- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 21, 2017

Brushing aside threats from President Trump and America’s U.N. envoy Nikki Haley, the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a resolution effectively condemning Mr. Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and calling on Washington to rescind plans to move the U.S. Embassy there.

The resolution, sponsored by Egypt and Yemen, is nonbinding and joins a long roster of U.N. resolutions hostile to the Jewish state, but the White House and Mrs. Haley raised the stakes and the profile of the clash by warning there would be consequences for the world body and for countries that supported the measure.

In the end, however, the vote was 128-9 against the U.S., with 35 countries abstaining and another 21 countries skipping the vote altogether.

Trump administration officials noted that, in all, some 65 countries either opposed or took a pass on the anti-Israel resolution, a sign that American pressure had an impact. After the vote, Mrs. Haley tweeted a photo naming the 65 nations with a remark: “We appreciate these countries for not falling to the irresponsible ways of the U.N.

But the far more numerous states opposing the U.S. on the vote ranged from traditional allies such as Britain, France, Germany and Japan to rival powers such as Russia and China and a host of Middle Eastern and Asian countries including Jordan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq that are the recipients of major U.S. aid, security and investment programs.

By contrast, the countries joining the U.S. and Israel in outright opposition included just two small Central American countries — Honduras and Guatemala — and a group of five tiny Pacific island nations including Palau, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands.

Several U.S. allies, including Mexico, Canada, Colombia and Poland were among those that abstained.

The vote was held just days after Mrs. Haley used the U.S. veto to block a version of the resolution in the Security Council. But the veto does not apply to nonbinding General Assembly action.

Mrs. Haley bluntly warned that the U.S. would be “taking names” of countries that accept American aid and support but would not back Washington in the vote.

Palestinians, who said Mr. Trump’s Jerusalem move undercut their rights in any final negotiation for a two-state solution, hailed the vote as a victory for their cause and for international law.

The fact that Mrs. Haley’s pressure campaign “failed miserably” made the final tally even more satisfying, said Riyad Mansour, Palestinian permanent observer at the United Nations.

The Trump administration “used unprecedented tactics, unheard of in the diplomatic work at the U.N., including blackmail and extortion,” he said.

Mr. Trump escalated the clash Wednesday, effusively praising Mrs. Haley’s tough rhetoric at a Cabinet meeting and saying the U.S. would happily save money by cutting payments to the United Nations and aid to countries that failed to support his policy.

“We’re watching those votes,” Mr. Trump said at one point. “Let them vote against us. We’ll save a lot. We don’t care.”

In a pre-vote speech to the General Assembly, Mrs. Haley emphasized that Washington contributes far more than any other nation to U.N. operations and that the resolution was a sign of disrespect for the U.S. and Israel.

The U.S., she said, “will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very right of exercising our right as a sovereign nation.”

“We will remember it when we are called upon once again to make the world’s largest contribution to the United Nations,” she said. “And we will remember when so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.”

But within hours, The Associated Press was reporting that the Trump administration appeared to be backing away from immediately carrying out its threats. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters that cuts to countries that opposed the U.S. are not a foregone conclusion.

“The president’s foreign policy team has been empowered to explore various options going forward with other nations,” Ms. Nauert said. “However, no decisions have been made.”

U.S. adversaries hailed what they saw as a clear rebuke to Mr. Trump’s tough line.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter that the vote amounted to a “global no” to U.S. intimidation.

The resolution, he said, soundly criticizes “Trump’s regime’s thuggish intimidation at [the] UN.”

The Islamist terrorist group Hamas also welcomed the U.N. vote, AP reported. In a statement, spokesman Fawzi Barhoum called the resolution “a step in the right direction” and “a blow to [President Trump].”

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Mr. Trump’s stand against what he called a preposterous resolution.

In a video posted on Facebook, the conservative Israeli leader said Jerusalem “always was [and] always will be” Israel’s capital, and thanked what he called the “growing number of countries [that] refuse to participate in this theater of the absurd.”

Mrs. Haley said the vote could affect attitudes among ordinary Americans over the usefulness of the United Nations.

Thursday’s vote “will make a difference on how Americans look at the U.N. and on how we look at countries who disrespect us in the U.N.,” she said.

Guy Taylor contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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