The Jerusalem Votes at the UN

23 Dec



What struck me as the most significant dimension of the Jerusalem votes in the Security Council and General Assembly has been oddly overlooked by most commentary in the media. The public discourse has, of course, been correct to identify the isolation of the United States with respect to the rest of the world as well as regarding the majority position as a defiant rejection of Trump’s leadership and bullying tactics. Although as some have noted, without the bullying by Ambassador Haley (including, I will report yes votes to the president; those that vote for the resolution will not receive economic assistance in the future; we are watching; “America will remember this day;” “the vote will make a difference on how Americans look at the UN.”), there might been as many as 150 positive votes for the resolution instead of 128, with fewer abstentions (35) and fewer absences from the vote (21).


Nevertheless, 128-9 is a clear expression of an overwhelming moral and legal sentiment, and deserves to be respected by any government that values the role of the General Assembly as the arbiter of legitimacy with respect to sensitive global issues. Although far weaker and more subject to geopolitical manipulation than is desirable, these main political organs of the UN provide the best guide that currently exists as to what global policy should be if the global and human interest is to be protected, and not merely an array of national interests and their multilateral aggregation to achieve cooperative results.


What this discussion glosses over in this instance without stopping to observe its significance is the degree to which issues of substance prevailed over matters of geopolitical alignment. Not one of America’s closest allies (UK, France, Germany, and Japan) heeded the fervent arguments and pleas of Haley and Trump. Beyond this, every important country in the world backed the General Assembly Resolution on December 21, 2017 regardless of geography or political orientation (China, Russia, India, Brazil, Turkey, India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran). This unanimity enhances the quality of the consensus supportive of the resolution repudiating Trump’s arrogant decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as ‘null and void.’ Such an impression is strengthened by listing the nine governments that voted against the resolution (Guatemala, Honduras, Marshall Islands, Israel, Miscronesia, Nauru, Palau, Togo, and the U.S.).


Should these striking results be interpreted as the demise, or at least twilight, of geopolitics? Any such speculation would be wildly premature. What seems to have swayed many governments in this case is the negative fallout expected to follow from Trump’s unilateralism that disregards decades of international practice and agreement about the status and treatment of Jerusalem, as well as the gratuitous neglect of Palestinian rights and aspirations by taking such an initiative without even pretending to take account of Palestinian grievances. In this regard, Trump’s poor international reputation as a result of pulling out of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, decertification of the Nuclear Agreement with Iran, and withdrawal from negotiations to fashion an agreed approach to the global migration crisis undoubtedly help tip the scales on the Jerusalem resolution, especially among European governments. Trump’s unpopular implementation of his diplomacy of ‘America, First’ is arguably morphing into the disturbing perception of ‘America, Last’ or the United States as ‘rogue superpower.’ Consciously or not, the UN vote was a distress signal directed at Washington by friends and adversaries alike, but as near as can be told, it will be disregarded or angrily rebuffed by the White House and its spokespersons unless they decide to pass over these happenings in silence.


As has been observed, the Jerusalem decision was not part of a carefully crafted international approach to the Israel/Palestine struggle. It seemed mainly to be a payoff to domestic support groups of Trump’s presidential campaign in the United States (large pro-Israeli donors and Christian Evangelists wedded to a (mis)reading of the Book of Revelations), as well as a further display of post-Obama affection for Bibi Netanyahu. Apparently, for Trump being adored in Tel Aviv seems worth being discredited with allies and leading states throughout the rest of the world. As for the threatened major aid recipients (Afghanistan, Egypt, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and South Africa; Kenya was absent during the vote); it was impressive that all of these states ignored the threat and voted for the resolution. If Washington follows through on withholding aid it will certainly not serve America’s strategic interests as previously understood, particularly in the Middle East, but also in Africa. Yet if it fails to carry its threat, its diplomatic posture will be seen as that of a novice poker player whose untimely bluff has been called.


