This article was published in Arab News on December 25, 2017.
The fallout from that UN vote
A draft resolution rejecting any unilateral change in the status of Jerusalem, prepared by Palestine and submitted by Egypt, came before the UN Security Council on Dec. 18. As expected, it was vetoed by the US. Turkey and Yemen then submitted to the UN General Assembly a draft resolution with similar content.
Before that resolution was submitted, the US started to voice its objection at the highest level, and President Donald Trump explicitly linked countries’ voting intentions with US expenditure on aid. “We are watching those votes. Let them vote against us, we will save a lot. We don’t care,” he said.
During the debate on the resolution, Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, provided further clarification of what the US was contemplating. Referring to the contribution that the US makes to the UN budget, she said: “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.
“This vote will make a difference to how Americans look at the UN and how we look at countries who disrespect us in the UN. And this vote will be remembered.”
The votes were cast and the number of countries that disrespect the US turned out to be 128, against 9 that respect it. Since Haley promised it, the international community will expect the US to take note of this outcome — but treating the UN as a commercial enterprise can only tarnish the image of an organization that was created to contribute to peace and justice in the world.
After the vote, Haley’s office sent out invitations to a reception on Jan. 3 “to thank you for your friendship to the United States.” It was sent to the countries that abstained or voted against the UN resolution; evidently even an abstention was deemed worthy of US gratitude.
An analysis of the vote reveals other interesting details. Apart from the US and Israel, those who voted against the resolution were the Marshall Islands, Mali, Micronesia, Palau, Togo, Guatemala and Honduras. This list needs no comment. Countries that were absent for the vote included San Marino, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Macedonia, Tonga, Mongolia, El Salvador and Colombia. This list needs no comment either.
Turkey can expect to pay a price for defying Washington, but there may be consequences for the US too.
Those who voted in favor of the resolution included countries such as the UK and Germany, who usually act together with the US on many international issues. In fact, with the exception of the Czech Republic, all EU member countries voted in favor. This could be interpreted as a desertion of the US by its traditional allies.
Turkey may become a bigger target for the US after this vote, because it took the initiative by convening a summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation for the purpose of rejecting any change in the international status of Jerusalem. Furthermore, more loudly than the other OIC member countries, Turkey voiced opposition to the US decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; and all this at a time when US-Turkey relations had already been on a downward trajectory for several years.
The US may believe that everything is unfolding according to the rules, and that therefore there is no need to rescind its decision to move the embassy. But votes of 14 to 1 in the Security Council and 128 to 9 in the General Assembly can hardly be seen as a legitimization of the US action. Equally, the US can hardly take pride in having been supported by countries such as the Marshall Islands, Nauru and Palau, with all due respect to them.
The international community does not claim that the US violated UN rules with its Jerusalem decision, but it is entitled to expect the US to grasp the ethical consequences of UN votes.