US President Donald Trump’s outgoing administration on Thursday fired a late salvo against the United Nations by voting against its budget, citing disagreements on Israel and Iran — but it found almost no international support.
Only Israel voted with the United States, with 167 nations in favor, as the General Assembly closed the year by approving the $3.231 billion UN budget for 2021.
Kelly Craft, the US ambassador to the United Nations, voiced objections that the budget would fund a 20th-anniversary event for the 2001 UN conference on racism in Durban, South Africa, where the United States walked out in solidarity with Israel after countries advanced a motion equating Zionism with racism. That analogy was deleted before the motion passed.
The United States, the biggest funder of the UN, “called for this vote to make clear that we stand by our principles, stand up for what is right and never accept consensus for consensus’s sake,” Craft said on the General Assembly floor.
“Twenty years on, there remains nothing about the Durban Declaration to celebrate or to endorse. It is poisoned by anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias,” she said.
Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, said that the Durban conference “will become another meeting demonizing the Jewish state — it will be used once again to slander us and to launch false accusations of racism against Jewish self-determination.”
“Today we must all speak out against commemorating the disgrace that was the Durban Conference,” Erdan said. “Israel opposes any measure aimed at allocating a budget for this purpose — we all know that such funds will not be used to support human rights but to spread even more anti-Semitism and hate towards Israel.”
“It is part of a wider anti-Israel bias at the UN,” said Erdan. “I will not stand by when such lies and incitement against Israel and the Jewish people are freely given a platform.”
The General Assembly separately approved a resolution backing follow-up efforts on the Durban conference.
That resolution passed 106-14 with 44 abstentions. The United States and Israel were joined in voting no by Western powers including Britain, France and Germany.
Craft also complained about how the United States received almost no support in the world body in September when it declared that UN sanctions against Iran had come back into force.
The Trump administration said it was triggering UN sanctions due to alleged Iranian violations of a nuclear deal negotiated by former US president Barack Obama, but even US allies scoffed at the argument that Washington remained a participant in an accord that Trump had loudly rejected.
“The US doesn’t need a cheering section to validate its moral compass,” Craft said. “We don’t find comfort based on the number of nations voting with us, particularly when the majority have found themselves in an uncomfortable position of underwriting terrorism, chaos and conflict.”
Craft said that the US vote would not change its UN contribution, including 25 percent of peacekeeping expenditures and some $9 billion a year in UN-channeled humanitarian relief.
US President-elect Joe Biden is expected to seek a more cooperative relationship with the UN, including stopping a US exit from the World Health Organization, which Trump blamed for not doing more to stop COVID-19.