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Aid recipient nations reject Trump's Jerusalem blackmail gambit

The UN General Assembly adopted by a decisive vote of 128 to 9 [Getty]

Date of publication: 22 December, 2017

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The biggest recipients of American aid, mainly Muslim or Arab countries rejected the threat, leaving Trump facing a dilemma as it plots a course forward for the Middle East.
Ahead of a dramatic vote at the United Nations on Thursday, the United States made an unprecedented threat to fellow members of the international community: those who vote against US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital risk diplomatic retaliation and losing American financial aid. 

But when the dust settled, the biggest recipients of American aid – most of them Muslim or Arab countries – rejected the threat, leaving the White House facing a tricky dilemma as it plots a course forward for the Middle East.

Key Arab allies, led by Saudi Arabia, all banded together against the US.

Yet for Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, there were some bright spots in the lopsided vote.

Some influential countries, mostly African and Latin American countries courted by Israel in recent years, stepped back from past support for the Palestinians by abstaining or skipping the vote altogether. Still, two of Netanyahu’s biggest targets, China and India, came down solidly in favour of Palestine.

These mixed trends could allow each side to claim a victory of sorts.

Key Arab allies, led by Saudi Arabia, all banded together against the US

Read more:

- Palestinian President Abbas welcomes UN vote on Jerusalem

- 'This vote will be remembered': UN votes 128-9 to reject US decision on Jerusalem

- Erdogan urges world 'not to be bought' by Trump's dollars in Jerusalem vote

- Netanyahu brands UN as 'house of lies' ahead of Jerusalem vote

- Trump threatens to punish countries defying his Jerusalem stance

With the exception of Israel, the top recipients of international aid are Muslim, Arab or African countries, who refused to succumb to Trump’s threats of cutting aid should they vote against the US consensus.

Afghanistan, Egypt, Jordan and Pakistan all voted to back the resolution proposed by Palestine, as did African countries Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and South Africa. In addition to Israel, the only member of the top 10 aid recipients not to support the Palestinians was Kenya, a close Israeli ally that skipped the vote.

The Arab world voted across the board with the Palestinians, an expected move given the importance of Jerusalem and the Palestinian cause to the Arab public.

Nonetheless, the vote could complicate attempts by the US to rally support for an expected region-wide peace plan it says is in the works.

Palestine praised the lopsided majority in their favour, saying it shows “once again that the just Palestinian cause enjoys the support of (the) international community.”

But in a possible cause for concern, the level of support was slightly less than a 2012 landmark vote in the General Assembly to recognise Palestine as a non-member state. In that vote, 138 nations supported the Palestinians, compared to 128 on Thursday.

Global Israeli lobbying

Netanyahu has made significant outreach efforts in recent years to countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America in a bid to soften support for Palestine at the UN. Those efforts showed some signs of success. After the vote, Netanyahu said he appreciated the growing number of countries that “refused to participate in this theatre of the absurd.”

Mexico and Argentina, countries that Netanyahu visited earlier this year, both shifted from past support for Palestine to abstentions on Thursday. Two Latin American countries, Guatemala and Honduras, even voted against Thursday’s measure.

While Kenya skipped the General Assembly vote, Uganda and South Sudan – African countries courted by Netanyahu – also dropped their past support for the Palestinians and abstained.

But a possible concern for Israel could be the apparent support by two countries with poor human rights record – Myanmar, which skipped the vote, and the Philippines, which abstained. Both countries voted in support of Palestine in 2012.

The Indian and Chinese votes also exposed the limits of Netanyahu’s outreach.

While Kenya skipped the General Assembly vote, Uganda and South Sudan – African countries courted by Netanyahu – also dropped their past support for the Palestinians and abstained

Whither Europe?

As the US prepares a new Mideast peace push, Thursday’s vote at the General Assembly exposed deep divisions with Europe. The three most important countries in Europe – Britain, France and Germany – all voted against the US on Thursday. That could signal trouble if the US seeks European support for its peace plan down the road.

Other European countries with close ties to Israel, including Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic – all with nationalist governments – abstained in the vote.

These divisions within Europe could complicate attempts by the European Union to formulate a joint position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict moving forward.

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