More than 120 UN member countries voted to condemn US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel – a striking number, but one which may have been higher if not for the President’s threats.
On the eve of the vote, Mr Trump warned member nations not to support the resolution, threatening to revoke US aid to the countries who defied him.
“Let them vote against us,” he told reporters at a Cabinet meeting. “We’ll save a lot. We don’t care. But this isn’t like it used to be, where they could vote against you and then you pay them hundreds of millions of dollars.”
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley also warned that she would be “taking names” of those countries that supported the resolution.
“As you consider your vote, I want you to know that the President and US take this vote personally,” she wrote in a letter to her fellow members. “The President will be watching this vote carefully and has requested I report back on those countries who voted against us.”
In the end, Ms Haley had to take down the names of 128 countries who voted to render Mr Trump’s decision “null and void”. Nine countries – including the US and Israel – voted no, while 35 abstained.
The official UN position is that Jerusalem is a “final status” issue to be decided at the end of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. No member country bases their embassy in Jerusalem – something Mr Trump said the US has plans to do in the future.
The number of countries that rebuked Mr Trump, while significant, was smaller than some had anticipated. Major US aid recipients like Uganda, Honduras, and South Sudan all abstained from the vote. All three had previously voted to admit Palestine as a non-voting observer state to the UN.
Ms Haley made it clear in a tweet that she counted these abstentions as a vote of support for the US, writing: “The vote is in — 65 countries refused to condemn the United States and 128 voted against us.”
Protests erupt after Trump recognises Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
Also notable were the countries that did not show up to the vote at all: Kenya, which was the fifth-largest recipient of US aid last year; and Georgia and Ukraine, both of which have strong ties to the US.
The largest recipients of US aid, however, appeared to be undeterred. Top aid recipients like Afghanistan, Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Tanzania all voted in favour of the resolution.
It remains unclear whether Mr Trump will follow through on his promise to cut aid from these countries. UN Expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations Richard Gowan told The Independent that the US “will probably make some token aid cuts,” but dramatically slashing humanitarian aid would likely hurt the US in regions or on issues where it needs multilateral cooperation.
The US is scheduled to dispense $25.8bn in foreign aid in 2018.