There is also the question of ‘what next?’ Will the Jerusalem resolution be remembered as a moment in time to be superseded by contrary behavioral trends? In this regard, the U.S. now has its own chance to exhibit defiance and disrespect by quickly and ostentatiously moving its embassy to Jerusalem, which will of course give rise to further anger. The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has already seized the occasion to reassert its prominence in the Muslim world, first by co-sponsoring (with Yemen) the resolution, and then by explicitly calling on the U.S. Government to rescind its decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. I would darkly imagine that the Trump presidency would opt for World War III before it backed down on Jerusalem.


As widely reported, the Jerusalem resolution is symbolic in nature, and yet it does have serious political consequences for all relevant political actors. Does it clear a political space for the European Union to play a central role in seeking to revive a diplomatic approach on a more balanced basis than what could have been expected from Washington? How does the U.S. Government negotiate the fine line between disregarding the resolution and harming its foreign policy objectives in the Middle East? How unyielding should the Palestinian Authority be about insisting on a parallel recognition of East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine before it agrees to participate in negotiations with Israel? Will Turkey seek further steps at the UN and elsewhere to back up the resolution, including possibly fashioning realignments throughout the Middle East? Will the second tier of officials in the Trump Administration create pressure to create a foreign policy that more closely reflects U.S. national interests by taking better account of the many dimensions (digital, economic, security) of global integration?

21 Responses to “The Jerusalem Votes at the UN”

  1. Fred Skolnik December 23, 2017 at 11:48 am #

    A 128-9 vote in the General Assembly is certainly not an expression of moral or legal sentiment. As Abba Eban once pointed out, the Arabs could get a resolution passed there asserting that the Earth is flat. The General Assembly is a political body passing resolutions that serve the perceived interests of its members. As I mentioned, the diplomats of all these countries present their credentials in Jerusalem with no qualms whatsoever. That is the reality. The reality for the Palestinians is that they are not going to get a state until they sit down and negotiate one with Israel along the reasonable lines that I have delineated a dozen times.

  2. truthaholics December 23, 2017 at 5:29 pm #

    Reblogged this on | truthaholics and commented:
    In the aftermath of the loss of life in both world wars, the whole point of the UN was and is to outlaw unilateral conquest of any territory and replace it with rule of international law via sovereignty of member states and the right to self-determination for indigenous people. Therefore, the UN’s dismal and abject failure to accommodate the Palestinians when it recognised the colonial enterprise calling itself Israel remains a festering sore to this day exacerbated by the pathetic status of Occupied Jerusalem in its eyes. The salt being rubbed into it is Israel’s relentless ethnic-cleansing and land-thievery (settlement expansionism) together with American exceptionalism to rule of law, these being existential threats of such magnitude that they have brought the entire functioning of the UN into disrepute. It’s high time to do the right thing by Palestine and recognise it, and enforce the Right of Return for the displaced refugees who still languish STATELESS in refugee camps across the region (ROR), then dump the dollar too for good measure, in our increasingly multi-polar world.

    • Mike 71 January 17, 2018 at 5:31 pm #

      If the purpose of the U.N. is to reduce war casualties, it would recognize in Israelis, an “inherent right to individual or collective self-defense,” as provided all other U.N. nation-state members pursuant to Article 51 of the U.N. Charter. Curiously, the U.N. denies that right to a nation-state member, while conferring it on a Palestinian non-state entity. In 1967, Israel prevailed in a “defensive war of necessity” as recognized under Article 51, against three Arab armies. Since then, two of those nations made peace with Israel resolving territorial issues, while the third has degenerated into civil war. The Palestinians, per the founding documents of both the P.L.O. and Hamas, have explicitly rejected the two-state solution, Under the International Law doctrine of Uti Possidetis, (Latin: as you possess, you may continue to possess), Israel as the victorious belligerent of the 1967 “Six Day War,” may retain captured land until possession is modified by treaty. See:

      As long as the Palestinians refuse to negotiate a solution to the conflict, the so-called “occupation” of disputed lands is certain to continue, if not become permanent.

      • roberthstiver January 18, 2018 at 10:28 am #

        You, Mike 71, are so incredibly off base that it undoubtedly is pointless for me even to attempt a proper rebuttal. If you choose, you (and other readers here) might go to this link — — click on the ‘Checkpoints…by Rawan Yaghi’ link, and read 14 or so pages of a human narrative (as opposed to a Zionist narrative/enterprise of inhumanity and Satanism). I can’t expect you to feel the merest frisson of understanding or empathy, Mike 71, but if you do please let us know. If you don’t, just go away, please.

