World Middle East First Look

Arab supporters join voices to send message to US about Jerusalem

A UN resolution proposed by Egypt and supported by 14 Security Council members would have forced President Trump to back down on his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Russia has indicated it's ready to stand in as an 'honest mediator' in the peace process. 

The UN Security Council voted on a resolution to stop President Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital on Dec. 18, 2017. The resolution was proposed by Egypt and supported by 14 members of the Council, it was vetoed by the US.
Kim Haughton/UN/AP
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  • Edith M. Lederer
    Associated Press

The United States on Monday vetoed a resolution supported by the 14 other UN Security Council members that would have required President Trump to rescind his declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a vote that showed the depth of global opposition to the US move.

The United States was certain to veto the Egyptian-sponsored resolution, but its Arab supporters wanted the vote to demonstrate that countries everywhere and even many US allies such as Britain, France, and Japan are against Mr. Trump's action.

The Palestinians immediately announced that they will seek a resolution with similar demands in the 193-member General Assembly, where there are no vetoes. But unlike the Security Council, the assembly's resolutions are not legally binding.

Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour told reporters after meeting with the General Assembly president that he expects a vote this week. He said he hopes for "overwhelming support" telling the Trump administration that the international community doesn't accept the US position, which he said violates international law and Security Council and General Assembly resolutions.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley called the Security Council resolution "an insult" that won't be forgotten, saying the United Nations forced the US to cast a veto simply because of its right to decide where to put its embassy. She said the veto – the first cast by the US in more than six years – was done "in defense of American sovereignty and in defense of America's role in the Middle East peace process."

The vetoed resolution would have demanded that all countries comply with 10 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.

It would also have affirmed 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."

Trump shattered decades of unwavering US neutrality on Jerusalem on Dec. 6 when he declared that the United States recognizes the divided holy city as Israel's capital and will move its embassy there. Trump insisted that after repeated peace failures it was past time for a new approach, saying his decision was merely based on reality.

The status of Jerusalem has been a central issue in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Trump's announcement was widely perceived as taking the side of Israel. It countered an international consensus that Jerusalem's status should be decided in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, who claim east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Trump's announcement triggered denunciations and demonstrations around the world. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement and other groups organized mass protests while its rival, the Gaza-based Islamic militant group Hamas, has called for a third violent uprising against Israel.

Trump has been working on a new Mideast peace plan and says he remains committed to brokering a deal, despite the Jerusalem move.

Ms. Haley told the council "the United States has never been more committed to peace in the Middle East," and called accusations that the US is setting back the prospect for peace "scandalous."

But Mr. Abbas, in some of his sharpest rhetoric since Trump's announcement, reiterated in public comments to senior Palestinian officials Monday that he will no longer accept the US as a Mideast mediator.

He said "a crazy person wouldn't accept" that role for Washington after Trump's action.

Haley said Trump "took great care not to prejudge final status negotiations in any way, including the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem," which must be decided by the Israelis and Palestinians. And she insisted that this position "is fully in line with the previous Security Council resolutions."

But one by one, ambassadors of the 14 countries that supported the resolution said after the vote that the US violated council resolutions which make clear that no country can unilaterally decide that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said, "The status of Jerusalem should be determined through a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and should ultimately be the shared capital of the Israeli and Palestinian states."

With the Palestinians rejecting US mediation, Russia said it was ready to take over.

Russia's deputy UN ambassador, Vladimir Safronkov, said the issue of "moving as quickly as possible toward direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations" is becoming more important, and he reiterated Russia's proposal to hold a summit between the Palestinian and Israeli leaders.

"We are ready to become an honest mediator here," he said.

Safronkov said Russia will also "continue to encourage all Palestinian parties to overcome the internal rifts as quickly as possible."

The resolution that was vetoed would have called on "all states to refrain from the establishment of diplomatic missions in the holy city of Jerusalem," citing a 1980 council resolution.

Haley was adamant that "the United States will not be told by any country where we can put our embassy."

The vetoed resolution would also have reiterated a call to reverse "the negative trends on the ground that are imperiling the two-state solution" that would see the states of Israel and the Palestine living side-by-side in peace. And it would have called for intensified and accelerated international and regional efforts to achieve Middle East peace.

The only support for the United States came from Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked the US for using its veto in a video posted to Facebook.

He said Haley "lit a candle of truth" and dispelled "lies."

Mr. Netanyahu compared Haley to the Maccabees, Jewish warriors commemorated during the current Jewish holiday of Hannukkah for revolting against Hellenic rulers, rededicating the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and establishing a Jewish Kingdom in Judea.

In Netanyahu's words, "One defeated the many, truth defeated lies."

This story was reported by The Associated Press. 

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