On Thursday, the U.N. General Assembly approved, with an overwhelming majority, the resolution condemning U.S. President Donald Trump’s unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on Nov. 6. The proposal presented by Turkey and Yemen was approved with 128 votes in favor and nine opposed, its text similar to the version rejected a few days ago in the Security Council due to the U.S.’s veto, asserting that all states must comply with the previous resolutions of the Security Council and that the final status of Jerusalem can only be decided through negotiations.
Nonetheless, the recent threats from Trump and his U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, against U.N. member countries have produced some results. In addition to the U.S. and Israel, seven other countries voted against the resolution: Guatemala, Honduras, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Togo. The major E.U. countries—Italy, France, Britain, Germany and Spain—all voted for it. Some of the 35 countries who abstained were Australia, Canada, Argentina, Poland, Romania, the Philippines and Colombia.
Looking beyond the vote, a fundamental split was in full view yesterday at the U.N. headquarters between a world that, even with some wavering and hypocrisy, continues to respect international law, and another world, embodied by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government, which believes in a policy of fait accompli, of acts of force and unilateral steps.
Nikki Haley repeated on Thursday the threats the U.S. had made hours before against other U.N. member countries: “The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out in this assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation,” she said. The United States, she went on, makes “the largest contribution” to the United Nations, but “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.” Haley finally reiterated that America will still move its embassy to Jerusalem, and that “no vote in the United Nations is going to make any difference on that,” but “this vote will make a difference in how Americans look at the U.N.”
Israel believes itself to be the winner, even in losing nine to 128. The Netanyahu government will now work with the countries that voted against the resolution or abstained from voting to convince them to move their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and render the choice of the United States less of an isolated one. It is likely Israel will find understanding partners among some Central American countries, just as it did after passing the “Jerusalem Law” in 1980 (the unilateral annexation of all Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, voted by the Knesset).
One also cannot fail to take note of the abstention by Poland and Romania, going against the repeatedly stated position of the European Union as a whole. Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon said the vote would eventually “end up in the trash bin of history,” and raised an accusatory finger at the U.N. member countries, calling them “puppets forced to dance” for their “Palestinian masters.” Previously, Netanyahu had described the United Nations as a “house of lies.”
The Palestinian position remains anchored in international law, which Washington and Tel Aviv are trying to take an axe to. “The status of Jerusalem is the key to peace or war in the Middle East. The resolution stresses the need to protect the international legal status of Jerusalem,” explained Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki before the vote. At the same time, the Palestinians know that Thursday’s victory at the U.N. will have no practical effects on the ground. As for that, President Mahmoud Abbas is continuing his diplomatic tour in search of support and on Friday met with Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee. In South Africa, the African National Congress, the majority party connected with Nelson Mandela, made an official request to the government to downgrade the country’s embassy in Israel to a simple liaison office in protest.
On Friday, new demonstrations against Trump took place in East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied Palestinian Territories after Friday prayers. Meanwhile, the Israeli army continues to make arrests in the West Bank. According to Palestinian data, Israeli forces have detained around 500 people since Nov. 6, during the protests as well as during night raids conducted in villages and towns. On Monday, Ahed Tamimi, 16, was arrested in Nabi Saleh on charges of having “attacked” two soldiers, and she will be tried by an Israeli military court together with her mother, Nariman, and her cousin Nour.
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