      • Mike 71 January 18, 2018 at 10:50 pm #

        Yes, I do have some sympathy for the average Palestinian who must suffer as a consequence of their leadership’s resort to terrorist activities. Actions do have consequences; in particular adverse actions have adverse consequences! At one time Palestinians could freely visit Israel for shopping and entertainment, but that all changed during the 2000-2005 “Second Intifada,” when suicide bombers struck Israeli buses and restaurants, killing thousands of civilians. Perhaps, you have no sympathy for those victims, but I do. Both Palestinians and Israelis suffer and lose their lives due to the Palestinian leadership’s greedy, arrogant, self-centered sense of entitlement to “all the land between the river (Jordan) and the sea (Mediterranean),” which is the objective inscribed in the founding documents of both the P.L.O. and Hamas. If UNGAR 181, providing for two states, “one Arab and one Jewish” is not binding on the Palestinians, neither is it binding on the Israelis! It is the peak of hypocrisy for the Palestinians to argue in the U.N. that UNGAR 181 affords them the right to statehood, while granting the Israelis nothing.

        In the article you cited, it mentions thousands of Palestinians who either fled, or were expelled during the 1948 Israeli War of Independence, but totally ignore the reality that a like number of Jews were expelled from Algiers, Aleppo, Beirut, Baghdad, Cairo, Damascus and other Arab cities where they had lived for centuries. Where is their “Right of Return?” Israel took them in and granted them citizenship and a homeland, without any U.N. financial assistance, or refugee programs. Meanwhile, Palestinians cry with crocodile tears about so-called “Apartheid,” but remain silent when Iraq strips them of citizenship rights granted by Saddam Hussein, which is the real “Apartheid!” See:–iraq-palestinians/

        Spare us your hypocrisy, flawed reasoning and double standards; realize that greed and arrogance has led to the Palestinians’ current predicament. When Palestinians accept the concept of two stats for two peoples, the conflict will cease. Until then, nothing is likely to change!

      • roberthstiver January 20, 2018 at 3:02 pm #

        Your follow-on comment of 1/18 — for which I couldn’t find a “REPLY” tab — contains this statement: “…greed and arrogance has (sic) led to the Palestinians’ current predicament.” Actually, no: militant-cum-political Zionists invading from Europe and then from Russia and Brooklyn and other sundry points on the compass led to the Palestinians’ current and unceasing predicament.

        Other diversionary insertions by you are typical of the Zionist modus operandi.

  3. roberthstiver December 24, 2017 at 1:40 am #

    Thank you, Professor/Dr. Falk, for your intelligent and reasoned analysis of this issue. The “issue,” of course, is ultimately Palestine (Illegally Occupied Palestine) and the injustice and myriad crimes and indignities endlessly levied on its land and people by the satanic forces of militant/political Zionism. Yes: Palestine Is Still THE Issue!

    (In my growing dementia, I might not have had the energy and focus to place even the above few words on this blog…but F Skolnik must not be the sole commenter; thus, I forced myself to muster the strength to provide a counter to what I can only, somewhat civilly, term his awfulness.)

    • Richard Falk December 24, 2017 at 11:45 am #

      It hardly reads like dementia; I prefer to treat my lapses as ‘senior moments’!

      In my view, the ultimate issue is the Zionist resolve to have a Jewish state in a Palestinian country,
      which led directly to the narrative combining ethnic cleansing and apartheid. Ending the occupation would
      still leave the majority of Palestinians subjugated (refugees, involuntary exiles, discriminated minority in
      their own country).

      Season’s greetings,


    • Laurie Knightly December 24, 2017 at 1:08 pm #

      There is some validity here that perhaps is not being appreciated. The Palestinians have not used theologized folklore in there legitimate land claim. UN Resolution 181 refers to the Palestine Mandate – not an Israel Mandate – the latter being non existent in either law, ethics, nor history. A claim of ‘flat earth’ would be rather harmless compared to the flat fabrications so cleverly promulgated in what was described as partition and was always Eretz – albeit a fraud in the original.

