UN Security Council votes against recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli capital but US vetoes decision

UN Security Council in session

The Trump administration wielded its first U.N. veto Monday, blocking a Security Council resolution that rejected the U.S. decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move its embassy there.

“The United States will not be told by any country where we can put our embassy,” Ambassador Nikki Haley told council members.

The U.S. was isolated in the vote, with the other 14 members voting in favor of the text.

The draft resolution did not specifically mention the U.S. announcement, but noted its “deep regret at recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem.” It also said, “Any decision 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status, or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded.”

Haley noted that it is the first time in more than six years that the United States has used its veto.

“We do it with no joy, but we do it with no reluctance,” she said. “The fact that this veto is being done in defense of U.S. sovereignty and role in the Middle East peace process is not a source of embarrassment to us; it should be to the remainder of the Security Council.”

She said President Donald Trump’s decision does not contradict existing Security Council resolutions, which constitute international law and date back decades. Haley emphasized that the administration supports the status quo of the city’s holy sites and will support a two-state solution if that is what the parties want.

“It is highly regrettable that some are trying to distort the president’s position to serve their own agendas,” Haley said. She added that the U.S. had the “courage and honesty to recognise a fundamental reality” – that Jerusalem is the capital and seat of the modern Israeli government.

The text, put forward by council member Egypt, sought to reaffirm earlier resolutions that conveyed a special status on the city, which is holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians, and leaves it as a final status issue to be resolved through negotiations.

Egyptian Ambassador Amr Aboulatta, whose delegation drafted the text, warned of repercussions of the U.S. decision and declared that the move would have no legal effect on Jerusalem’s final status.

“Al Quds is one of the final status issues, which must be settled through peaceful negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis,” Aboulatta said, referring to Jerusalem by its Arabic name. “Any attempt at changing the facts on the ground in Jerusalem is considered one of the illegal, unilateral measures that will have no legal impact whatsoever, since it comes in violation of international law,” he added.

“Because of its unmatched symbolic and emotional dimension, Jerusalem is the key to peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” French Ambassador François Delattre told reporters. “Without an agreement on Jerusalem, there will be no peace accord. This is why an agreement on Jerusalem can only be decided by the parties themselves, with the support of the community of nations, and not by the unilateral decision of a third country that would bring us back one century ago,” he added.

While Britain’s envoy reiterated his government’s disagreement with the Trump administration’s decision, he said the U.S. would still continue to play an extremely important role in the search for peace.

“We commend President Trump for his efforts and energy in that direction, and we call on the U.S. administration to put forward concrete details, proposals, as soon as possible to take that process forward,” Ambassador Matthew Rycroft told reporters.

Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour denounced the U.S. decision as “provocative,” “reckless and dangerous,” and said a veto could not negate the legality of existing Security Council resolutions.

“This U.S. decision will have no legal effect that will alter the character and the status of Jerusalem,” Mansour told the council. “This resolution affects the status of the U.S. as a peace broker and actually stresses its bias and undermines its role in any future peace process,” he added.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told reporters in the region that he would seek support from the U.N. General Assembly if the U.S. vetoed the text.

Israel’s envoy, Danny Danon, welcomed what he called the “courageous stance” of President Trump in recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

“They can vote on this issue again and again and again,” Ambassador Danon told reporters of the Security Council. “Even a hundred more times; but it will never change the fact that Jerusalem is, has been, and always will be the eternal capital of Israel.”

Shift in US policy

Randolph-Macon College history professor Michael Fischbach told VOA that Trump’s decision overturned decades of U.S. policy as well as what had been “global consensus” against setting Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

“Since ’67 Israel has controlled the entire city, but in the international community there’s been a consensus that until the Arab-Israeli conflict is resolved finally and peacefully, that no country wants to prejudice the outcome of what’s going to happen to Jerusalem because the original U.N. decision was that it would be held in an international zone,” Fischbach said.

Trump said his decision is a “recognition of reality” that Jerusalem is not only the historic capital of the Jewish people but also the capital of modern Israel. Israeli leaders welcomed his actions, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said having Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is the “foundation of peace.”

Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said last week that his side will no longer accept a U.S. role in the peace process. He spoke at a gathering of Arab leaders where many others condemned Trump’s decision as unlawful.

The European Union reiterated that its position is that a realistic resolution between the Israelis and Palestinians is a two-state setup with Jerusalem as the capital of both.

•Credit (except headline): VOA.

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