UN votes 128-9 against U.S. recognition of Jerusalem
Edith M. Lederer, The Associated Press
Published Thursday, December 21, 2017 1:35AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, December 21, 2017 3:35PM EST
The UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly Thursday in protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, largely ignoring Trump's threats to cut off aid to any country that went against him.
The nonbinding resolution declaring U.S. action on Jerusalem "null and void" passed by a vote of 128-9 -- a victory for the Palestinians, but one that was not as big as they had predicted. Amid the Trump administration's threats, 35 of the 193 UN member nations abstained and 21 others were absent.
The resolution, sponsored by Yemen and Turkey, reaffirmed what has been the United Nations' stand on the divided holy city since 1967: that Jerusalem's final status must be decided in direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said afterward that he totally rejects the "preposterous" resolution.
The United States and Israel had waged an intensive lobbying campaign against the resolution, with U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley sending letters to over 180 countries warning that Washington would be taking names of those who voted against the U.S.
But when it came to the vote, major U.S. aid recipients including Afghanistan, Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania and South Africa supported the resolution.
The nine countries voting "no" were the U.S., Israel, Guatemala, Honduras, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, the Marshall Islands and Togo. Among the notable abstentions were Australia, Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic and Mexico.
The absent countries included Kenya, which was the fifth-largest recipient of U.S. aid last year, Georgia and Ukraine, all of which have close U.S. ties.
The U.S. is scheduled to dispense US$25.8 billion in foreign aid for 2018. Whether Trump follows through with his threat against those who voted "yes" remains to be seen.
Trump's threat had raised the stakes at Thursday's emergency meeting and triggered accusations from Muslims of U.S. bullying, blackmail and intimidation.
Arab, Islamic and non-aligned nations rejected his warnings and urged a "yes" vote on the resolution.
Yemeni Ambassador Khaled Hussein Mohamed Alyemany warned that Trump's recognition of Jerusalem undermines any chance for peace in the Mideast and "serves to fan the fires of violence and extremism."
He called Trump's action "a blatant violation of the rights of the Palestinian people and the Arab nations, and all Muslims and Christians of the world," and "a dangerous violation and breach of international law."
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki, who flew to New York for the meeting, called the U.S. action "an aggression on the status of Jerusalem" and said, "Those who want peace must vote for peace today."
On Wednesday, Trump complained that Americans are tired of being taken advantage of by countries that take billions of dollars and then vote against the U.S. He said he would be watching the vote: "Let them vote against us. We'll save a lot. We don't care."
Haley echoed his words in her speech to the packed assembly chamber, threatening not only member states with funding cuts, but the United Nations itself.
Haley said the vote will make no difference on U.S. plans to move its embassy to Jerusalem, but it "will make a difference on how Americans look at the UN, and on how we look at countries who disrespect us in the UN"
"And this vote will be remembered," she warned.
The Palestinians and their Arab and Islamic supporters sought the General Assembly vote after the U.S. on Monday vetoed a resolution supported by the 14 other UN Security Council members that would have required Trump to rescind his declaration on Jerusalem.
Associated Press writers Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, and Joe Federman in Jerusalem contributed to this report