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U.N. ASSEMBLY VOTES AGAINST U.S. JERUSALEM SHIFT
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 21, (Agencies): More than 120 countries including the State of Kuwait defied President Donald Trump on Thursday and voted in favor of a United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for the United States to drop its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Trump had threatened to cut off financial aid to countries that voted in favor.
A total of 128 countries backed the resolution, which is non-binding, nine voted against and 35 abstained. Twenty-one countries did not cast a vote. Trump’s threat appeared to have some impact, with more countries abstaining and rejecting the resolution than usually associated with Palestinian-related resolutions. A spokesman for Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the vote “a victory for Palestine” but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the vote.
Nevertheless, Washington found itself isolated on the world stage as many of its Western and Arab allies voted for the measure. French UN Ambassador Francois Delattre said in a statement: “The resolution adopted today only confirms relevant international law provisions on Jerusalem. This vote must not divide or exclude.” Earlier this month, Trump reversed decades of US policy by announcing the United States recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and would move its embassy there. Ahead of Thursday’s vote, the United States said it was “singled out for attack” at the United Nations over Jerusalem, which holds Muslim, Jewish and Christian holy sites. “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,” US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, told the 193-member General Assembly. “We will remember it when we are called upon to once again make the world’s largest contribution to the United Nations, and so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit,” she said.
The status of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest obstacles to a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, who were furious over Trump’s move. The international community does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the full city. The vote was called at the request of Arab and Muslim countries. The United States, backing its ally Israel, vetoed the resolution on Monday in the 15-member UN Security Council. The remaining 14 Security Council members voted in favor of the Egyptian-drafted resolution, which did not specifically mention the United States or Trump but which expressed “deep regret at recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem.” Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told the United States it could not buy Turkey’s support in Thursday’s vote.
“Mr. Trump, you cannot buy Turkey’s democratic will with your dollars,” Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara. Among the countries that abstained on Thursday were Australia, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Philippines, Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan. Australian UN Ambassador Gillian Bird said Australia wanted to see the United States continue to play a leadership role in brokering peace and abstained from the vote because, “We do not wish to see any party isolated from the process.” “There is much in this resolution with which we agree,” Bird told the General Assembly after the vote. “We do not, however, consider that this further resolution…helps bring the parties back to the negotiating table.”
Palestinians hail move
The Palestinian president meanwhile welcomed the United Nations General Assembly resolution criticising the US government’s controversial recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. “This decision reaffirms once again that the just Palestinian cause enjoys the support of international law, and no decision by any party can change the reality,” a statement from Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s spokesman said, stressing it showed “that Jerusalem is occupied territory under international law.” “We will continue our efforts in the United Nations and all international forums to end the occupation and create a Palestinian state with its capital in east Jerusalem,” the statement added.
The General Assembly adopted the motion rejecting US President Donald Trump’s December 6 decision by 128 votes to nine, with 35 abstentions. The measure was sent to the General Assembly after it was vetoed by the United States at the Security Council on Monday, although all other 14 council members voted in favour. Earlier, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the United Nations as a “house of lies” ahead of a vote on Thursday on a draft resolution calling on the United States to withdraw its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“The State of Israel totally rejects this vote, even before (the resolution’s) approval,” Netanyahu said in a speech at a hospital dedication in the port city of Ashdod. Generating outrage from Palestinians and the Arab and Muslim world, and concern among Washington’s Western allies, President Donald Trump abruptly reversed decades of US policy on Dec 6 when he recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Palestinians have protested daily in the occupied West Bank and in the Gaza Strip since Trump’s announcement, throwing stones at security forces and burning tyres. Gaza militants have also launched sporadic rocket fire.
Eight Palestinians have been killed by Israeli gunfire during the demonstrations and dozens wounded, Palestinian health officials said. Two militants were killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza after a rocket attack. Netanyahu, in his speech, thanked Trump and Haley for “their brave and uncompromising stance”.
He repeated his prediction that other countries would eventually follow Washington’s lead in pledging to move their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. “The attitude towards Israel of many countries, on all continents, outside the walls of the United Nations, is changing and will ultimately permeate into the UN – the house of lies,” he said. Most countries regard the status of Jerusalem as a matter to be settled in an eventual Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, although that process is now stalled.