      And let’s cut that ‘senior moment’ stuff. Humans have a cognitive reserve and are more likely not paying attention or have problems of loneliness, anxiety, depression, etc. To suggest an inevitability is neither accurate nor considerate.

      • Richard Falk December 24, 2017 at 1:56 pm #


        I was being frivolous, bit I suppose that is not enough of an excuse. Holiday greetings. Richard

      • Laurie Knightly December 24, 2017 at 3:45 pm #

        Just when I was repudiating age denigration, I have no ‘their’ there in my 2nd sentence and Falk says ‘bit I suppose’ below. Try to imagine all the info that is packed into one’s brain during an average life expectancy – and no delete button. I’ve noted tangible moral frames of reference frequently stated here and that feels good/hopeful. I even include Richard’s previous recommendation which wished one a ‘satisfying’ holiday. My favorite of the good wishes, I’ve heard.

        Palestine will live again when Muslims develop unity and a secular legal system based on justice instead of patrimony. If Mohammed had wanted to designate a successor, he would have done so. They need 95 theses and some enlightenment.

  4. Kata Fisher December 24, 2017 at 3:10 pm #

    Another thing that UN should get busy at in speed of light! – as accursed in satanic seals go on, and never stop … between wickednes and supidity — what a glamourfull human reality. What a joke upon the wicked. They should have learned from what they have done before. Accursed, in satanic seals … have and will have upon them selfs the bad faith of accursed fig-tree. Desendance of the Ancient Church can and will let them be accursed! In satanic seals, they are narcistic, sadistic Psycopaths! What a joy to observe them straight out Psyhotic-bastards of hell. Jingle-bells! 🌍🌸

  5. Beau Oolayforos December 24, 2017 at 3:46 pm #

    Dear Professor Falk,

    You do not mention, though I’m sure you’re aware, that Turkey has gone somewhat further in support of the Palestinians, as they propose to locate their embassy in East Jerusalem. That, along with friend and foe alike backing the resolution, and the prospect of the EU possibly brokering future peace negotiations, all are (to me) hopeful signs.

    • criminal zionist jews has no connection to Palestine December 26, 2017 at 7:07 am #

      You are so fooooooooooooooooool

      Turkey from the first day supported the zionist dick and still does idiot.
      Erdugan is a war criminal and like zionist pimp is a pagthological liar. He does not give a dmab about Palestinias, only to use them and serve his criminal masters, zionist jews like Putin. I hope Arabs don’t be a fool again

  6. Dr Dayan Jayatilleka December 25, 2017 at 11:27 am #

    Dear Richard, while the UNGA vote should be a cause for rejoicing, and an excellent example of what you have termed ‘legitimacy wars’, is it not possible that US allies supported the resolution because they are aware that Trump’s decision could deal a death blow to the Palestinian ‘moderates’, and reinforce the credibility of the line of Hezbollah and of Iran since 1979?

    Is the UN resolution at least partly an attempt to shore up the PLO and President Abbas, preempting further radicalization?

    This is not necessarily a bad thing, given the likely character of radicalization, but it doesn’t seem to have surfaced in analyses.

  7. Fred Skolnik December 26, 2017 at 1:44 pm #

    It is obvious that the moment Abu Mazen says, “All right, I’m ready to return to the negotiations with no prior conditions,” Israel will resume the negotiations. This is what has been stated publicly by Netanyahu a dozen times. Each side will then present what are probably its maximal positions and demands, and that is what will be negotiated in a protracted process. If a settlement is reached, it will probably take 3-5 years to implement it, that is, dismantle the settlements within the boundaries of the new Palestinian state. That is the reality. If Abu Mazen refuses to resume negotiations, things will remain as they are. As long as the Palestinians do nothing, Israel will do nothing. The moment they riot, murder Israelis, fire rockets, Israel will respond accordingly. That is also the reality. All the rest is empty talk, and if anyone listened to it, the result would be another century of Palestinian misery. I see also that once again the fiction is being repeated here that the Zionist claim to sovereignty was based on a biblical mandate. For what I hope is the last time, allow me to repeat that the Zionist claim, put forward by secular Jews, is not based on a biblical mandate but on the historical fact that the language, culture, religion and national identity of the Jewish people were created in the Land of Israel, which is not the case with the Arabs, who came out of the Arabian Desert in the 7th century and conquered it.

