In Blow to Trump and Netanyahu, UN Rejects U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's Capital

An overwhelming majority of 128 member states voted in favor of the resolution, with only 9 voting against and 35 abstaining; Netanyahu says Israel 'completely rejects preposterous' decision

The results of the vote on Jerusalem are seen on a display board at the General Assembly hall, on December 21, 2017, at UN Headquarters in New York.
AFP PHOTO / EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ

In a major diplomatic blow to Israel and U.S. President Donald Trump, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution rejecting the American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, with 128 member states voting in favor of the resolution and a mere nine voting against it.

To really understand Israel and the Middle East - subscribe to Haaretz

Haaretz/Youtube

Among the countries that voted in favor of the resolution are India, Russia and China, all countries Netanyahu has touted as allies recently. However, some countries surprised Israel by breaking the consesus at the UN, such as Hungary, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Romania, Croatia and Poland. 

"Israel completely rejects this preposterous resolution," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said minutes after the results were announced. 

>> Israel rejects UN decision on Jerusalem, thanks Trump for unequivocal support of Jerusalem ■ FULL TEXT: UN Resolution Rejecting Trump's Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's Capital ■ Trump, take note: The top 10 countries receiving U.S. aid – and how they voted on Jerusalem

 "Jerusalem is our capital, always was and always will be. But I do appreciate the fact that a growing number of countries refuse to participate in this theater of the absurd," the premier charged in a live Facebook video.

Netanyahu went on to add: "So I appreciate that and especially I want to again express our thanks to President Trump and Ambassador Haley for their stalwart defense of Israel and their stalwart defense of the truth."

Netanyahu used strong words to bash the international body even before the vote, calling it a "house of lies" and proclaiming that "the State of Israel rejects this vote outright" and that "Jerusalem is our capital, we will continue to build there and additional embassies will move to Jerusalem."

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki addresses to members of delegations at the General Assembly for the vote on Jerusalem, on December 15, 2017, at UN Headquarters in New York. /
AFP PHOTO / EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ
Israeli ambassador to the UN: Full speech

The General Assembly's emergency discussion was being held at the request of Turkey and Yemen, who turned to the UN after an Egyptian draft resolution was presented to the Security Council and was vetoed by the United States, although the other 14 member states voted in its favor.

>> FULL TEXT: Nikki Haley's speech ahead of UN vote on Trump's recognition of Jerusalem ■ Jerusalem for dummies: Why the world doesn’t recognize it as Israel’s capital ■ Jerusalem for dummies, Part 2: what the Palestinians want

Throughout Thursday, Israel attempted to convince a few dozen countries to at least abstain or absent themselves from the vote. Israel has also asked that at the very least for these countries not to speak at the session. The Israeli efforts have been coordinated with the United States.

Speculations on how certain countries will vote emerged earlier Thursday, and according to Reuters both Canada and Mexico are expected to abstain. 

Netanyahu himself participated in the efforts directly, speaking personally to dignitaries such as the prime minister of the Czech Republic.

Fiery debate

During the discussion, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley threatened member-states that the United States may retract its funding as she spoke in defense of Trump's recognition of Jerusalem.

Nikki Haley's full UN speech

"We have an obligation to demand more for our investment. And if our investment fails, we have an obligation to spend our resources in more productive ways. Those are the thoughts that come to mind when we consider the resolution before us today," Haley said. 

>> FACT CHECK: Why Israeli UN envoy's speech on Jerusalem missed the mark >>

"America will put our embassy in Jerusalem. It is what the American people want us to do and it is the right thing to do," the U.S. envoy pledged. 

How UN member-states voted on resolution rejecting Trump's Jerusalem recognition.

Haley went on to defend the American recognition of Jerusalem: "The decision does nothing to harm the peace process. The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack at the United Nations. We will remember it when so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Dannon ripped into those supporting the resolution, saying: "You are puppets being pulled by the strings of the Palestinian puppet masters. You are blind to the lies, blind to the manipulations, just like puppets. The Palestinians know this resolution is a fraud.

