Casting America’s first veto in the UN in six years, US ambassador Nikki Haley voted against a draft resolution on Monday – which garnered the support of all 14 other members of the Security Council – calling on US President Donald Trump to withdraw recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“This is not something that the United States does often,” Haley said of the US veto after the vote. “We do it with no joy, but we do it with no reluctance. The fact that this veto is being done in defense of American sovereignty and in defense of America’s role in the Middle East peace process is not a source of embarrassment for us; it should be an embarrassment to the remainder of the Security Council.”
The United States, Haley told the body, “will not be told by any country where we can put our embassy.”
The Egyptian-drafted resolution, which did not specifically mention Trump, expressed “deep regret at recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem,” and stated 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status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void, and must be rescinded in compliance with relevant resolutions of the Security Council.”
The resolution also called on all countries not to establish diplomatic missions in Jerusalem.
PM Netanyahu thanks President Trump and Ambassador Haley for vetoing UNSC resolution calling on Trump to withdraw Jerusalem recognition. (GPO)
“What we witnessed here in the Security Council is an insult,” Haley said. “It won’t be forgotten. It is one more example of the United Nations doing more harm than good in addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Today, for the simple act of deciding where to put its embassy, the United States was forced to defend its sovereignty. The record will reflect that we did so proudly. Today, for acknowledging the basic truth that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, we are accused of harming peace. The record will reflect that we reject that outrageous claim.”
Haley said that a peace process that is damaged by “the simple recognition” that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital is “not a peace process, it is a justification for an endless stalemate.”
She took sharp issue with those charging that the US move set the peace process back, asking: “What does it gain the Palestinian people for some of their leaders to accuse the US of being hostile to the cause of peace?” Haley said that the US had done more than any other country to assist the Palestinian people, and has provided them with more than $5 billion in assistance since 1994.
The US, she pointed out, funds 30% of the UNRWA budget, which is “vastly more than some of the members of this council who have considerable financial resources of their own.”
Haley said that what is troublesome for some people is that the US had the “courage and honesty to recognize a fundamental reality: Jerusalem has been the political, cultural and spiritual homeland of the Jewish people for thousands of years; they have had no other capital city.”
Although it was a foregone conclusion that the US would veto the resolution, the Palestinians went ahead and pushed the motion anyway in an effort to isolate the US on the issue. They are now reportedly considering taking the measure to the UN General Assembly, where they enjoy an automatic majority and the US does not have a veto. Unlike Security Council resolutions, however, General Assembly resolutions are largely declarative.
Palestinian Authority Ambassador Riyad Mansour termed the US move a “provocative” decision that “in the name of realism has denied reality. and has violated the rights of an entire nation and insults the feeling of billions of believers around the world.”
Israeli ambassador Danny Danon hailed the US veto, saying that it proves the US “does not back down from what is right.” He said the Palestinian reaction displays “once again a disturbing trend, that every time prospects for meaningful negotiations emerge, the Palestinian run away.”
Danon noted that King David declared Jerusalem the capital of the Jewish people 3,000 years ago, and that it has served as Israel’s capital for almost 70 years. “We will not let others, including the United Nations, determine our fate, especially when it comes to Jerusalem.”
Prior to the vote on the Jerusalem issue, the Security Council held its monthly meeting discussing the Mideast, where Haley provided yet another strong defense of Israel.
The US rejects the double standard which says Washington is not impartial when it decides where to place its own embassy, but the UN is a neutral party even though it consistently singles Israel out for condemnation, she said.
Haley devoted the bulk of her five-minute speech to slamming UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which was adopted on December 23, 2016. Then-president Barack Obama, in his waning days in office, opted to abstain on the measure – rather than casting a veto – allowing the measure to pass.
“Given the chance to vote again on Resolution 2334,” Haley noted, “I can say with complete confidence that the US would vote ‘no’; we would exercise our veto power.”
Haley said that while Resolution 2334 described Israeli settlements as impediments to peace, “in truth it was Resolution 2334 that was an impediment to peace. The Security Council put the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians further out of reach by injecting itself yet again in between the parties to the conflict.”
Haley said that by “misplacing the blame for the failure of the peace efforts squarely on Israeli settlements, the resolution gave a pass to Palestinian leaders who for many years rejected one peace proposal after another.”
She said the Security Council resolution gave the Palestinian leadership “encouragement to avoid negotiations in the future,” and it also failed to acknowledge the legacy of failed negotiations that had nothing to do with the settlement issue.
Furthermore, she said, by condemning all settlements construction everywhere – including in the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem – it passed judgment on an issue that must be decided in direct negotiations between the parties.
Demanding a halt to all settlement activity in east Jerusalem, including the Jewish Quarter, “is something that no responsible person or country would ever expect Israel to do, and in this way Resolution 2334 did what President Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem did not do: it prejudged issues that should be left in final status negotiations,” she said.
Haley said that given the chance today, the US would have voted that resolution for another reason as well: “It gave new life to an ugly creation of the Human Rights Council: the database of companies operating in Jewish communities [beyond the Green Line]. This is an effort to create a blacklist, plain and simple.”
Haley characterized as a “stain on America’s conscience” the fact that the US gave the Boycott Sanctions and Divestment movement “momentum by allowing the passage of 2334.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Haley in a brief video post on Facebook after the vote.
“Thank you, Ambassador Haley,” he said. “On Hanukka you spoke like a Maccabi. You lit a candle of truth. You dispel the darkness. One defeated the many, truth defeated lies.”