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U.N. Votes 128-9 to Criticize U.S. Decision on Jerusalem

December 22nd 2017

Western Wall - Wailing Wall Jerusalem

The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday adopted a resolution criticizing the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and begin the process of moving its embassy there, a vote that followed warnings from the Trump administration that the U.S. would take personally any votes cast against it.

Thursday’s nonbinding resolution was adopted with 128 nations in favor, nine against and 35 abstaining. Joining the U.S. and Israel in voting against the resolution were Togo, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Micronesia, Palau, Honduras and Guatemala. Among those that abstained were Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Poland and the Philippines.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley tweeted after the vote a list of the nations that voted against the resolution or abstained, writing that "we appreciate these countries for not falling to the irresponsible ways of the @UN."

Before votes were cast, Haley admonished the world body for its historical criticism of Israel. She said it was the expectation of the U.S., which she noted is the greatest contributor to the U.N., that its “goodwill” toward the body be met with respect, not with the condemnation wrapped into the resolution adopted Thursday.

“The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation,” Haley said. “We will remember it when we are once again called upon to make the world’s largest contribution to the United Nations, and we will remember it when so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.”

Haley also reiterated the Trump administration’s defense of its decision: that the move was little more than a recognition of the reality that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and that the U.S. had not taken a side in any final-status issues, including on the borders of Jerusalem itself. Nonetheless, almost all of the speakers who took to the General Assembly podium bashed the U.S. decision.

Among those who delivered critical remarks were traditional foreign policy foes, like North Korea, Iran, Syria, Cuba and Venezuela, but also friendlier nations, including South Africa and Turkey, a NATO ally.

President Donald Trump’s decision earlier this month to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital sparked an array of reaction from the international community, almost all of it negative, ranging from concern to outright condemnation. The move also sparked protests and violence in the region.

The status of Jerusalem has long been a contested point, the solution of which is expected to be crucial to any two-state peace agreement. Israel has long claimed Jerusalem as its capital and has controlled the entirety of the city since annexing east Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War. Palestinians would be certain to seek the return of east Jerusalem to serve as its capital in any two-state agreement.

Thursday’s vote followed one at the U.N. Security Council earlier this week, when the U.S. used its veto to block a resolution undoing Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. After that vote, Haley sent a letter to other U.N. member states ahead of Thursday’s General Assembly meeting, warning that “the President and U.S. take this vote personally.”

Her words were backed up by Trump’s remarks on Wednesday at a Cabinet meeting at which he admonished “all of these nations that take our money and then they vote against us at the Security Council or they vote against us, potentially, at the Assembly, they take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars and then they vote against us.”

The apparent threat to pull foreign aid received a chilly reception from speakers at Thursday’s General Assembly, many of whom accused the U.S. of bullying and intimidation. Haley nonetheless warned that U.S. financial support was not guaranteed.

“We’ll be honest with you: When we make generous contributions to the U.N., we also have a legitimate expectation that our goodwill is recognized and respected,” she said. “When a nation is singled out for attack in this organization, that nation is disrespected. What’s more, that nation is asked to pay for the privilege of being disrespected. In the case of the United States, we are asked to pay more than anyone else for that dubious privilege.”

“Unlike in some U.N member countries,” she continued, “the United States government is answerable to its people. As such, we have an obligation to acknowledge when our political and financial capital is being poorly spent. We have an obligation to demand more for our investment. And if our investment fails, we have an obligation to spend our resources in more productive ways.”


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