- By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press
- In this Monday, Dec. 18, 2017 photo, the Security Council votes on a resolution concerning Jerusalem's status at United Nations headquarters. The United States on Monday vetoed a resolution supported by the 14 other U.N. Security Council members that would have required President Donald Trump to rescind his declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a vote that showed the depth of global opposition to the U.S. move. (Kim Haughton/United Nations via AP)
By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — President Donald Trump’s threat to cut off U.S. funding to countries that oppose his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital raised the stakes in Thursday’s U.N. vote and sparked criticism at his tactics, which one Muslim group called bullying or blackmail.
But at the start of an emergency General Assembly meeting ahead of the vote, representatives of Arab, Islamic and non-aligned nations rejected his threat and urged a “yes” vote against the U.S. unilateral decision on Jerusalem.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki, who flew here 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.”
Trump told reporters on Wednesday that Americans are tired of being taken advantage of by countries that take hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars, and then vote against the United States. He said he will be watching Thursday’s vote: “Let them vote against us. We’ll save a lot. We don’t care.”
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley echoed his words in her speech to the packed assembly chamber, threatening not only the 193 U.N. member states with funding cuts, but the United Nations itself if the world body approves the resolution declaring Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem “null and void.”
“The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very right of exercising our right as a sovereign nation,” she said.
The vote will make no difference on U.S. plans to move its embassy to Jerusalem, Haley said, but it “will make a difference on how Americans look at the U.N., and on how we look at countries who disrespect us in the U.N., and this vote will be remembered.”
Yemen’s U.N. Khaled Hussein Mohamed Alyemany, whose country chairs the Arab Group at the United Nations, introduced the resolution and urged all “peace-loving countries” to vote in favor of it.
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.”
It threatens peace in the world, undermines any chance for peace in the Mideast, “and only serves to fan the fires of violence and extremism,” Alyemany warned.
Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, tweeted after Trump’s comments: “Our government should not use its leadership at the UN to bully/blackmail other nations that stand for religious liberty and justice in Jerusalem. Justice is a core value of Christianity, Judaism and Islam.”
The Palestinians and their Arab and Islamic supporters sought the General Assembly vote after the United States on Monday vetoed a resolution supported by the 14 other U.N. Security Council members that would have required Trump to rescind his declaration on Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and not move the U.S. Embassy there.
Palestinian U.N. Ambassador Riyad Mansour told The Associated Press before comments by Trump and Haley that he expected “massive support” for the resolution in the General Assembly.
Before flying to New York, al-Maliki and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu accused the U.S. of intimidation and said they believe U.N. members will ignore U.S. pressure.
“No honorable state would bow to such pressure,” Cavusoglu said. “The world has changed. The belief that ‘I am strong therefore I am right’ has changed. The world today is revolting against injustices.”
Ambassador Rhonda King of the tiny Caribbean nation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines sent Haley a letter saying that her country treasures the United States “as an enduring ally” but will vote against Trump’s action.
“Sometimes, friends differ; on Jerusalem, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines respectfully differs from the USA; and so, too, do many of the staunchest friends and allies of the USA,” King wrote.
What impact the threats from Trump and Haley will have remains to be seen.
Some diplomats predict the resolution will be supported by at least 150 countries, and possibly 180 nations.
Israel has also been conducting a global lobbying campaign against the resolution, government officials said Wednesday. The vote will show whether Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has succeeded in his efforts to drum up new pockets of support in the developing world.
Netanyahu acknowledged Thursday the vote would likely pass by a wide margin but said Israel “completely rejects this vote before it is made.”
The resolution being voted on Thursday is co-sponsored by Turkey, chair of the summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and Yemen, chair of the Arab Group at the U.N.
It is very similar to the defeated Security Council resolution.
The draft resolution says Jerusalem “is a final status issue” and reaffirms 10 Security Council resolutions on Jerusalem, dating back to 1967, including requirements that the city’s final status must be decided in direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
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.”
The draft resolution “demands that all states comply with Security Council resolutions regarding the holy city of Jerusalem, and not to recognize any actions or measures contrary to those resolutions.”
Associated Press writers Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, and Joe Federman in Jerusalem contributed to this report.