Defying threats from President Donald Trump, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Thursday in an emergency session to reject the US leader’s highly inflammatory declaration recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
General Assembly member nations voted 128-9, with 35 abstentions, in favor of a resolution declaring Trump’s move, or any policy or action meant to alter “the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem,” to be “null and void.”
The seven countries that joined the Israel and the United States in voting against the resolution were all small Pacific island, African and Central American nations, all of them heavily dependent upon US aid: Guatemala, Honduras, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Togo. Close US allies including Britain, France and Japan voted for the measure; US neighbors Canada and Mexico were among the abstaining nations.
Thursday’s action follows a failed attempt by 14 of 15 UN Security Council members earlier this week to pass a draft resolution rejecting Trump’s policy shift. The United States, one of five permanent Security Council members, vetoed the measure.
The new resolution urges UN member states to adhere to many previous resolutions passed over the past 50 years since Israel illegally occupied East Jerusalem along with the rest of the West Bank, Gaza, Egypt’s Sinai peninsula and Syria’s Golan Heights during the Six-Day War. Israeli forces have since withdrawn from Sinai and Gaza but continue to occupy the Golan Heights and West Bank. Both Israelis and Palestinians consider Jerusalem, one of the holiest cities for all three Abrahamic religions, to be their capital.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas hailed the UN vote as “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,” Abbas said following the vote.
Following a threat yesterday by Trump to cut off billions of dollars in aid to countries that vote in favor of the resolution, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley had warned that the administration was “taking names” of nations which “disrespected” the US by voting against it. Just before today’s vote Haley, who called the UN a “hostile place toward Israel,” reiterated that the US “will remember being singled out” for criticism.
Most nations were not swayed, although in addition to the 35 abstentions there were 21 no-shows. Khaled Hussein Mohamed Alyemany, the UN ambassador from Yemen, which introduced the resolution, blasted Trump’s declaration as “a blatant violation of the rights of the Palestinian people and the Arab nations, and all Muslims and Christians of the world.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan — for whom Trump has expressed admiration — said he hopes the United States would be “taught a lesson.”
“Jerusalem is our capital — always was, always will be,” Netanyahu said in a Facebook video. The prime minister also thanked Trump for his “stalwart defense of Israel.”
Thousands of years ago, Jewish kingdoms ruled over Palestine. From antiquity until the early 20th century, however, the Jewish population of what is today Israel generally hovered around 10 percent following multiple mass expulsions. Beginning in the 19th century, the Zionist movement — whose goal was the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine — drew increasing numbers of Jews back to their ancient homeland. Many fled a series of horrific anti-Semitic pogroms in Europe and, later, the Nazi Holocaust.
In reasserting their claim to Palestine, Zionist colonizers carried out their own campaign of terrorism and ethnic cleansing during which more than 700,000 Arabs fled or were expelled from Palestine, sometimes by massacre, in 1948-49, with another 200,000 forced out during the 1967 war and subsequent occupations. In the decades that followed, more than half a million Jewish settlers established and expanded more than 100 colonies throughout the occupied territories. More than 200,000 Jewish settlers now live in East Jerusalem, where they have often forced Palestinian families from their homes — a situation some prominent critics of Israel have called ethnic cleansing and apartheid.
Under international law, both the ongoing 50-year occupation of the West Bank and Golan Heights and Israel’s Jews-only settler colonization of the occupied territories are illegal, although Israel refutes this.