By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters)
More than 120 countries defied President Donald Trump on Thursday and voted in favour of a United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for the United States to drop its recent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
Trump had threatened to cut off financial aid to countries that voted in favour. A total of 128 countries backed the resolution, which is non-binding, nine voted against and 35 abstained. Twenty-one countries did not cast a vote.
Trump’s threat appeared to have some impact, with more countries abstaining and rejecting the resolution than usually associated with Palestinian-related resolutions.
Nevertheless, Washington found itself isolated as many of its Western and Arab allies voted for the measure. Some of those allies, like Egypt, Jordan and Iraq, are major recipients of U.S. military or economic aid, although the U.S. threat to cut aid did not single out any country.
A spokesman for Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the vote “a victory for Palestine.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the vote.
Earlier this month, Trump reversed decades of U.S. policy by announcing the United States recognised Jerusalem – home to major Muslim, Jewish and Christian holy sites – as the capital of Israel and would move its embassy there.
“The United States 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,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the 193-member General Assembly ahead of Thursday’s vote.
“We will remember it when we are called upon to once again make the world’s largest contribution to the United Nations, and so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit,” she said.
Later on Thursday, Haley asked the 64 countries who voted no, abstained or did not cast a vote to come to a Jan. 3 reception “to thank you for your friendship to the United States,” according to the invitation seen by Reuters.
The status of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest obstacles to a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, who were furious over Trump’s move. The international community does not recognise Israeli sovereignty over the full city.
French U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre said in a statement: “The resolution adopted today only confirms relevant international law provisions on Jerusalem.” France voted in favour.
Netanyahu described the resolution as “preposterous.” “Jerusalem is our capital, always was, always will be. But I do appreciate the fact that a growing number of countries refuse to participate in this theatre of the absurd,” he said in a video on his Facebook page.
Israel captured East Jerusalem in a 1967 war and Palestinians want it as the capital of a future state they seek.
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