Ever since World War II, we have abided by a rules-based international system where states are obliged to adhere to international law. The expectation that states must act according to international law or be sanctioned by the international community is what has prevented the world from descending into the abyss of a third World War. Without these constraints on naked power and arrogance, the law of the jungle would reign with unimaginable consequences.
The US has spent much of the past few decades undermining international law by vetoing resolutions of the UN Security Council that call on Israel to adhere to international law. In total, the US has vetoed 43 such resolutions since 1972 in order to back its ally Israel. Such actions have eaten away at the integrity of the international rules-based system and encouraged other nations to flout international law, giving the impression that the remaining superpower will turn a blind eye and even provide political cover to select nations that do so. Other countries have also been guilty of violating international law, but as the remaining superpower, one would have expected the US to have led by example.
But the US announcement last week that it no longer believes Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank violate international law was perhaps the most flagrant attack to date on the international rules-based system. The US is basically putting its middle finger up to the UN system that has painstakingly attempted to maintain international peace and security since World War II, and in effect openly declared itself and the state of Israel above international law, and all accepted norms and standards.
This is arguably one of the most dangerous precedents set in international relations, which risks the collapse of the global rules-based system upon which post-WWII peace and stability has been built.
If certain states are allowed to flout international law with impunity, with the political cover of a superpower, how can we expect other nations to continue to respect and adhere to the rules devised under international law? It becomes a free for all where the rights of those nations or peoples less powerful or marginalised are trampled underfoot and justified by nonsensical pronouncements.