American threats to cut off aid to countries voting in favor of a General Assembly resolution condemning the US for deciding to move its embassy to Jerusalem did not move the needle too far inside the world body, as the measure passed handily on Thursday by a vote of 128 against nine, with 35 abstentions and 21 countries not voting.
The vote – a symbolic act unlikely to change any facts on the ground or politics in foreign capitals – was elevated in importance after US President Donald Trump said he would take the tally personally, and that the votes of states would be remembered as Washington considers further aid to the international body.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly responded to the vote, saying that “Israel completely rejects this preposterous resolution.”
“Jerusalem is our capital, always was, always will be,” he said. “But I do appreciate the fact that a growing number of countries refuse to participate in this theater of the absurd.”
He said he wanted to especially thank Trump and ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley for “their stalwart defense of Israel, and their stalwart defense of the truth.”
The Palestinians, on the other hand, applauded the results. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh said the vote is a “victory for Palestine.”
“We will continue our efforts in the United Nations and at all international forums to put an end to this occupation and to establish our Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital,” he said.
The results of this vote were not significantly different than results of two other special votes in the General Assembly regarding the conflict over the last five years.
In 2012, the Palestinians gained non-member observer status as a state by a vote of 138 to nine, with 41 abstentions and five no-shows. And a 2015 measure giving them the right to fly their flag at the UN passed 119 to eight, with 45 abstentions, and 21 countries not participating.
Before Thursday’s vote, US ambassador Nikki Haley told the world body that its hostility toward Israel is “wrong [and] undermines the credibility of this institution, and that in turn is harmful for the entire world.”
Haley said that Israel remains in the UN, despite the organization’s hostility, because “it’s important to stand up for yourself. Israel must stand up for its own survival as a nation, but it also stands up for the ideals of freedom and human dignity that the United Nations is supposed to be about.”
Reiterating threats to remember who voted against the US, Haley said her country “will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation. We will remember it when we are called upon 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, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.”
America, she declared, “will put [its] embassy in Jerusalem. That is what the American people want us to do, and it is the right thing to do. No vote in the United Nations will make any difference on that. But this vote 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.”
Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of the world’s body adopted the resolution declaring – without mentioning the US by name – the decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as “null and void and [that it] must be rescinded.”
Twenty-two of the 28 EU countries voted for the resolution, including Germany, which in the past has abstained on measures attacking Israel. Greece and Cyprus, with whom Israel has an alliance in the eastern Mediterranean and which abstained in the 2015 vote on the Palestinian flag issue, also voted for the measure.
Five EU countries, however, broke with the EU consensus and abstained: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Poland and Romania. Lithuania did not show up for the vote.
The vote showed that Israel has made inroads in Latin America, as Argentina, Mexico and Colombia – all countries that Netanyahu visited in September – abstained.
Notably, India, with whom Israel has forged very strong ties and where Netanyahu will be traveling next month, voted for the measure.
In addition to the US and Israel, the other countries that voted against the measure were Guatemala, Honduras, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Togo.
Israel’s ambassador Danny Danon said before the vote: “Those who support today’s resolution are like puppets. You are puppets pulled by the strings of your Palestinian puppet masters. You are like marionettes forced to dance while the Palestinian leadership looks on with glee. You are blind to the lies. Unaware of the manipulation surrounding you – just like a puppet.”
This vote, he said, “is nothing more than a performance of delusion.”
Holding up a coin from around the year 67 with the Hebrew inscription “Freedom of Zion,” he said that this “proves the ancient connection of Jews to Jerusalem.”
Danon continued, “Our bond to Jerusalem is unbreakable. No UNESCO
declaration, no empty speeches, no General Assembly resolution will ever drive us from Jerusalem.”
Though comments made over the last two days by Trump and Haley saying that the US would take note of how each country votes – as well as vigorous Israeli diplomatic efforts – did little to alter the outcome that was foreseen from the start, it did impact the number of countries asking to make a statement before the vote.
Part of Israel’s efforts over the last two days was to keep western, Democratic countries from making such statements, and in that Jerusalem was successful. In addition to the Palestinian Authority, the other countries which spoke and slammed Israel with varying degrees of vitriol were Yemen, Turkey, Venezuela, Pakistan, Indonesia, the Maldives, Syria, Bangladesh, Cuba, Iran, China, Malaysia and North Korea.
The representative of the Vatican also spoke, and essentially called for the internationalization of Jerusalem.
“The Holy See calls for peaceful resolution that respects the nature of Jerusalem, its sacredness and universal value, and reiterates that only an international guaranteed status can preserve its unique character and be an assurance for dialogue and reconciliation for peace in the region.”
Even before the vote, Netanyahu called the UN a “House of Lies,” and predicted that eventually all the embassies will move to Jerusalem because “truth will win out.”