    • Richard Falk December 26, 2017 at 5:21 pm #

      Fred: I know these are your sentiments, but they are not shared by many outside
      your country. To take Netanyahu at his word seems naive beyond credibility, given
      his record and inconsistent internal/external discourse. And why should the PA agree
      to negotiations while Israel continues to expand settlements that the rest of the world
      considers unlawful? same with regard to Jerusalem–its annexation, enlargement, etc. in
      defiance of a near universal consensus. The fact that Trump seemingly endorses such defiance
      does not help Israel, and isolates the United States. Not one important country in the world,
      other than Israel, voted against the UNGA resolution condemning the Trump recognition of Jerusalem
      as the Israeli capital.
      As for the historicizing of the Jewish/Zionist claim to the territory ‘land of Israel’ is even as
      reformulated outside the scope of international law for the past century. The rights of self-determination
      belong exclusively to the majority resident population. The fact that the PLO/PNC back in 1988 agreed
      to accept normalization with Israel behind the 1967 borders was a huge concession, and one, significantly,
      that Israel ignored. Zionist maximalism has never wanted a settlement that involved a reasonable political
      compromise, and its insistence on a Jewish state for the Jewish people is completely dismissive of the
      dignity and rights of the Palestinian minority.
      I hope you will engage in some way other than merely dismissing these arguments or telling me that I am hurting
      the Palestinians and you are looking our for their wellbeing.

      Best for 2018, Richard

  8. Israel Should be Suspended from the UN Until It Complies with UNSCR 2334 December 28, 2017 at 7:23 am #

    United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 was adopted on 23 December 2016. It concerns the Israeli settlements in “Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem”. The resolution passed in a 14–0 vote by members of the U.N. Security Council (UNSC). Four members with United Nations Security Council veto power, China, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom, voted for the resolution, but the United States abstained.

    The resolution states that Israel’s settlement activity constitutes a “flagrant violation” of international law and has “no legal validity”. It demands that Israel stop such activity and fulfill its obligations as an occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

    It was the first UNSC resolution to pass regarding Israel and the Palestine territories since 2009, and the first to address the issue of Israeli settlements with such specificity since Resolution 465 in 1980.

    Israel must fuck off from Golan land, the stolen land of Syria, immediately. We will get back all the stolen lands from the criminal tribe. We will see who is correct.

  9. Fred Skolnik December 28, 2017 at 8:35 am #

    Thank you for your reply. I think you are grossly misreading how Netanyahu would respond to a statement by Abu Mazen that he is prepared to renew negotiations. But the best way to find out is to call his bluff. In any case, Abu Mazen apparently does not share your assessment of Netanyahu’s willingness to resume negotiations.

    If you set such great score by “almost universal consensus,” then please note that such consensus also existed with regard to the Jewish claim to statehood at a time when around 500,000 people inhabited a land area that today accommodates well over 10 million people and the Arabs living in the Land of Israel thought of themselves as inhabiting Greater or Southern Syria and as an integral and indistinguishable part of the Arab nation with nothing that resembled a Palestinian national identity. The Arab claim to “everything” was explicitly based on the fact of conquest in the name of Allah just as it was in Spain and Persia. And don’t forget that the European conquerors of America greatly outnumbered the American Indians in 1776. And yet I am sure you would have supported a partition plan giving them a sovereign state and would have screamed bloody murder if the Americans had threatened to destroy it.

    Settlement “expansion” in terms of area is truly negligible and no new settlements have been established since the early 1990s. Netanyahu is absolutely right. It is not an issue, since most will remain within Israel’e new borders in a negotiated land swap involving not much more than 5% of West Bank territory.

    Best wishes for the New Year.

    • Gene Schulman December 28, 2017 at 11:44 pm #

      The conclusions in the above argument do not follow from its premises. That is called a non-sequitur!

      May the new year be filled with peace and joy, for ALL peoples. (A hope, without optimism.)


  1. Il voto all’ONU su Gerusalemme - December 25, 2017

    […] Originale: […]

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