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The world backs Palestine over status of Jerusalem

The results of the vote on Jerusalem are seen on a display board at the General Assembly hall, on December 21, 2017, at UN Headquarters in New York. (AFP)
NEW YORK/AMMAN: Palestinian leaders claimed a diplomatic victory on Thursday after the UN voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution critical of the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

In a rare emergency session of the General Assembly, 128 countries voted to call on the US to rescind its December 6 decision. Nine voted against, and 35 abstained. 

The Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the result a “victory for Palestine,” and UN envoy Riyad Mansour described the vote as impressive. “I am happy with the result, despite all the pressure that was placed on UN member states not to support this resolution,” he told Arab News

The Palestinian ambassador to the US, Husam Zomlot, told Arab News the credibility of the UN had been at stake. “Today’s vote was more about the status of the international system and law than the status of Jerusalem,” he said.

The result of the vote is “something the Palestinians should be proud of, especially the diplomatic corps … who work diligently to secure such a vote,” Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian ambassador to the UK, told Arab News.

“The vote is a triumph for the Palestinians, and will put more pressure on us to get the formal recognition of the state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as the capital.

“We have to try now to get the countries that do not recognize Palestine to do so, and I think that will be our basic endeavor now.”

Before the vote, Israel and the US conducted a lobbying campaign to persuade UN members states to vote against the resolution, including a threat to withdraw US aid from countries that did so. 

Nevertheless, many Western and Arab allies of the US voted for the resolution. Some who did so, such as Egypt, Jordan and Iraq, are major recipients of US military or economic aid,

The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, also pointed out that Washington was the biggest single contributor to the organization’s funds.

“The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation,” she told delegates during the debate on the resolution.

“We will remember it when we are called upon to once again make the world’s largest contribution to the United Nations, and so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.”

However, the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told the assembly that the “Palestinian cause is still our cause,” and rejected attempts to influence the vote.

“Before this meeting, a UN member state threatened all the other members. We were all asked to vote ‘No,’ or face the consequences. Some are even threatened with development aid cuts. Such an attitude is unacceptable,” Cavusoglu said.

“We will not be intimidated. You can be strong, but this does not make you right.”

Thursday’s resolution on the status of Jerusalem was drafted by Turkey and Yemen. The US vetoed a similar resolution on Monday in the 15-member UN Security Council.

In that vote, the other 14 Security Council members supported an Egyptian resolution that expressed “deep regret at recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem.”

The US also plans to move its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. The UN resolution calls on all countries to refrain from establishing diplomatic missions in Jerusalem.

Under a 1950 resolution, an emergency General Assembly special session can be called “with a view to making appropriate recommendations to members for collective measures” if the Security Council cannot agree.

Only 10 such sessions have been convened. The last time the General Assembly met in these circumstances was in 2009 on occupied East Jerusalem and Palestinian territories. The vote is non-binding, but carries political weight.