Exercising its veto power at the United Nations for the first time, the Trump administration torpedoed a Security Council resolution critical of the White House’s unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley cast the veto, blocking the resolution, introduced by Egypt, despite the 14 other members of the Security Council voting in favor.
“Today for the simple act of deciding where to put our embassy, the United States was forced to defend its sovereignty. The record will reflect that we did so proudly,” Haley said after the vote.
“Today for acknowledging a basic truth about the capital city of Israel, we are accused of harming peace. The record will reflect that we reject that outrageous claim. For these reasons and with the best interest of both the Israeli and the Palestinian people firmly in mind, the United States votes no on this resolution.”
Palestinian leaders slammed the US decision, citing it as further proof the White House could no longer play an impartial role in any Israeli-Palestinian peace process. A spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the US veto “contravenes the resolutions of international community and Security Council resolutions and represents a complete bias with the [Israeli] occupation and aggression,” according to Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh said the veto would further isolate the United States, calling it a “provocation of the international community.”
Expecting the US veto, the Palestinians immediately changed their focus from the Security Council to the United Nations General Assembly, where each member has one vote and no country – not even the United States – can veto a resolution.
A General Assembly resolution doesn’t carry the same weight as a Security Council resolution, but it would show a broad international consensus against President Donald Trump’s unilateral recognition of Jerusalem in early December.
Speaking in favor of the resolution before the vote, France and the United Kingdom insisted the final status of Jerusalem should only be determined in negotiations.
Israel celebrated the US veto, calling Haley a “Maccabi,” a Jewish warrior family from biblical times whose story is celebrated on the holiday of Hanukkah, during which the vote took place. Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of Haley on social media moments after the vote, “You lit a candle of truth. You dispel the darkness. One defeated the many. Truth defeated the lies. Thank you, President Trump. Thank you, Nikki Haley.”
Israeli officials never really fretted about the vote, assured by the virtual certainty the United States would veto the resolution. The proposed resolution comes almost exactly one year after UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which criticized Israel for the expansion of settlements in the West Bank, calling them “a flagrant violation under international law.” In the vote, taken in the waning days of the Obama administration, 14 of the 15 Security Council members voted in favor of the resolution; the United States abstained, allowing it to pass.
At the beginning of her speech, Haley made clear the results would be different if the vote were taken again. “Given the chance to vote again on Resolution 2334, I can say with complete confidence that the United States would vote no,” said Haley, slamming the resolution as a hindrance to the exact peace process it was intended to advance.
Rejecting the widespread criticism of Trump’s announcement, Haley insisted that Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem in no way affected the peace process, adding that the United States was still committed to direct negotiations.
“The President took great care not to prejudge final status negotiations in any way, including the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem. That remains a subject to be negotiated only by the parties. The position is fully in line with the previous Security Council resolutions,” Haley said after the vote.
The attempted reassurance did little to quell Palestinian anger at the United States.
“We will take legal, political and diplomatic action against Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem,” Abbas said on Monday, according to Wafa. In addition, Abbas signed 22 agreements and treaties in a move to solidify Palestinian standing in international affairs, though Wafa didn’t specify which agreements.
Discrediting the United States as an honest broker in a peace process, the Palestinians appear to be once again focused on increasing membership in international organizations, a process they started – and paused – in recent years that made them members of the International Criminal Court, among other global bodies.