US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley warned Thursday that Washington would not stand for being “disrespected” by UN countries, as the General Assembly debated a motion rejecting US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, as well as a plan to relocate its embassy there.
Haley said the resolution, which passed with a large majority, was an attack on the United States and its right to exercise its own sovereign policy.
The General Assembly passed the resolution with 128 nation in favor, nine nations voting against and 35 countries abstaining.
She warned that the motion could cause the US to pull funding from the UN.
“The United States will remember this day,” she said, when it was attacked in the General Assembly for exercising its sovereignty. It “will remember” that the US was again asked to make the largest contribution of any country to the UN, she said, and it will remember how the vote went when other countries come to the US for help.
At an emergency session, the UN General Assembly discussed a draft resolution reaffirming that Jerusalem was an issue that must be resolved through negotiations and that any decision on its status has no legal effect and must be rescinded.
“When we make generous contributions to the UN, we also have expectation that we will be respected,” Haley said. “We are being asked to pay for the dubious privileges of being disrespected.”
Haley said she sometimes wondered why Israel, so unfairly treated for so long by the UN, remained a member of the organization. But, she said, she realized it needed to stand up for itself.
“America will put our embassy in Jerusalem,” she stressed, so the vote would have no impact on policy. But it would influence how Americans look at the UN and its component countries, she said.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki, addressing the assembly as the session got underway, appealed for support and referenced America’s warning that it was “taking names” among countries that oppose it at the UN.
“This organization is now undergoing an unprecedented test,” al-Malki said.
“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.”
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the UN, said that the US decision to recognize Jerusalem “constitutes an aggression towards the Palestinian people.
“This decision will not affect the status of the city,” he says. “But it does affect the status of the United States as a mediator of peace.”
Mansour said Palestinians would “not be threatened” by US President Donald Trump’s warning he could cut foreign aid to countries that support to motion.
“We call on you to reject the blackmail and intimidation,” he says. “Those who want peace must vote for this resolution.”
Israeli envoy Danny Danon slammed supporters of the resolution as “puppets” controlled by their “Palestinian masters.”
He rejected the vote as “nothing more than a performance of delusion.”
The Palestinians, he said, “know this won’t create jobs for their people. They know it won’t provide better healthcare for the people of Ramallah. It tells the Palestinians that they can continue to reject peace.”
Instead, he said, “they incite hate and carry out terror attacks against Israel…If you vote for (the motion), you are sanctioning it.”
Danon said he believed the nations of the world would all eventually recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“Forty-two years ago this body adopted a different shameful resolution equating Zionism with racism. It took 16 long years for that hateful resolution to be revoked,” he said.
“I have no doubt that today’s resolution will also end up eventually in the trash bin of history. I have no doubt that the day will come when the entire international community will finally recognize Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the State of Israel.”
The Iranian ambassador to the UN told the Assembly that “the Israeli occupations lie at the center of all crises and conflicts in the Middle East.”
Urging all countries to vote for the resolution, he called Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “politically incorrect, illegal and unlawful.”
The measure was sent to the General Assembly after it was vetoed by the United States at the Security Council on Monday; all 14 other council members voted in favor.
The resolution, which is non-binding, was expected to pass easily despite US pressure on countries to abstain, vote against it or simply not turn up for the vote.
Trump’s decision on December 6 to recognize the city as Israel’s capital broke with the international diplomatic consensus, unleashed protests across the Muslim world and prompted a flurry of appeals to the United Nations.
In the speech, Trump insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace a new approach was long overdue, describing his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality.
Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites. The move was hailed by Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum.
Trump later warned that Washington would closely watch how nations voted, suggesting there could even be reprisals for countries that back the motion which was put forward by Yemen and Turkey on behalf of Arab and Muslim countries.
“They take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars and then they vote against us,” Trump said at the White House.
“Well, we’re watching those votes. Let them vote against us. We’ll save a lot. We don’t care.”
AFP contributed to this report.