The United Nation’s General Assembly has rejected the U.S. decision to recognize the city of Jerusalem as Israel’s de facto capital. The Assembly gathered in New York City earlier on Thursday to vote on a nonbinding resolution calling on countries not to move their embassies to the disputed city of Jerusalem.
By a lopsided vote 128 to 9, an overwhelming majority of the world’s nations openly denounced the Trump administration’s controversial decision and demanded that the United States revoke its December 6 declaration.
Despite the fact that the Assembly meeting had 35 abstentions, the incredibly disproportionate vote illustrates just how much diplomatic isolation the United States are facing after defying the 50-year-old international consensus on the status of the holy city of Jerusalem.
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With some of the closest allies to the United States, such as France, Great Britain, and Japan, voting in favor of the resolution, the extent to which President Trump’s decision has unsettled the world politics has become incontestably clear. Canada and Australia, U.S. allies whose votes could have brought more weight to the resolution, have abstained from the vote, joining the ranks of Mexico, Hungary, Poland and 30 other countries who steered clear of the controversial referendum.
Israel celebrated President Trump’s decision, with its government staying defiant to the U.N. resolution. While speaking at the dedication of a new hospital in Ashdod, a port city south of Tel Aviv, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel “whether the U.N. recognizes it or not.”
Israel’s diplomatic delegation to the U.N. has also denounced the Assembly’s Thursday vote, claiming that it bears little or no difference from the 1975 resolution equating Zionism with racism. The U.N. resolution contained a bitterly contested statement that said that Zionism, the Jewish national movement, is a form of “racism and racial discrimination.” The statement was revoked in 1991 after intensive lobbying on behalf of the U.S. According to the New York Times, Israel’s envoy to the United Nations, Danny Danon, told the General Assembly that “It’s shameful that this meeting is even taking place.”
The only countries to vote against the U.N resolution apart from Israel and the U.S were Guatemala, Honduras, Togo, the Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, and the Marshall Islands.
One step forward, two steps back
President Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem is widely considered to have upended decades of American foreign policy. With the issue of Jerusalem looming over the region since the Arab-Israeli war of 1967, all American leaders before Trump managed to successfully tiptoe around the issue. However, as the future of Jerusalem being one of the campaign promises Trump was most vocal about, actually delivering on his promise has definitely cemented the integrity he has among his supporters.
Despite President Trump’s decision resonating well with Israel, many American Jewish organizations saw nothing positive about the outcome of Thursday’s vote. The New York Times reported on David Harris, the chief executive of the American Jewish Committee, saying he was “dismayed by the overwhelming support of U.N. Member States for the General Assembly resolution condemning U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.” Later in his statement, Mr. Harris condemned the U.N. for not putting enough pressure on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to negotiate with Israel directly.
Once staunch allies of the U.S., France and Britain both claimed that their votes for the U.N. resolution were just a reaffirmation of the 1967 Security Council’s Jerusalem resolution. Both countries played down the isolation of the United States by walking a very thin line between openly denouncing Trump’s decision and defying the majority of the U.N. member states.
François Delattre, France’s ambassador to the U.N., said that “This vote must not divide or exclude. It is more important than ever to rally the international community around the agreed parameters of the peace process, and this, of course, includes the United States, as everyone is aware of its particular role and influence on this issue.”
Bringing the U.S. closer to Israel has also managed to isolate most of the Arab world, including Saudi Arabia, United States longtime ally. The isolation President Trump is dealing with on this issue might have also complicated future talks with Palestine. With a very clear and very deep schism between both sides, a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is still very much unattainable.
Foreign policy, kindergarten style
With experts claiming that Thursday’s incredibly lopsided vote is a clear reflection of the General Assembly’s resentment towards threats made by President Trump and U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley, it’s clear that the backlash the U.S. has received is much more than just a minor setback.
“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. Well, we’re watching those votes,” President Trump said while speaking to reporters on Wednesday. “Let them vote against us; we’ll save a lot. We don’t care,” he added.
His statement echoed that of Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. In an email sent to General Assembly members on Tuesday, she argued that Mr. Trump’s Jerusalem declaration had not prejudged the outcome of any negotiations, and urged them to back the United States on the vote.
However, the soft-spoken plea was followed by a very passive aggressive invocation of President Trump’s earlier threats. “The President will be watching this vote carefully and has requested I report back on those countries who voted against us. We will take note of each and every vote on this issue,” she wrote.
With Trump continually threatening to cut off many of the country’s allies, most of them members of the Arab League, the backlash he has received over the Jerusalem decision might be just the thing the U.S. needs to justify its long-stated goal.