The United States on Monday vetoed a United Nations Security Council draft resolution condemning the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and calling on countries not to move diplomatic missions to the city.
The other 14 members of the council voted in favor of the text, but US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley’s “no” vote ensured that it was rejected. It was the first US veto in the Security Council since US President Donald Trump took office nearly a year ago.
Recalling previous Security Council resolutions, Monday’s text expressed “deep regret at recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem,” referring to Trump’s December 6 decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his announced intention to move the US embassy to the city.
The draft resolution, sponsored by Egypt, also 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status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded in compliance with relevant resolutions of the Security Council, and in this regard, calls upon all States to refrain from the establishment of diplomatic missions in the Holy City of Jerusalem.”
Without naming any country, it would have expressed “deep regret at recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem.”
Minutes after the vote, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Haley for the US veto.
“On Hanukkah, you spoke like a Maccabi. You lit a candle of truth. You dispelled the darkness. One defeated the many. Truth defeated lies,” he said in a video message.
Thank you, Ambassador Haley. On Hanukkah, you spoke like a Maccabi. You lit a candle of truth. You dispel the darkness. One defeated the many. Truth defeated lies. Thank you, President Trump. Thank you, @nikkihaley pic.twitter.com/gm84B2trwK
— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) December 18, 2017
A spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the veto was “unacceptable and threatens the stability of the international community because it disrespects it.”
Explaining the US veto after the vote, Haley said that the US “will not be told, by any country, where we will put our embassy.”
Referring to the fact that the US once again stood alone in defending Israel, she said. “We do it with no joy, but we do it with no reluctance.”
She defended Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as an honest and courageous recognition of reality, stressing that the US is not taking any position on final status issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including borders.
By vetoing the draft resolution, the US defended “its sovereignty,” she argued.
“What happened today at the Security Council is an insult. It won’t be forgotten,” she said, slamming the council for its obsession with anti-Israel resolutions.
Haley accused some unnamed countries of “trying to distort the president’s decision to serve their own agendas,” and insisted the US position “is fully in line with previous Security Council resolutions.”
Haley noted that the US has given more than $5 billion to the Palestinians since 1994, more than any other country and she said: “The United States has never been more committed to peace in the Middle East.”
Haley said the vote marked “one more example of the United Nations doing more harm than good in addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Speaking before the vote, the US ambassador brought up a UN resolution condemning settlement construction by Israel that the Obama administration allowed to pass last December by abstaining rather than exercising its veto.
Haley said that resolution “put peace further out of reach by injecting itself between the two parties.” Resolution 2334 “gave a pass to Palestinian leaders who have rejected one peace proposal after another,” she said. She called the resolution a “stain on America’s conscience.”
“Given the chance to vote again on Resolution 2234, I can say with complete confidence that the United States would vote no; we would exercise our veto power,” Haley said. “For decades, Israel has withstood wave after wave of bias in the UN and its agencies. The United States has often stood beside Israel. We did not on December 23, 2016. We will not make that mistake again.”
Also prior to the vote, Israel’s UN ambassador, Danny Danon, told the Security Council that even the passage of such a resolution would not change the fact that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.
“Members of the council can vote again and again — for a hundred more times,” he said. “It won’t change the simple fact that Jerusalem is, has been and always will be the capital of Israel.”
Danon thanked the US for “standing with Israel and staying loyal to the truth.”
After the vote, Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour said the US position on Jerusalem “lacks reality.”
“Their rhetoric runs counter to reality and we reject them,” he said.
Mansour also said the international community would find “other frameworks for its position in the days to come,” a reference to plans by the PA to bring the resolution to a full vote in the UN General Assembly, probably later this week. They would be all but guaranteed an automatic majority in the General Assembly, but in contrast to the Security Council, however, a General Assembly vote is non-binding.
Key US allies Britain, France, Italy, Japan and Ukraine were among the 14 countries in the 15-member council that backed the measure.
Some representatives of countries defended their “yes” vote by citing international consensus on Jerusalem, saying the status of the city should be determined by final-status peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
Ahead of the vote, French Ambassador Francois Delattre praised the Egyptian draft as a “good text” and argued that “without an agreement on Jerusalem, there will be no peace accord” between Israel and the Palestinians.
The status of the city must be decided through negotiations and “not by the unilateral decision of a third country that would bring us back a century,” said the French envoy.
The five permanent Security Council members who have the power to veto are China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
The current non-permanent members are Bolivia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Senegal, Sweden, Ukraine and Uruguay.