Jerusalem Embassy Vote Draws First U.S. Veto at UN Under Trump

Nikki Haley, US permanent representative to the UN. Photo: AFP


U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley blocked a United Nations Security Council resolution asking countries not to establish diplomatic missions in Jerusalem, less than two weeks after President Donald Trump vowed to relocate his country’s embassy there from Tel Aviv.

“The United States will not be told by any country where we can put our embassy,” Haley said Monday after exercising the first U.S. veto since 2011. “The fact that this veto is being done in defense of American sovereignty and in defense of America’s role in the Middle East peace process is not a source of embarrassment to us.”

The other 14 members of the Security Council — including key U.S. allies France, Japan and the U.K. — voted in favor of the resolution introduced by Egypt. A resolution needs nine votes in favor, and no vetoes by permanent members China, France, Russia, the U.K. and the U.S., in order to pass.

“We disagree with the U.S. decision unilaterally to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel before a final-status agreement and to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem,” said Matthew Rycroft, the U.K.’s ambassador to the UN. “We regard East Jerusalem as part of the occupied Palestinian territories.”

It was the first U.S. veto at the global body since February 2011, when the Obama administration blocked a resolution condemning Israeli settlements. The Palestinians will now turn to the General Assembly for a vote of support. No nation has a veto in the General Assembly, though measures passed there typically have less authority than Security Council resolutions and aren’t seen as legally binding.

‘Out of Reach’

Palestinian leaders condemned the veto as a concession to Israel and announced plans to seek full membership in the United Nations.

“The United States tricked us,” in presenting itself as a fair mediator, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Palestinian television. “From now on, we will not accept the U.S. acting as a partner or a mediator.”

Trump cast his Dec. 6 announcement about the embassy as a move that would make a peace agreement more likely, despite almost universal rejection of the policy. In the same vein, Haley cast the embassy resolution on Monday as getting in the way of that process.

“What we witnessed here today in the Security Council is an insult. It won’t be forgotten,” Haley said. “This Security Council puts the negotiations between Israel and Palestinians further out of reach by injecting itself yet again in between the parties in the conflict.”

The one-page resolution had demanded “that all States comply with Security Council resolutions regarding the Holy City of Jerusalem, and not to recognize any actions or measures contrary to those resolutions.”

By forcing the U.S. to use its veto, the other countries highlighted the isolation Trump faces on the world stage, on the same day he presented his administration’s national security strategy. Last week the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which represents 57 Muslim nations, responded to Trump by recognizing East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

‘Candle of Truth’

The Security Council condemned Trump’s decision to declare Jerusalem as the capital by a vote of 14-1 on Dec. 8 but didn’t propose a resolution at the time.

The Egyptian resolution didn’t mention the U.S. or Trump by name but expressed “deep regret at recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem.”

Haley’s veto and speech did win praise from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“You lit a candle of truth, you dispelled the darkness,” Netanyahu said, making a reference to the Hanukkah story in a message to her that was shared with the media. “One defeated the many. Truth defeated lies.”

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