Why countries supported, opposed and abstained the UNGA resolution: Decoding the voting pattern
“The recent emergency United Nations General Assembly session summoned to mandate on President Trump’s decision to shift the American Embassy to Jerusalem resulted in another toothless non-binding resolution against Israel. It is neither new nor surprising on seeing the UNGA votes on Israel – considering the U.S. veto at the UNSC, the UNGA has always been a popular forum for passing anti-Israel resolutions in the past. But, this time the resolution explicitly and strategically distanced many countries from the United States in its condemnation of President Trump’s decision. Despite the threats from President Trump and his UN ambassador Nikki Haley, most countries voted against Washington. If the U.S. wants to really establish peace in Jerusalem, it is better they drop the plans to cut funds and work constructively in talks. Only diplomacy and negotiations, not bullying and hatred, can establish peace in the world especially in the Middle East.” – Shiva Shankar Pandian*
The vote is in– 65 countries refused to condemn the United States and 128 voted against us. Final vote tally to follow.
— Nikki Haley (@nikkihaley) December 21, 2017
Despite the caveats torpedoed by Ambassador Nikki Haley and President Trump, the U.N General Assembly passed a resolution on December 21 condemning President Trump’s Jerusalem decision making it as the capital of Israel.
.@USUN Ambassador Nikki Haley: Given the chance to vote again on Resolution 2234, I can say with complete confidence that the United States would vote no; we would exercise our veto power. pic.twitter.com/HZQ2YcjdVs
— Department of State (@StateDept) December 18, 2017
“At the UN we’re always asked to do more & give more. So, when we make a decision, at the will of the American people, about where to locate OUR embassy, we don’t expect those we’ve helped to target us. On Thursday there’ll be a vote criticizing our choice. The US will be taking names” tweeted Ambassador Haley.
“As you consider your vote, I encourage you to know the president and the US take this vote personally….The president will be watching this vote carefully and has requested I report back on those who voted against us,” she added.
At the UN we're always asked to do more & give more. So, when we make a decision, at the will of the American ppl, abt where to locate OUR embassy, we don't expect those we've helped to target us. On Thurs there'll be a vote criticizing our choice. The US will be taking names. pic.twitter.com/ZsusB8Hqt4
— Nikki Haley (@nikkihaley) December 19, 2017
On his part the day prior voting President Trump made threats to cut American funding as he endorsed the statements of Ambassador Haley, who had sent members of the U.N a letter cautioning that the U.S. would be “taking names” of those who oppose it.
These threats were intensified due to the fury in Washington’s quarters over Monday’s UNSC vote, in which the U.S. was isolated in a 14-1 vote urging President Trump to withdraw his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. As expected the U.S. exercised its veto to barricade the resolution. This is the first U.S. veto since 2011, which was by the then Obama administration over the Israeli settlement issue.
“The United States will not be told by any country where we can put our embassy,” Haley said. “The fact that this veto is being done in defence of American sovereignty and in defence of America’s role in the Middle East peace process is not a source of embarrassment to us” Haley added.
RT @USUN: “America will put our embassy in #Jerusalem…No vote in the United Nations will make any difference on that. But this vote will make a difference on how Americans look at the @UN, and on how we look at countries who disrespect us in the UN.” pic.twitter.com/UBLFXVyouY
— Nikki Haley (@nikkihaley) December 21, 2017
Soon after the U.S. vetoed the UNSC resolution, Egypt called for a voting at the General Assembly where the U.S cannot veto, as this requires a simple majority to counter the motion. Which is unlikely for the U.S in this case.
Egypt calling for a vote in U.N General Assembly
It was quite surprising that Egypt called for the vote. According to International Institute for Strategic Studies, Cairo receives 20-25% of its total military budget from the U.S. This was technically hiked after Cairo signed a peace deal with Israel in 1979.
Will Washington cut off the aid to Egypt’s military is a million dollar question. The Military runs the country since the 2013 coup, and Egypt is strategically very important to the U.S. in the region, which can’t be put at risk.
Not only Egypt, many countries like Afghanistan, Jordan, Iraq, Ukraine, and Pakistan who voted against the U.S. receive a significant military assistance in form of aid. And the U.S. cannot blindly cut off the aids as these countries are key to Washington’s national and security interests. Apart from Military, there are other aids like USAID and Trade deals, which are expected be a target for cuts.
Regardless of this voting Washington was already working on plans to cut foreign assistance, Trump has long been sceptic and cynic on foreign aid, claiming the U.S. is being taken for granted.
Unlike many Middle East countries, African nations like Kenya, Nigeria, DRC and South Sudan doesn’t face any internal pressure to vote against or condemn the U.S. move, also these countries have fewer stakes involved in Palestine.
In addition, these African countries, unlike the Middle East and Northern Africa receives comparatively less in form of military aids, they have other sources like NGOs, World Bank, and European countries. If the U.S. dares to cut despite these factors, it would have to heed at least to its rival, China. Beijing is already poised to replace Washington as the primary donor for much of the developing world particularly it’s a well-known fact that Beijing is much keen to increase its footprint and influence on the African continent. Any such U.S. retreat from Africa will be a huge bonus to the investment-mongering China. So Trump threats are unlikely to happen or if it does happen, it will be only insignificant in effect.
The nine “nay” voters
We have clear reasons for why these countries including allies voted against the U.S., however, we overlook the nays, those nine countries who voted against the resolution supporting the U.S.
Guatemala, Honduras, Togo, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru and Palau are the ones. Speaking of which it is really hard to predict why these small countries voted in such a pattern. Many of these including Nauru has voted against Israel in the past. In addition, we did not hear any press release from these countries supporting Trump’s decision. Perhaps, they would have calculated in the way that, if Trump supposedly wants to teach the world the consequences of not voting for him, he may cut the funds to the small and diplomatically insignificant nations, as he cannot afford to lose the strategic hold on significant nations. But nothing of sure cannot be said.
The thirty-five abstainers
Thirty-five countries abstained, including U.S. allies Canada and Australia.
Countries like Jamaica where they don’t have internal pressure to have a say on the issue felt it strategic to abstain from voting instead of taking sides and making enemies. This happened to be a complicated voting if there wasn’t a big domestic cost of abstaining many would have chosen to do so.
Canada was the most significant abstainer, by doing, it departed from its preceding voting pattern on supporting U.S. decisions. Under Prime Minister Harper, who was in office nearly a decade usually voted in favour of U.S. But this time it is Trudeau.
Finally, if the U.S. wants to really establish peace in Jerusalem, it is better they drop the plans to cut funds and work constructively in talks. Only diplomacy and negotiations, not bullying and hatred, can establish peace in the world especially the Middle East. For time being the U.S. is most likely to opt for a cool-off period if not may get into talks with the countries who voted against the U.S.
Also, read: Jerusalem: Reflection of world politics in Middle East
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Kootneeti Team