Insights into Editorial: A capital mistake

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Insights into Editorial: A capital mistake


Global voice of dissent against the US President's decision:

Context:

On 6 December 2017, United States President announced that the United States would officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. He also stated that a new building for the U.S. embassy would be built in Jerusalem.

The decision was criticised by the majority of international leaders, including the European Union‘s foreign policy chief. A motion condemning the move was proposed in the United Nations Security Council, but was vetoed by the United States after a 14-1 vote. The United Nations General Assembly later passed a motion 128 to 9, with 35 abstentions, condemning US president’s announcement.

Never before in the history of the UN has a member state threatened, so publicly and so inelegantly, fellow member states with dire consequences if they did not fall in line with its position as the U.S.

Global voice of dissent against the US President’s decision:

Reacting to US recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, External Affairs Ministry said that India’s position is shaped by its views and interests, and not determined by any third country.

  • UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said, the holy city is the final-status issue that must be resolved through direct negotiations.
  • Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said, the decision tantamount to the United States abdicating its role as a peace mediator after a decade of sponsoring the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
  • Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Iran and Qatar have also denounced the US move.
  • Saudi Arabia called it unjustified and irresponsible, while France and the UK said they did not support the decision.
  • Hamas has called it a new uprising.
  • Russia also expressed serious concern over the US decision, saying the move threatened security in the region.

UN Security Council has convened a meeting in the wake of the US President’s decision.

Washington vetoes draft UN resolution rejecting US decision on Jerusalem

The United States has vetoed a draft UN resolution rejecting President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

  • The veto was cast by US Ambassador after all 14 other Security Council members backed the measure.
  • The veto highlighted Washington’s isolation over Mr Trump’s announcement that the US embassy will be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, effectively ignoring Palestinian claims on the city.
  • Many of the key US allies backed the measure saying that any decision on the status of Jerusalem has no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded.
  • Protests broke out across a number of Islamic countries after the US decision.

Egypt had put forward the draft resolution which had included a call on all countries to refrain from opening embassies in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem, a contentious issue

The Jerusalem issue is easily the most contentious one between the Palestinians and the Israelis. There are other issues such as borders, sharing of waters, refugees, security, and so on. None of them is amenable to easy answers, but the Jerusalem problem is the most sensitive. Any attempt to unilaterally change its status will kill the peace process.

U.S. President Donald Trump has obviously given priority to nourishing his core domestic constituency rather than worry about the concerns of his close allies, all of whom voted against the U.S., except Canada — though it did not side with its powerful neighbour and simply abstained.

Immediate Reaction

  • The immediate international reaction to Mr. Trump’s decision on Jerusalem was rather muted. Instead of condemning it, most voiced concern at the negative impact it would have on the peace process.
  • Even several Arab countries were not very vocal in their criticism. But soon, the Arab street asserted itself and forced the governments to take a more robust position.
  • Egypt seems to have played a lead role in this. It drafted a resolution which avoided mentioning the U.S. by name; that would have made it difficult for Britain and others to support the draft.
  • After the veto in the Security Council, Egypt and Turkey lost no time in bringing the matter to an emergency session of the General Assembly, where there is no veto.

India is among 128 countries voting in favour of UN General Assembly resolution

The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution declaring US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital null and void.

In all, 172 member states cast their votes. This means 21 countries did not vote at all. A few of them seem to have lost their right to vote because of arrears in payment of their mandatory dues to the organisation. The resolution passed with 128 votes in favour, a comfortable two-thirds majority. Nine voted against, and 35 abstained.

  • The resolution stressed that Jerusalem was a final status issue to be resolved through negotiations.  
  • The countries favouring the resolution also disregarded President Trump’s threat to cut off financial aid to those countries that backed the resolution.

Strongly supporting Trump’s decision US Ambassador to the UN warned that the US may strip funding of those countries that voted against its Jerusalem move.

  • India did not speak on the floor of the Assembly in New York, but after Mr. Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, it had said that its Palestinian position was independent and consistent.
  • It would be interesting to watch how the presidential threat works out in practice in the case of Pakistan which voted against the U.S.
  • Among India’s neighbours, Bhutan abstained. This might be explained either by its desire to demonstrate its independence from India or not to alienate the U.S., or perhaps a combination of the two.

Tilting the vote

India’s vote in favour of the resolution was in line with its traditional policy in favour of a negotiated settlement for Jerusalem as part of a larger two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. The government, no doubt, analysed the cost-benefit ratio.

  1. As for the Israel: India’s vote would have disappointed Israel and the U.S.
  • It has excellent relations with Israel, as ought to be.
  • But an objective analysis suggests that it is Israel which needs India more than the other way around.
  • India buys at least a third of Israel’s defence production. India is also very important to Israel for diplomatic and political reasons.
  1. As for the U.S., the interest is more mutual.
  • We need American support for a few things such as the sale of their defence platforms and membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
  • The U.S. has a huge interest in India’s markets; especially expensive military hardware.
  • There is also the China factor. But since Mr. Trump has very recently described India as a leading global power and expressed his readiness to support it in reaching that status, India can perhaps relax.
  • It is fortunate since it is not dependent on American aid, which can be cut off or reduced at will.

Conclusion

India supported to the creation of a Palestinian state according to UN Resolution 181 (1948). However, there had been some speculation that in the face of the U.S. threats over the resolution, as well as Mr. Netanyahu’s forthcoming visit to India in January, India would dilute its support to those principles in favour of close strategic ties with both nations.

In choosing to vote for the resolution at the UNGA, India has shown clarity of purpose that also aligns with the broad global consensus.