A number of Arab countries that voted for a resolution calling on the United States to reverse a decision on Palestine at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) have attempted to downplay their defiance of Washington, saying that politically, they had no choice.
On December 6, US President Donald Trump declared that Washington was recognizing Jerusalem al-Quds as the “capital” of Israel and was planning to relocate the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city.
The 193-nation Assembly on Thursday adopted a resolution by a decisive vote of 128 to 9, with 35 abstentions, to urge Trump to reverse that decision.
Trump had threatened to cut off financial aid to the countries that supported the document.
“They take hundreds of millions of dollars, even billions of dollars and then they vote against us,” he said on the eve of the vote. “We’re watching those votes. Let them vote against us.”
The US president repeated his threat following the vote, tweeting, “After having foolishly spent $7 trillion in the Middle East
, it is time to start rebuilding our country!”
US Ambassador to the UN
Nikki Haley had warned earlier this week that she would be “taking names” of those states that voted for the resolution and against the US.
She also redoubled her warning just before the Thursday vote, saying, “If our investment fails, we have an obligation to spend our investment in other ways… The United States will remember this day.”
On Thursday, the US saw those “investments” fail spectacularly.
In addition to the US, the countries that opposed the measure were Guatemala, Honduras, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, and Togo. Israel voted against the measure, too.
Jordan and Egypt, which voted against the US and which are among the top recipients of US aid, attempted to downplay their votes.
Publicity or Palestine?
Ex-Jordanian prime minister Taher al-Masri said that his country’s role as a US ally in the region might keep an annual US assistance of $1.2 billion in place.
“Trump is not giving us aid as charity. Jordan performs a regional role in stability that we have not gone back on delivering,” he said.
In a sign of how publicity mattered more than the Palestinian cause, Masri also stressed that for Arab and Muslim states, anything less than total rejection of Trump’s policy shift on Jerusalem al-Quds would have been impossible.
Most Arab monarchies are incapable of holding their own financially and militarily, relying heavily on US support. By voting for the resolution and against Washington, they risked losing crucial US assistance.
But by portraying their votes as a political inevitability in an attempt to avoid the US’s wrath, they also send the signal that the historical Palestinian cause is of less weight to them than American support.
Additionally, H.A. Hellyer, an Egypt expert at the Atlantic Council, an American think tank, said Egypt likely felt secure about its $1.3 billion in US military aid despite Washington’s threats.
“I don’t think Egypt will be worried… certainly Trump’s inner circle will not be too impressed — but I doubt that it will extend beyond that,” he said.
On Monday, the US had vetoed a similar resolution at the UN Security Council.
Israel lays claim to the whole Jerusalem al-Quds, but the international community views the ancient city’s eastern sector as occupied land and the Palestinians consider it their future capital.
The Thursday vote at the Assembly, where the US had no veto power, was a strong rebuke of the Trump administration’s policies and marked a failure of what was seen as its bullying of other states.