US President Donald Trump’s threat to cut off US funding to countries that oppose his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital raised the stakes for yesterday’s UN vote and sparked criticism at his tactics, which one Muslim group called bullying or blackmail.
Trump went a step further than US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who hinted in a tweet and a letter to most of the 193 UN member states on Tuesday that the US would retaliate against countries that vote in favor of a UN General Assembly resolution calling on the president to rescind his decision.
Haley said the president asked her to report back on countries “who voted against us,” adding that the US “will be taking names.”
At the start of a Cabinet meeting in Washington on Wednesday, with Haley sitting nearby, Trump told reporters that Americans are tired of being taken advantage of and praised her for sending the “right message” before the vote.
“For all these nations, they take our money and then vote against us. They take hundreds of millions of dollars, even billions of dollars and then they vote against us,” Trump told reporters. “We’re watching those votes. Let them vote against us.”
“We’ll save a lot. We don’t care,” he said, alluding to US aid.
Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said on Twitter after Trump’s comments: “Our government should not use its leadership at the UN to bully/blackmail other nations that stand for religious liberty and justice in Jerusalem. Justice is a core value of Christianity, Judaism and Islam.”
Palestine and its Arab and Muslim supporters sought the General Assembly vote after the US on Monday vetoed a resolution supported by the 14 other UN Security Council members that would have required Trump to rescind his declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and not move the US embassy there.
Before Haley’s letter and tweet, Palestinian Permanent Observer to the UN Riyad Mansour told reporters that he expected “massive support” for the resolution in the General Assembly.
Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs Riyad al-Maliki and Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu accused the US of intimidation.
They told reporters at Istanbul Ataturk Airport on Wednesday before flying to New York to attend the General Assembly meeting that they believe UN member countries will ignore “pressure” from Haley.
Al-Maliki said he believes that countries would vote their conscience, and “they will vote for justice, and they will vote in favor of that resolution.”
“No honorable state would bow to such pressure,” Cavusoglu said. “The world has changed. The belief that ‘I am strong, therefore I am right’ has changed. The world today is revolting against injustices.”
Vincentian Permanent Representative to the UN Rhonda King sent Haley a letter saying that her country treasures the US “as an enduring ally,” but would vote against Trump’s action.
“Sometimes, friends differ; on Jerusalem, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines respectfully differs from the USA; and so, too, do many of the staunchest friends and allies of the USA,” King wrote. “We gently urge yet again that the government of the USA rethink its position and approach on this entire matter.”
What impact the threats from Trump and Haley will have remains to be seen.
Some diplomats predict the resolution will be supported by at least 150 countries, and possibly 180 nations.
Israel has also been conducting a global lobbying campaign against the resolution, government officials said on Wednesday.
The vote will show whether Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has succeeded in his efforts to drum up new pockets of support in the developing world.
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