Friday 22 December 2017
Donald Trump threatens to cut aid to countries over UN Jerusalem vote

Both Parties Pushed Trump Toward Reckless Action on Jerusalem

Stephen Zunes
Friday 22 December 2017

President Trump announced [1] on Wednesday that the United States will formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and that the U.S. embassy would be moved to that multi-ethnic and multi-faith city. No other government in the world formally recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital or has its embassy there, instead basing their diplomatic offices in Tel Aviv.

Observers familiar with this volatile issue agree [2] the decision further reduces the chances of Israeli-Palestinian peace, raises serious questions in relation to international law, and risks a violent and destabilizing reaction targeting U.S. interests globally.

In the 1947 United Nations partition plan, Palestine was to have been divided between a Jewish and Arab state, with Jerusalem and surrounding areas designated as an international territory under U.N. administration. Instead—as a result of the first Arab-Israeli War—by 1949 Israel had annexed the western part of the area and Jordan the eastern part, but the international community refused to acknowledge either claim. Following the Israeli conquests of 1967, Israel annexed Palestinian-populated East Jerusalem and surrounding lands as well.

Though Trump’s announcement did not explicitly recognize Israel’s annexation of occupied East Jerusalem, the Israelis have long insisted [3] that recognizing Jerusalem as its capital means recognizing the entire city under their exclusive control.

Though Trump’s announcement did not explicitly recognize Israel’s annexation of occupied East Jerusalem, the Israelis have long insisted [3] that recognizing Jerusalem as its capital means recognizing the entire city under their exclusive control.

No government outside Israel recognizes this illegal annexation or supports the idea of a Jerusalem united under exclusive Israeli sovereignty. Until now.

The near-universal opposition to Trump’s decision by much of the military, intelligence, and foreign policy establishment is not out of concern for the fate of the Palestinians or international law. Rather, they fear that effectively recognizing exclusive Israel control over the third holiest city in Islam will provoke a backlash throughout the Islamic world. Reactionary clerics and other Islamist extremists, building on centuries of resentment going back to the Jerusalem’s conquest by the Crusaders nearly a millennium ago, will likely take advantage of popular outrage over the decision to encourage violent attacks, including terrorism, targeting U.S. interests.

In fact, Trump may be seeking just such an outcome. Since launching his presidential campaign, he has gone to great lengths to stoke bigotry and fear against Muslims, as exemplified in his recent decision to retweet [4] misleading anti-Muslim videos compiled by a British neo-fascist group. Any rioting and acts of terrorism by Muslims in reaction to Trump’s decision would only reinforce his narrative and his agenda for restricting immigration and bombing Muslim countries.

Trump’s announcement is actually the culmination of years of pressure by a large bipartisan majority of Congress and leaders of both political parties towards the White House. It represents the fulfillment of the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 [5], which mandates that the United States move its embassy to Jerusalem, though the bill allows a president to waive that requirement every six months if deemed in the national interest.

In the Senate, the bill was cosponsored by such prominent Senate Democrats as Joe Biden and John Kerry and only one Democrat (the late Robert Byrd) voted no. On the House side, just thirty out of 204 Democrats voted no, along with the independent then-Congressman Bernie Sanders.

Since then, every President has taken advantage of the waiver to prevent such a provocative move, despite continued bipartisan pressure from Congress. As recently as this past June, just days after Trump issued his first waiver of the requirement, the Senate voted 90-0 in favor of a resolution [6] re-affirming the 1995 law and calling on President Trump “to abide by its provisions.” Co-sponsors included such leading Democrats as majority leader Chuck Schumer and Ben Cardin, ranking Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, as well as Tammy Baldwin, Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, and Ron Wyden.

Schumer has openly encouraged [7] Trump to move the embassy and previously criticized his “indecisiveness” on the issue.

Support by Congressional Democrats and party leaders for moving the embassy is not due to demand from their constituents. A recent poll [8] shows that 81 percent of Democrats oppose moving the embassy while only 15 percent approve. And polls show [9] there is not strong support for such a move among American Jews, either. This is an extreme example of how the Democratic leadership and Congressional delegation diverge from their constituencies on major foreign policy issues.

For decades, the platforms of both the Republican and Democratic parties have called for recognition of Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel. Neither party has acknowledged that Jerusalem is the commercial, cultural, educational, and religious center for Palestinian life.

In 2012, then-Los Angeles mayor and current California gubernatorial candidate Antonio Villaraigosa, violated party rules [10] by inserting an amendment into the Democratic Party platform recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital without the requisite two-thirds majority. In the 2016 platform [11], nominee Hillary Clinton—an advocate of moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem—successfully pushed for language declaring that Jerusalem “should remain the capital of Israel” while again saying nothing of Palestinian concerns.

Trump’s dangerous and provocative move regarding Jerusalem—like so many of his reckless policies both abroad and at home—requires strong, broad-based opposition. It is unfortunate that, at least in this case, there is no real opposition party.

· Stephen Zunes is a professor of politics and coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco.

