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U.N. Draft Resolution Criticizes Decision To Move U.S. Embassy To Jerusalem


There's a showdown coming at the U.N. General Assembly today. It's all about President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. That move changed U.S. policy that had held that the status of the city should be left up to peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. Israel celebrated President Trump's decision, most of the world objected, which is why today the U.N. is going to vote on whether to denounce the United States for making this move. President Trump says any country that votes to condemn the U.S. could see its aid cut.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars, and then they vote against us. Well, we're watching those votes. Let them vote against us. We'll save a lot. We don't care.

MARTIN: We're joined now by NPR's Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem. Daniel, today's vote is the climax, really, of a few days of U.N. votes on this issue. Remind us how we got to this point.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: On Monday, every single nation in the U.N. Security Council except for the U.S. voted in favor of a resolution that would deem President Trump's Jerusalem proclamation as null and void. And the U.S. vetoed that resolution. There were some other U.N. votes for Palestinian rights. And now today there's an emergency session of the U.N. General Assembly where countries get a chance to vote on the same resolution about Jerusalem that the U.S. vetoed in the Security Council.

MARTIN: So the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, said that she was going to, quote, "take names" when the General Assembly votes today. Kind of ominous words making it clear that the U.S. is paying attention, as President Trump indicated, because he said that any country that votes against the U.S. on this could lose aid. Is that likely to change anyone's behavior, any votes today?

ESTRIN: Well, Pakistan, for instance, which gets a lot of U.S. aid, its foreign office tells NPR that Pakistan will vote in favor of the resolution. And Palestinian officials have been courting votes on this, and they say that they do expect the vast majority of countries to vote for it. Here's what Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi told me.

HANAN ASHRAWI: The browbeating and the bullying and the very cheap blackmail exercised by President Trump and Nikki Haley will backfire because you don't buy people. You don't buy countries. There are some things that are not for sale.


ESTRIN: Also, there...

MARTIN: Yeah, go ahead.

ESTRIN: Yeah, I want to also mention that the resolution doesn't mention the U.S. by name. So it could give some countries some plausible deniability that, you know, they're not voting directly against the U.S.

MARTIN: Against the U.S., yeah, some cover maybe. So what's the Palestinian position on this? I mean, they're the ones who have brought this. What are they trying to achieve with the vote today?

ESTRIN: There's an expression in Arabic, (speaking Arabic). It means what looks harmful can be useful. And I think that is in play here. The U.S. decision on Jerusalem looked bad for the Palestinians, but it has brought the Palestinian cause back to the international agenda. And so with this U.N. vote, the Palestinians want to show the U.S. that the majority of the world backs their positions. And it's a part of a bigger diplomatic move, also, the Palestinians are making to sideline the U.S. in the peace process. They think America has taken Israel's side on the sensitive issue of Jerusalem. This week, a Palestinian official says he was in Russia meeting with Russia's foreign minister. He's going to China also because the Palestinians want Russia and China to take a more active role in the peace process.

MARTIN: So even though this is a nonbinding measure, it - the symbolism is powerful. But it - could it - could this end up backfiring? Will the Palestinians pay for this in some way?

ESTRIN: The Palestinians aren't worried about that. I mean, Israel has punished the Palestinians in the past with any of their moves at the U.N. Here they're confident that this is part of a bigger diplomatic move for them.

MARTIN: NPR's Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem. Thanks, Daniel.

ESTRIN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.