UNITED NATIONS : The United States drew withering criticism over President Donald Trump’s decision to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel at an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council that brought into sharp focus U.S.’ international isolation.
“It (the decision) contradicts international law and U.N. Security Council resolutions,” Swedish Ambassador Olof Skoog told the 15-member Council. “Jerusalem is a final status issue and can therefore only be resolved through negotiations agreed between the parties.”
Ambassador Skoog noted that in 1947, the year before the state of Israel was established, the United Nations attributed special legal status as corpus separatum or a “separated body” to the city, which is holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians.
Until now, states have respected a 1980 council decision declaring attempts to change the status of Jerusalem as “null and void” and calling on all states to withdraw their diplomatic missions from the city.
British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said Jerusalem should ultimately be the shared capital of the Israeli and Palestinian states after a negotiated settlement.
“We therefore disagree with the U.S. decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and unilaterally to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel before a final status agreement,” Ambassador Rycroft said. “These decisions are unhelpful to the prospects for peace in the region, an aim I know all of us in the council remain committed to.”
More than half the council’s 15 members requested the open meeting, and delegations from other member states packed the chamber, indicating the importance Jerusalem’s status holds across the globe.
Bolivian Ambassador Sacha Llorenti offered the strongest words of condemnation.
“While there are two parties in this conflict, they are not on a level playing field,” Ambassador Llorenti said. “One is an occupying power, the other is an occupied people.
“One party builds illegal settlements… One party puts a seige on Gaza… One party takes over the water resources and farmlands of the other …. One of the parties engages in forced displacement. Bolivia opposes the unilateral decision of the United States to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”
The debate unfolded at a largely symbolic emergency meeting of the council in New York “no vote on a resolution was planned, as the US has veto power.
Chinese deputy permanent representative to the UN Wu Haitao said that any unilateral actions to change the status quo of Jerusalem will shock the long-term basis of political settlement on the matter.
Wu also stressed China’s stance and proposals, and support to the establishment of an independent, fully sovereign Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
But the US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said that in his reversal of US foreign policy, Trump was simply recognizing reality, since the Israeli government and parliament are located in Jerusalem. And she recalled that Trump insists his decision has no impact on whatever Israelis and Palestinians ultimately decide on boundaries and borders of the city, which is holy to Muslims, Christians and Jews.
“I understand the concerns that members have in calling this session, Haley added. Change is hard.”
The UN Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nikolay Mladenov, warned that the US decision could lead to a spiral of violence among the Palestinians and others angered by what Trump has done.
Indeed, clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces Friday left one person dead after calls for a â€œday of rageâ€ from the Islamist movement Hamas.
Other representatives, including France, Japan, Russia, and Senegal, also expressed their dismay at the decision, saying that it would lead to violence and potentially ruin chances at the peace process that President Trump claims to favor.
Egyptian Ambassador Amr Aboulatta said he expected the decision to have a “grave” impact on peace.
Egypt, under the leadership of Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, has developed a close relationship with the Trump administration, but the two have diverging views on this issue.
“This is a dangerous precedent that needs reflection,” cautioned Egyptian envoy Amr Aboulatta. “Such a unilateral decision is a violation of international legitimacy and thus, it has no impact on the legal status of the city of Jerusalem, since it is a city under occupation,” he added.
Israel annexed East Jerusalem after the 1967 war.
In a rare rebuke of the United States, the four European council members â€” Britain, France, Italy and Sweden â€” with Germany, read a joint statement to reporters after the meeting, reinforcing their disagreement with the Trump administration position and stating the move runs counter to security council resolutions and is unhelpful to the pursuit of peace.
Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour said the U.S. announcement was “extremely regrettable,” has heightened tensions and risks completely destabilizing the situation. He referred to several U.N. resolutions protecting Jerusalem’s status.
“No policy announcement can change that reality, nor can it negate the rights of the Palestinian people, per international law and the relevant U.N. resolutions,” he said.
Mansour told reporters that following meetings of the Arab League ministers Saturday in Cairo and next Wednesday of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Istanbul, he would return to the Security Council to ask members to adopt a resolution asking the U.S. to rescind its decision and to reaffirm the special status of Jerusalem.
The United States would certainly veto such a resolution, but politically the move could further internationally isolate the Trump administration.
Israel’s envoy Danny Danon welcomed the U.S. announcement saying it should serve as a “reality check” for the Palestinians and other nations.
“They can realize what’s always been true: that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is a critical and necessary step for peace,” Danon said. “They can learn that there will never be peace without Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”
Orignally published by NNI