Israel, US team up to block UN vote on Jerusalem

Jerusalem: Israel is intensively lobbying countries around the world to oppose a UN resolution criticising President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Israeli officials said.

Thursday’s vote in the UN 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 US are or are not alone on the question of Jerusalem.

The Palestinians have turned to the General Assembly after the US 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 US and Israel are both placing great weight on Thursday’s vote. US Ambassador Nikki Haley threatened UN member states with possible retaliation if they support the resolution, saying Trump takes the vote “personally” and the US “will be taking names.” Critics accused the US of intimidation.

Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Tzipi Hotovely, said that the US 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 minimise 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 organisations 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.

Votes by other key allies with traditionally close ties to Israel, including Germany, Britain, Australia, Canada and smaller European countries like the Netherlands, Poland and Hungary, could also provide valuable indicators about support for the US-Israeli approach.

Many of these countries either abstained or opposed a landmark 2012 vote in the General Assembly that recognised Palestine with upgraded status as a nonmember state.

The Israeli official said a single vote at the UN on Thursday would not determine the success of Israel’s diplomatic outreach. But he said “this is certainly part of it.”

A draft of the UN resolution obtained by The Associated Press calls for affirming that any actions that “have altered the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem” have no legal effect and must be rescinded.