The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) voted Thursday on a draft resolution calling for all member-states to recognize the city of Jerusalem as a “final status” issue and reject any moves to affirm Israel’s claim to the city as its capital. In effect, the vote was retaliation against the United States government for President Donald Trump’s recent decision to relocate the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The draft resolution was passed 128-9, with 33 countries abstaining. It was a result that fell short of many projections. Of the 193 members of the United Nations, some had speculated that as many as 180 countries would vote to support the resolution. Regardless, the vote itself means very little, for three main reasons.
The UN Versus Reality
The state of Israel has declared Jerusalem its capital and most principle components of Israel’s national government are already established there. That reality will not be altered by any measure short of open war – assuming, of course, that Israel would lose. There is, quite simply, no other international action which would end Jerusalem’s status as the capital of the Jewish state.
The official purpose of Thursday’s vote was to uphold a United Nations Security Council draft resolution that called upon all members of the UN “to refrain from establishing diplomatic missions in Jerusalem.” That draft resolution was voted on Monday, and the Security Council failed to adopt it because the United States vetoed. Any single permanent member of the Security Council can veto a draft resolution merely by voting against it. In reality, therefore, the UNGA voted to uphold a draft resolution that was not adopted.
Successive U.S. presidents have recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and have pledged to establish a new embassy in the city. Congress and a majority of Americans have supported this agenda. President Trump’s public announcement of his intention to relocate the embassy is nothing more than a fulfilling of that long-standing plan. Previous presidents have stopped short of initiating the move due to either lack of courage or because they were advised that to take such action would be detrimental to regional stability.
Trump Did Not Break an Already Broken Peace
The Middle East has been, and continues to be, the least stable region in the world. There is no peace process, really. The establishment of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is a fait accompli. As the United States has pointed out, moving the embassy to that city is merely an acknowledgment of reality and follows the standard international protocol of foreign embassies being located in the host nation’s capital city. Trump’s decision does not change the fact that Jerusalem’s role in any final peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians will be decided only between those two parties.
The Palestinians have always insisted that East Jerusalem would be the capital of any future Palestinian state. That the U.S. would establish its Israeli embassy in Jerusalem has no real effect upon the Palestinian agenda. That the Palestinians and their supporters say otherwise betrays their actual intent; that Jerusalem, Islam’s third most holy city, should not be a part of Israel at all.
Both President Trump and his UN Ambassador, Nikki Haley, have issued recent warnings to the UN that members who stand against them on this issue could suffer economic consequences. Whether Trump follows through on such threats remains to be seen although the number of nations choosing to abstain from the UNGA vote may indicate that many are taking him seriously.