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With Vote, UN Sends Message to the US: Aid Is Not a Bargaining Chip

The United Nations took a stand today against US President Donald Trump's threat to withhold aid from countries that opposed his decision to recogize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

During a UN vote today, a host of the US' closest allies, including Britain, France, Germany, and Japan, all voted to chastise the US for its decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In total 128 countries voted for the resolution, 9 against, and 35 — including Australia and Canada — abstained, according to The New York Times.

Amid talk of a UN resolution to condemn the move earlier this week, Trump and the the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki R. Haley, warned countries that if they supported the resolution, they could risk being cut off from US foreign aid, according to the report. Haley said in a speech to the UN ahead of the vote that the US might reduce its contributions to the UN in the future.

“The President will be watching this vote carefully and has requested I report back on those countries who voted against us,”  she wrote in an email to General Assembly members earlier this week. “We will take note of each and every vote on this issue.”

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After a similar resolution appeared in the UN Security Council earlier this week (it was vetoed by the US), Trump lashed out at those countries that would vote to pass a resolution like it.

Read More: Palestinian Students and Teachers Are Skipping School Today to Protest Trump

“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 Wednesday.

“Well, we’re watching those votes,” he said. “Let them vote against us; we’ll save a lot. We don’t care.”

On Dec. 6, Trump announced that the US would recognize Jerusalem as the capital and move its embassy there, creating immediate regional unrest, including protests among Palestinians and rebukes from regional leaders like Turkish President Recep Erdogan.

Jerusalem’s place in Israeli and Palestinian society is long-contested. Israel has effectively occupied Jerusalem for decades, and the international community has historically recognized Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital.

The resolution passed today by the UN was symbolic and non-binding, but was significant in its defiance of US leadership. Haley said the vote was “null and void” that the vote “wouldn’t make any difference on the US’s decision,” and that the US will keep track of this defiance.

“The United States will remember this day, in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very right of exercising our right as a sovereign nation,” she said.

“We will remember it when we are called upon once again to make the world’s largest contribution to the United Nations,” she added. “And we will remember when so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.”

Global Citizen campaigns on ending extreme poverty and encourages all developed nations to prioritize foreign aid to countries in need. You can take action here.