As widely predicted, the great majority of UN Member States brushed off threats from Donald Trump and Nikki Haley and voted in an extraordinary session of the UN General Assembly against recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The vote was 128 in favour of the resolution (jointly sponsored by Turkey and war-racked Yemen) with 9 against (the US, Israel, Guatemala, Honduras, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Togo). Thirty five states abstained including Mexico and Canada, and 21 countries in effect abstained by declining to turn up for the vote. All the UN’s permanent members apart from the US – Russia, China, Britain and France – supported the resolution.
Extraordinary sessions of the UN General Assembly are very rare.
Normally when General Assembly sessions happen the US can normally count on a large majority on any issue in which it expresses a strong view.
The fact that this resolution carried by such a large majority and that the General Assembly convened in an extraordinary session in order to pass it against US wishes must therefore be treated as a significant diplomatic defeat for the US.
Having said this, the UN General Assembly lacks any means to enforce its decision, and the US has already made clear that it will simply disregard it. Though the extraordinary General Assembly session and the vote on the resolution have important symbolic value, they have nothing more.
The real damage done by US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is not this vote in the UN General Assembly. It is in the effect it will have on the climate of opinion in the Middle East.