- General assembly to vote on rejecting US recognition of city as Israeli capital
Trump: ‘We’re not going to be taken advantage of any longer’
Peter Beaumont in Jerusalem

Wed 20 Dec ‘17

Donald Trump has threatened to withhold “billions” of dollars of US aid from countries which vote in favour of a United Nations resolution rejecting the US president’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

His comments came after the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, wrote to about 180 of 193 member states warning that she will be “taking names” of countries that vote for a general assembly resolution on Thursday critical of the announcement which overturned decades of US foreign policy.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Trump amplified Haley’s threat.

“Let them vote against us,” he said.

“We’ll save a lot. We don’t care. But this isn’t like it used to be where they could vote against you and then you pay them hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said. “We’re not going to be taken advantage of any longer.”

The warning appeared aimed largely at UN members in Africa, Asia and Latin America who are regarded as more vulnerable to US pressure.

US will ’take names of those who vote to reject Jerusalem recognition’
UN members warned Donald Trump will take issue personally if countries back draft resolution rejecting US decision

Read more

Egypt, which drafted Monday’s UN security council resolution which the US vetoed, is particularly vulnerable, receiving $1.2bn in US aid last year.

But Trump’s comments may also resonate elsewhere – including in the UK, which is hoping to negotiate a quick post-Brexit trade deal with Washington.

The emergency UN general assembly meeting was called for Thursday to protest against the US veto at Monday’s security council meeting on a resolution the Jerusalem issue – which was supported by all other 14 members.

The security council resolution demanded that all countries comply with pre-existing UN security council resolutions on Jerusalem, dating back to 1967, including requirements that the city’s final status be decided in direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Key US allies Britain, France, Italy, Japan and Ukraine were among the 14 countries in the 15-member council that voted in favour on Monday, and were expected to do the same at the assembly on Thursday.

Diplomats expect strong support for the resolution, which is non-binding, despite the US pressure to either abstain or vote against it. However, a council diplomat said Canada, Hungary and the Czech Republic might bow to US pressure and not support the draft resolution.

Critics point out the the Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem – as well as the US veto – are both in opposition to numerous security council resolutions.

Trump’s extraordinary intervention marked the latest escalation of diplomatic tensions over a decision that has seen the US widely criticised and isolated. It came after a day of high drama.

In a letter to UN ambassadors, Haley told countries – including European delegations – that she will report back to the US president with the names of those who support a draft resolution rejecting the US move at the UN general assembly on Thursday, adding that Trump took the issue personally.

The new draft resolution for Thursday’s general assembly is very similar to Monday’s defeated security council resolution. Unlike the security council, however, where permanent members can wield a veto, there are no veto rights in the general assembly.

The resolution reaffirms 10 security council resolutions on Jerusalem, dating back to 1967, including requirements that the city’s final status must be decided in direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

It “affirms 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”.

The draft resolution “demands that all states comply with Security Council resolutions regarding the holy city of Jerusalem, and not to recognize any actions or measures contrary to those resolutions”.

Referring to Haley’s letter, which was disclosed by the Guardian and other media organisations on Wednesday morning, Trump said: “I like the message that Nikki sent yesterday at the United Nations.

“Our great citizens who love this country are tired of this country being taken advantage of – we’re not going to be taken advantage of any longer.”

In her letter, Haley wrote: “As you consider your vote, I encourage you to know the president and the US take this vote personally.

“The president will be watching this vote carefully and has requested I report back on those who voted against us,” she continued.

Haley followed the letter by tweeting: “At the UN we’re always asked to do more & give more. So, when we make a decision, at the will of the American ppl, abt where to locate OUR embassy, we don’t expect those we’ve helped to target us. On Thurs there’ll be a vote criticizing our choice. The US will be taking names.”

Responding to the US threats, the Palestinian foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki, and the foreign minister of Turkey – a co-sponsor of the UN vote – Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told reporters at Istanbul’s Atatürk airport that they believed UN member countries will ignore “pressure” from Haley.

“No honourable state would bow to such pressure,” Çavuşoğlu said.

“The world has changed. The belief that ‘I am strong therefore I am right’ has changed. The world today is revolting against injustices.”

A senior diplomat from a Muslim country said of Haley’s letter: “States resort to such blatant bullying only when they know they do not have a moral or legal argument to convince others.”

A senior western diplomat, described it as “poor tactics” at the United Nations “but pretty good for Haley 2020 or Haley 2024”, referring to speculation that Haley might run for higher office.

“She’s not going to win any votes in the general assembly or the security council, but she is going to win some votes in the US population,” the western diplomat said.

A senior European diplomat agreed Haley was unlikely to sway many UN states.

“We are missing some leadership here from the US and this type of letter is definitely not helping to establish US leadership in the Middle East peace process,” the diplomat said.

The tabling of the resolution followed a weekend of negotiations aimed at securing the widest consensus possible on the issue. The vote has underlined once again the widespread international opposition to the US move, even among some of its closest allies.


Who is on the United Nations security council?
The council is composed of 15 members. There are five permanent members:

• China
• France
• Russia
• United Kingdom
• United States

There are also 10 non-permanent members elected for two-year terms by the UN general assembly. The current non-permanent members are listed below (end of term date in brackets):

• Bolivia (2018)
• Egypt (2017)
• Ethiopia (2018)
• Italy (2017)
• Japan (2017)
• Kazakhstan (2018)
• Senegal (2017)
• Sweden (2018)
• Ukraine (2017)
• Uruguay (2017)

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