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Nikki Haley to UN: Embassy move is ‘right thing to do’

U.S. ambassador to United Nations says America will remember General Assembly vote condemning embassy move to Jerusalem.

Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations,

Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, on the floor of the General Assembly on Dec. 21, 2017. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

UNITED NATIONS — Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, said Thursday that the United States would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem regardless of what the UN’s member states say and that the General Assembly vote condemning the move would be remembered.

“America will put our embassy in Jerusalem,” Haley said during an emergency meeting of the General Assembly on Thursday that sought to declare “null and void” the announcement by President Donald Trump to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. “That is what the American people want us to do and it is the right thing to do.”

The 128-to-9 vote in the General Assembly followed an extraordinary session of the Security Council on Monday where the United States cast the sole vote in opposition to a resolution condemning Trump’s move to fulfill a campaign promise and formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by moving the American embassy there.

Even trusted U.S. allies of Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Ukraine and France were among the 14 nations who condemned the move as antithetical to peace in the region and a setback to the resolution of the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

They view the status of Jerusalem as critical because both Israel and a future Palestinian state recognize the city as their capital. Israel has occupied East Jerusalem, where the Palestinians hope to install their capital, since 1967.

Just how that capital would be configured is considered a “final status” issue to be decided within the context of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Haley said the transfer of the embassy to Jerusalem does not affect the prospect for peace through talks despite a surge in violence and anti-Israel and anti-U. S. demonstrations in the region since Trump announced the decision on Dec. 6. He cited U.S. law, passed in 1995 and signed by President Bill Clinton, that would move the embassy to Jerusalem.

Because of the sensitive nature of Jerusalem’s role in the pending conflict between Israel and Palestinians, previous U.S. presidents, including Trump as recently as last June, have invoked a waiver to that obligation by postponing the law’s implementation every six months.

Unlike the vote in the Security Council, the vote in the General Assembly is not legally binding and not subject to veto.

Some speakers called the apparent link to providing aid to the UN and poor countries to how they vote on the United States’ decisions an act of strong-arming.

“This is bullying,” said Turkey’s ambassador, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. “You can be strong but this doesn’t make you right . . . It is our sincere hope that this vote will pave the way for much needed peace in the Middle East.”

While the vote was overwhelmingly in favor of the resolution, dozens of countries in the 193-member General Assembly did not cast a vote, saying the resolution does little to advance the cause of peace even as they called the U.S. declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital a circumvention of the protocols of the peace process because the city’s status should be determined through negotiations.

Riyad Al-Maliki, Palestine’s foreign minister, said the United States’ actions compromise America’s position as a fair mediator in the talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

“It naturally affects the status of the United States as a mediator of peace because it has failed in the test of Jerusalem despite our warning and the warning of the entire world,” he said.

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