United States President Donald Trump has threatened to cut off American aid to any country, including those in the Caribbean, that votes for a resolution at the United Nations condemning his recent decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Trump’s statement, delivered at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday in which he exulted over the passage of a tax overhaul, followed a letter to UN General Assembly members from US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R Haley, in which she warned that the United States would take note of countries that voted in favour of the measure.
“All of these nations that take our money and then they vote against us at the Security Council or they vote against us, potentially, at the Assembly, they take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars and then they vote against us,” Trump said.
“Well, we’re watching those votes,” he added. “Let them vote against us; we’ll save a lot. We don’t care.”
But while Trump can hold up aid unilaterally as a form of leverage, cancelling it would require new legislation.
The bitter confrontation at the United Nations shows the lingering repercussions of Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem, which defied world opinion and upended decades of American policy.
While the decision has not unleashed the violence in the Arab capitals that some had feared, it has left the United States diplomatically isolated.
The UN General Assembly is scheduled to vote Thursday on a resolution that would express “deep regret at recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem,” according to a draft text.
It would urge other countries not to move their embassies there from Tel Aviv, the Times said. Earlier this month, Trump announced that the United States would relocate its embassy to Jerusalem, though State Department officials said a move was several years away because of the logistics of constructing a new embassy complex.
“As you consider your vote, I want you to know that the president and US take this vote personally,” said Haley in her letter.
“To be clear, we are not asking that other countries move their embassies to Jerusalem, though we think it would be appropriate,” she added. “We are simply asking that you acknowledge the historical friendship, partnership and support we have extended and respect our decision about our own embassy.”
In a Twitter post on Tuesday, Haley said of the vote in the General Assembly, “the US will be taking names”.
On Monday, the United States used a rare veto to block a resolution in the Security Council calling for the administration to reverse its decision on Jerusalem.
It said the vote on the resolution, which was drafted by Egypt, was 14 to 1, suggesting there could be a similarly wide margin against the United States in the 193-member General Assembly, of which all 14 members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) are members.
“People are tired of the United States — people that live here, our great citizens that love this country— they’re tired of this country being taken advantage of and we’re not going to be taken advantage of any longer,” said Trump on Wednesday.
Earlier this month, St Vincent and the Grenadines urged the United States “to refrain from recognising Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.” as Washington had prepared to do so.
“Any such recognition would imperil the internationally-agreed Two-State Solution, destabilise the Middle East region, and invalidate the important role of the United States as an honest broker and driver of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process,” said the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement.
The Ralph Gonsalves’ administration noted that, in 1980, in response to an Israeli attempt to declare Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel, the United Nations Security Council condemned that declaration as a violation of international law.
The Security Council stated that “all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem are null and void and must be rescinded forthwith,” and that such actions “constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East,” according to the St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “St Vincent and the Grenadines is, therefore, deeply concerned about any attempts to deviate from the settled parameters governing the delicate quest for peace between the State of Israel and the State of Palestine,” the statement said.
“There can be no more destabilizing and potentially incendiary deviation than unilateral declarations concerning the status of Jerusalem. The role of the United States as a valued facilitator and interlocutor would be irreparably compromised by any attempt to pre-empt the negotiating process by making unilateral pronouncements on final status issues,” it added.