Refusing to be ‘intimidated,’ U.N. votes overwhelmingly to nullify Trump’s Jerusalem decision

Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations Riyad Mansour, center, talks with members of the General Assembly prior to a vote, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017, at United Nations headquarters. President Donald Trump's threat to cut off U.S. funding to countries that oppose his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital has raised the stakes in Thursday's U.N. vote and sparked criticism of his tactics, with one Muslim group calling it bullying or blackmail. CREDIT: Mark Lennihan/AP Photo.

The U.N. General Assembly voted Thursday in favor of a resolution calling for the nullification of President Donald Trump’s decision to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel.

Passing by a margin of 128 to 9 (with 35 abstentions), the resolution was voted on during a special emergency session that was called after Trump decided on December 6 to unilaterally recognize Jerusalem — disputed territory that is subject to negotiation between Israel and Palestine — as the Israeli capital. He also vowed to eventually move the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv.

The resolution was introduced by Yemen’s Ambassador Khaled Hussein Mohamed Alyemany, who called Trump’s decision a “blatant violation of the rights of the Palestinian people and the Arab nations, and all Muslims and Christians of the world.”

Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that member states “will not be intimidated.”

“You can be strong but that does not make you right,” he said, addressing the United States. He added, “The words and dignity of member states are not for sale.”

But the commodification of votes and loyalty is precisely what the United States is banking on.

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, insisted that the decision “reflected the will of the American people” and “does not preclude a two-state solution.” She reminded U.N. member states that “Instead, there is a larger point to make: The United States will remember this day, in which it was singled out for attack … we will remember it when we are called up to once again make the world’s largest contribution to the United Nations. And we will remember it when so many countries come calling on us, when they so often do, to pay even more, and to use our influence for their benefit.”

Haley has been on the defensive since Trump made his announcement two weeks ago, with matters coming to a head earlier this week.

All of the other 14 member states at the U.N. Security Council on Monday voted to nullify Trump’s decision on Jerusalem. The U.S. exercised its veto power, with Haley calling the decision by fellow Security Council members, “an insult,” and vowed that it would “not be forgotten.”

She issued a threat via Twitter on Tuesday, saying that the United States will be “taking names” at Thursday’s votes. Trump supported that threat on Wednesday, saying that the United States would cut off aid to countries that voted against it on the non-binding resolution. He told reporters at the White House, “They take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars, and then they vote against us. Well, we’re watching those votes. Let them vote against us. We’ll save a lot. We don’t care.”

Trump’s decision has been criticized by allies and adversaries in the Middle East and North Africa alike. States in the European Union have also questioned the move, which has triggered protests around the world and has resulted in a call to arms from groups such as Al Shabbab, and prompted Hamas to call for a third Intifiada (uprising).

It is also a complete departure from U.S. policy in the region, and has created doubt in the Arab world that the United States can act as an impartial negotiator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who supports Trump’s decision on Jerusalem, called the United Nations “a house of lies” ahead of Thursday’s vote, praising Trump and Haley for “their brave and uncompromising stance,” Reuters reported.

Threats of cutting off funding has precedent and can be effective in altering the course of U.N. action. For example, Saudi Arabia managed to avoid being investigated for war crimes in Yemen for two years, after threatening to stop funding several U.N. programs. The U.N. Human Rights Council in September finally agreed to push ahead and investigate Saudi for its role in the killing of civilians in its U.S.-backed airstrikes in Yemen.

Indeed, citing “the current geopolitical context,” the head of the United Nations human rights body, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, on Wednesday sent an email to his staff, according to Politico, saying that he would not seek a second term once his mandate was done in 2018.

Zeid said he was worried that staying on “might involve bending a knee in supplication; muting a statement of advocacy” resulting in “lessening the independence and integrity” of his voice.