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Defying Trump threat, UN rejects US decision on Jerusalem

  • Published at 11:31 pm December 21st, 2017
  • Last updated at 01:04 am December 22nd, 2017
Defying Trump threat, UN rejects US decision on Jerusalem
Defying President Donald Trump's threat to cut off funding, the United Nations (UN) overwhelmingly approved yesterday a motion rejecting the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The 193-member General Assembly adopted the motion by 128 to nine with 35 abstentions, in what Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour called a "massive setback" for the United States. Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Togo joined the US in opposing the measure. Among the countries that abstained were Argentina, Australia, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Mexico, the Philippines, Poland, Romania and Rwanda. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the UN resolution and called the vote "a victory for Palestine." But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the vote. Speaking ahead of the emergency session, US Ambassador Nikki Haley warned the General Assembly that the United States "will remember this day." "America will put our embassy in Jerusalem," Haley said in defence of the US move, which broke with international consensus and unleashed protests across the Muslim world. "No vote in the UN will make any difference on that," Haley said. "But this vote will make a difference on how Americans look at the UN and on how we look at countries who disrespect us in the UN." [caption id="attachment_235447" align="aligncenter" width="800"] United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, addresses the General Assembly prior to the vote on Jerusalem, on December 21, 2017, at UN Headquarters in New York. UN member-states were poised to vote on a motion rejecting US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, after President Donald Trump threatened to cut funding to countries that back the measure AFP[/caption] "When we make generous contributions to the UN we also have a legitimate expectation that our goodwill is recognised and respected," she said. The resolution reaffirms that the status of Jerusalem must be resolved through negotiations, and that any decision reached outside of that framework must be rescinded. Without explicitly referencing the US move, it "affirms that any decisions and actions which purport to have altered the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded in compliance with relevant resolutions of the Security Council."

'Unprecedented test'

The motion was sent to the General Assembly after it was vetoed by the US at the Security Council on Monday, although all other 14 council members voted in favour. While resolutions by the General Assembly are non-binding, a strong vote in support carries political weight. Ahead of the vote, Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu blasted the UN as a "house of lies," saying Israel "rejects outright this vote, even before it passes." "No General Assembly resolution will ever drive us from Jerusalem," vowed Danny Danon, Israel's envoy to the UN. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki called the vote an "unprecedented test" for the UN, and referenced the US warning that it was "taking names." "History records names, it remembers names -- the names of those who stand by what is right and the names of those who speak falsehood," al-Malki said. "Today we are seekers of rights and peace." Trump's decision on December 6 to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital prompted a flurry of appeals to the UN. The status of the Holy City is one of the thorniest issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with both sides claiming it as their capital. Trump warned that Washington would closely watch how nations voted, suggesting, like Haley, there could be financial reprisals for those that back the motion put forward by Yemen and Turkey on behalf of Arab and Muslim countries. "They take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars and then they vote against us," Trump said at the White House. "Well, we're watching those votes. Let them vote against us. We'll save a lot. We don't care." [caption id="attachment_235449" align="aligncenter" width="800"] United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, addresses the General Assembly prior to the vote on Jerusalem, on December 21, 2017, at UN Headquarters in New York. UN member-states were poised to vote on a motion rejecting US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, after President Donald Trump threatened to cut funding to countries that back the measure AFP[/caption]

'House of lies'

The resolution mirrored the text that was vetoed at the Security Council on Monday, and although it does not mention Trump's decision, it expresses "deep regret at recent decisions" concerning the city's status. No country has veto powers in the General Assembly, unlike in the 15-member Security Council where the US, along with Britain, China, France and Russia, can block any resolution. Among the 14 countries voting in favour on Monday were Britain, France, Italy and Japan and they did so again yesterday. Ukraine, which supported the draft resolution in the Security Council, was among 21 countries that did not turn up for yesterday’s vote. Israel seized the largely-Arab eastern sector of Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it, claiming both sides of the city as its "eternal and undivided capital." But the Palestinians want the eastern sector as the capital of their future state and fiercely oppose any Israeli attempt to extend sovereignty there. Several UN resolutions call on Israel to withdraw from territory seized in 1967 and the draft resolution contains the same language as past motions adopted by the assembly.