"This resolution is nothing more than a distraction. I have no doubt that today’s resolution will end up in the trash bin of history," Dannon said.

The Palestinian Observer in the UN, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki, retorted by saying that the Palestinian people "will not accept religious excuses to justify annexation." 

Malki went on to add that Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem “will not impact the status and position of the Holy City whatsoever, but it will impact the status of the United States as a mediator of peace.”

Amid Trump's threats against UN members, the top 10 recipients of U.S. foreign aid

“We cannot help but ask- what does this decision serve?” Malki charged. “It serves the Israeli government in implementing its colonial plans,” he said.

Malki added that the Palestinians "will not accept a religious excuse to justify an annexation of land. This organziation is now undergoing an unprecedented test with ‘Palestine’ being its headline."

Yemen's Permanent Representative at the UN, Khaled Hussein Mohamed Alyemany, began the session by introducing the draft resolution his country brought before the world body along with Turkey, which set in motion the emergency session.

Alyemany called Israeli presence in Jerusalem a "forceful annexation of land, serious threat to peace and stability" and urged that "East Jerusalem continues to be occupied, Palestine has the right to sovereignty" in the city.

He went on to say that Yemen calls "on all states to not recognize any steps and any measurements that run counter to that."

Bashar Jaafari, Syria's Ambassador the UN, said that the "U.S. has never been and will never stand as a neutral party or a qualified mediator in any attempt to solve the American-Palestinian conflict.

Jaafri further slammed the U.S., saying: "The arrogance of this country... that treats this organization like school children that have to be scolded when they don’t yield to their authority."

Liu Jieyi, the Chinese ambassador the UN said his nations "supports the cause of the Palestinian people," adding that "This will never change."

House of lies

Speaking hours before the vote, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used strong words to bash the world body, calling it a "house of lies" and proclaiming that "the State of Israel rejects this vote outright" and that "Jerusalem is our capital, we will continue to build there and additional embassies will move to Jerusalem."

Netanyahu also said that various countries around the world are changing their attitude toward Israel, "and this will eventually seep into the walls of that house of lies."

The General Assembly's emergency discussion is being held at the request of Turkey and Yemen, who turned to the UN after an Egyptian draft resolution was presented to the Security Council and was vetoed by the United States, although the other 14 member states voted in its favor.

Throughout Thursday, Israel attempted to convince a few dozen countries to at least abstain or absent themselves from the vote, even if they do not vote against it. Israel has also asked that at the very least for these countries not to speak at the session. The Israeli efforts have been coordinated with the United States.

Speculations on how certain countries will vote emerged earlier Thursday, and according to Reuters both Canada and Mexico are expected to abstain. 

Netanyahu himself participated in the efforts directly, speaking personally to dignitaries such as the prime minister of the Czech Republic. 

On Wednesday evening, the Israeli Foreign Ministry sent a cable to Israeli missions around the world providing further instructions, asking them to turn to the Jewish organizations in their countries and ask them to apply pressure on their local governments on the vote.

Nonetheless, Israel has asked its envoys worlwide to avoid embarrassment and to carefully consider their reactions to the results of the vote. 

U.S. President Donald Trump spoke in defense of Israel and his monumental declaration, threatening to cut off financial aid to countries that vote in favor of the resolution.

"They take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars, and then they vote against us," Trump said. "Well, we're watching those votes. Let them vote against us. We'll save a lot. We don't care."

These are the top 10 recipients of U.S. aid, prior to the General Assembly's vote on the resolution Thursday:

Speaking to reporters at the White House Wednesday, Trump also expressed support for a letter sent by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, in which she warned member states against supporting the resolution.

"The president will be watching this vote carefully and has requested I report back on those who voted against us," she wrote in a letter obtained by Haaretz. "Thank you for your consideration, and please do not hesitate to contact my team with any questions or concerns."