U.S., Israel team up to block vote

  • Paramedics evacuate an injured Palestinian protester amid heavy tear gas during clashes with Israeli troops in the West Bank city of Ramallah following protests against President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. AP

Associated Press
Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Israel is intensively lobbying countries around the world to oppose a U.N. resolution criticizing President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Israeli officials said Wednesday.

Thursday’s vote in the U.N. General Assembly will indicate whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has succeeded in his efforts to drum up new pockets of support in the developing world, as well as the extent to which Israel and the U.S. are – or are not – alone on the question of Jerusalem.

The Palestinians have turned to the General Assembly after the U.S. vetoed a resolution this week in the Security Council calling on Trump to rescind his decision. While General Assembly votes, unlike Security Council resolutions, are not legally binding, they serve as a barometer of international sentiment on key issues.

The U.S. and Israel are both placing great weight on Thursday’s vote. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley threatened U.N. member states with possible retaliation if they support the resolution, saying Trump takes the vote “personally” and the U.S. “will be taking names.” Critics accused the U.S. of intimidation.

Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Tzipi Hotovely, said that the U.S. and Israel were making “immense efforts” to block the resolution.

“We have a very, very simple message: Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years and the capital of Israel for almost 70 years,” she told Channel 10.

An Israeli Foreign Ministry official confirmed the government was making a “very vast” lobbying campaign to minimize the resolution’s impact.

He said Israel is trying to persuade allies to abstain or even vote against it. He also said that Israel has asked Jewish organizations in certain countries to lobby their governments on Israel’s behalf.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was discussing sensitive diplomatic contacts, refused to identify which countries Israel has approached or say how he expects them to vote. But he said he thinks the campaign will be “successful to a certain extent.”

In some ways, the vote is a test of Netanyahu’s foreign policy. In recent years, the Israeli leader has invested great efforts to look beyond Israel’s traditional allies in Washington and Western Europe and cultivate ties with developing nations that have traditionally been supportive of the Palestinians.

He has portrayed these efforts as both a savvy strategy aimed at opening new markets for Israeli technology exports, as well as countering what Israel says is a deep-seated bias against it at the United Nations.

This year alone, Netanyahu has visited China and hosted India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi. He also has attended two summits in Africa, meeting with a host of leaders from across the continent, and in September, became the first sitting Israeli prime minister to visit Latin America with stops in Argentina, Mexico and Colombia.

The votes cast by these countries will provide an indication about whether the diplomatic outreach is paying off.