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UN challenges US Jerusalem announcement

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The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) yesterday overwhelmingly backed a resolution that declared any decisions regarding Jerusalem “null and void,”  a direct challenge to US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The non-binding resolution said 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status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded in compliance with relevant resolutions of the [UN] Security Council”. The resolution also “calls upon all States to refrain from the establishment of diplomatic missions in the Holy City of Jerusalem”.

In total, 128 countries voted for the resolution, nine against with 35 abstentions and a further 21 countries absent from the chamber. The UK voted for the resolution, the second time in four days it has voted against the US at the UN. Earlier this week, at a UN Security Council discussion on the same issue, UK Ambassador to the UN Matthew Rycroft reaffirmed the UK’s policy that “the issue of Jerusalem is a final status issue”.

The nine countries that voted against the resolution yesterday were: the United States, Israel, Guatemala, Honduras, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Togo. Those abstaining included Australia, Canada, Mexico, Colombia and EU states – Czech Republic, Croatia, Romania, Latvia, Hungary and Poland.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told the Assembly after the vote: “The United States will remember this day. America will put our embassy in Jerusalem. No vote in the United Nations will make any difference on that. But this vote will make a difference on how Americans look at the UN and on how we look at countries who disrespect us in the UN. When we make generous contributions to the UN we also have a legitimate expectation that our goodwill is recognised and respected.”

In his speech, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, said that UN members who backed the resolution were being manipulated. “You are like puppets pulled by your Palestinian masters,” he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the vote by saying that “Israel completely rejects this preposterous resolution. Jerusalem is our capital. Always was, always will be.  But I do appreciate the fact that a growing number of countries refused to participate in this theatre of the absurd. So I appreciate that, and especially I want to again express our thanks to President Trump and Ambassador Haley, for their stalwart defence of Israel and their stalwart defence of the truth.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas described the result as a “victory for Palestine” and the Palestinians.