint Moscow as a global pariah for breaching international law, they said, exposing the US, EU and their allies to charges of hypocrisy. In the flurry of emergency diplomatic visits, video conferences and calls, western officials have been accused of failing to defend the interests of 2.3mn Palestinians in their rush to condemn the Hamas attack and support Israel. In the first days after Hamas’s assault, some western diplomats worried that the US was giving carte blanche to Israel to attack Gaza with full force. That had eroded efforts since Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine to build consensus with leading states in the so-called Global South — such as India, Brazil and South Africa — on the need to uphold a global rules-based order, said more than a dozen western officials. The backlash had solidified entrenched positions in the developing world on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, officials said. They warned that this could derail future diplomatic efforts on Ukraine. “We have definitely lost the battle in the Global South,” said one senior G7 diplomat. “All the work we have done with the Global South [over Ukraine] has been lost . . . Forget about rules, forget about world order. They won’t ever listen to us again.” Many developing countries have traditionally supported the Palestinian cause, seeing it through the prism of self-determination and a push against the global dominance of the US, Israel’s most important backer. Some American diplomats are privately concerned that the Biden administration’s response has failed to acknowledge how its broad support of Israel can alienate much of the Global South. In the Middle East, many Arabs feel that the US and other western powers have never held Israel to account for its treatment of Palestinians, or paid enough attention to brutal conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Libya. Russia and its ally China have cultivated warm ties with the Palestinians. Russia’s president Vladimir Putin on Tuesday met Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing. “What we said about Ukraine has to apply to Gaza. Otherwise we lose all our credibility,” the senior G7 diplomat added. “The Brazilians, the South Africans, the Indonesians: why should they ever believe what we say about human rights?”

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