President Donald Trump’s threat to cut off US funding to countries that oppose his decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has sparked criticism.
Mr Trump went a step further than US Ambassador Nikki Haley who hinted in a tweet and a letter to most of the 193 UN member states on Tuesday that the US would retaliate against countries that vote in favour of a General Assembly resolution calling on the president to rescind his decision.
Mrs Haley said the president asked her to report back on countries “who voted against us” – and she stressed that the United States “will be taking names”.
At the start of a Cabinet meeting in Washington on Wednesday, with Mrs Haley sitting nearby, Mr Trump told reporters that Americans are tired of being taken advantage of and praised the US ambassador for sending the “right message” before the vote.
“For all these nations, they take our money and then vote against us. They take hundreds of millions of dollars, even billions of dollars and then they vote against us,” Mr Trump told reporters at the Cabinet meeting. “We’re watching those votes. Let them vote against us.” “We’ll save a lot. We don’t care,” he said, alluding to US aid.
Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, tweeted after Mr Trump’s comments: “Our government should not use its leadership at the UN to bully/blackmail other nations that stand for religious liberty and justice in Jerusalem. Justice is a core value of Christianity, Judaism and Islam.”
The Palestinians and their Arab and Islamic supporters sought the General Assembly vote after the United States on Monday vetoed a resolution supported by the 14 other UN Security Council members that would have required Mr Trump to rescind his declaration on Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and not move the US Embassy there.
Before Mrs Haley’s letter and tweet, Palestinian UN Ambassador Riyad Mansour told The Associated Press he expected “massive support” for the resolution in the General Assembly. Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki and Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu accused the US of intimidation.
They told reporters at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport on Wednesday before flying to New York to attend the General Assembly meeting that they believe UN member countries will ignore “pressure” from Mrs Haley. Al-Maliki said he believes that countries will vote with their conscience, and “they will vote for justice, and they will vote in favour of that resolution”.
“No honourable state would bow to such pressure,” Mr Cavusoglu said. “The world has changed. The belief that ’I am strong therefore I am right’ has changed. The world today is revolting against injustices.”
Ambassador Rhonda King of the tiny Caribbean nation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines sent Mrs Haley a letter saying that her country treasures the United States “as an enduring ally” but will vote against Mr Trump’s action.
“Sometimes, friends differ; on Jerusalem, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines respectfully differs from the USA; and so, too, do many of the staunchest friends and allies of the USA,” she wrote. “We gently urge yet again that the government of the USA rethink its position and approach on this entire matter.”
What impact the threats from Mr Trump and Mrs Haley will have remains to be seen. Some diplomats predict the resolution will be supported by at least 150 countries, and possibly 180 nations.
Israel has also been conducting a global lobbying campaign against the resolution, government officials said. The vote will show whether Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has succeeded in his efforts to drum up new pockets of support in the developing world.
Mr Netanyahu acknowledged the vote would likely pass by a wide margin but said Israel “completely rejects this vote before it is made.”