Jerusalem: UN resolution rejects Trump’s declaration

The UN General Assembly has decisively backed a resolution effectively calling on the US to withdraw its recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The text says that any decisions regarding the status of the city are “null and void” and must be cancelled.

The non-binding resolution was approved by 128 states, with 35 abstaining and nine others voting against.

It came after US President Donald Trump threatened to cut financial aid to those who backed the resolution.

Before the vote, the Palestinian foreign minister urged member states to reject “blackmail and intimidation”.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, said it would reject the anticipated result “outright” and dismissed the UN as a “house of lies”.

How did UN members vote?

  • The nine who voted against the resolution were the US, Israel, Guatemala, Honduras, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Togo
  • Among the 35 abstaining were Canada and Mexico
  • Those voting in favour included the other four permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, France, Russia and the UK) as well as key US allies in the Muslim world
  • There were 21 countries who did not turn up for the vote.

Twitter post by @markmackinnon: Here's how the vote went.

What is so contentious about Jerusalem’s status?

The status of Jerusalem goes to the heart of Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians.

Israel occupied the east of the city in the 1967 Middle East war and regards the entire city as its indivisible capital.

Why the city of Jerusalem matters

The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state and its final status is meant to be discussed in the latter stages of peace talks.

Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has never been recognised internationally, and all countries currently maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv. However, President Trump has told the US state department to start work on moving the US embassy.

What does the UN resolution say?

The 193-member UN General Assembly held a rare emergency special session at the request of Arab and Muslim states, who condemned Mr Trump’s decision to reverse decades of US policy earlier this month.

The Palestinians called for the meeting after the US vetoed a Security Council resolution that was similar to the text approved on Thursday.

Map of Jerusalem

The text put forward by Turkey and Yemen does not mention the US, but expresses “deep regret at recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem”.

It also says “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 in compliance with relevant resolutions of the Security Council”.

How has the US reacted?

In a speech before the vote, US permanent representative Nikki Haley stressed that the US decision did not prejudge any final status issues, and did not preclude a two-state solution if the parties agreed to that.

Riyad Mansour (R), the Palestinian Permanent Observer to the United Nations, walks past US permanent representative Nikki Haley (L) as the General Assembly gathers in New York on 21 December 2017

Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour (R) had predicted “overwhelming support” for the resolution

“The United States will remember this day, on which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation,” she said.

“America will put our embassy in Jerusalem. That is what the American people want us to do. And it is the right thing to do. No vote in the Untied Nations will make any difference on that.”

Trump: “We’re watching those votes”

On Wednesday, Mr Trump warned he might cut financial aid to states who voted in favour of the resolution.

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

What do Israel and the Palestinians say?

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said the General Assembly had undergone “an unprecedented test” before the vote.

“History records names, it remembers names – the names of those who stand by what is right and the names of those who speak falsehood. Today we are seekers of rights and peace,” he said.

Mr Maliki asserted that the US declaration “serves the Israel government in implementing its colonial plans, it serves the powers of extremism and terrorism in the region and the world”.

Israeli permanent representative Danny Danon said it was “shameful that this meeting is even taking place”, adding that Jerusalem “is the capital of the State of Israel, period. It is a fact that simply cannot be disputed.”

Mr Danon predicted the resolution would “end up in the trash-bin of history”.

“I have no doubt that the day will come when the entire international community will finally come to recognise Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the state of Israel.”

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