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U.N. votes to declare Trump's Jerusalem decision "null and void"

Last Updated Dec 21, 2017 5:00 PM EST

UNITED NATIONS -- The United Nations General Assembly voted Thursday on a resolution condemning President Trump's new policy recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The General Assembly voted 128-9, with 35 abstentions, to declare Mr. Trump's declaration of Jerusalem as the capital "null and void."  

Mr. Trump said he'd be watching very closely at which members of the General Assembly vote for the resolution and which vote against it. 

The resolution stated that any decision to change the status of Jerusalem is null and void, has no legal effect, and that it must be rescinded. It also called on member countries not to set up diplomatic missions in Jerusalem. 

In the end, major U.S. aid recipients including Afghanistan, Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania and South Africa supported the resolution. The absent countries included Kenya, which was the fifth-largest recipient of U.S. aid last year, Georgia and Ukraine, all of which have close U.S. ties.

The updates below are stated in Eastern Time unless otherwise noted.


2:41 p.m.: Iran's foreign minister calls resolution a "global no" to intimidation

Iran's foreign minister is welcoming the U.N. General Assembly resolution rejecting the Trump administration's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, calling it a "global no" to intimidation by President Donald Trump.

Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted after the vote that the resolution soundly criticizes "Trump's regime thuggish intimidation at UN."

Iran does not recognize Israel and supports anti-Israeli militant groups such as the Palestinian Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, and the Lebanese Hezbollah.

2:37 p.m.: U.S. spokesperson: "Vote breakdown tells a different story"

"While the resolution passed, the vote breakdown tells a different story," a spokesperson for the United States said after the vote, CBS News' Pamela Falk reports. "It's clear that many countries prioritized their relationship with the United States over an unproductive attempt to isolate us for a decision that was our sovereign right to make."  

2:35 p.m.: Turkey's president tweets on U.N. vote

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he expects Mr. Trump's administration to rescind its decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital following the U.N. vote.

Erdogan said in a tweet he welcomes the overwhelming support given to the "historic" resolution.

2:30 p.m.: Hamas spokesman calls resolution "a step in the right direction"

The Islamic militant group Hamas welcomed the U.N. General Assembly resolution. In a statement, spokesman Fawzi Barhoum calls the resolution "a step in the right direction" and "a blow to (President Donald) Trump's announcement." He said the resolution emphasizes "the Palestinian right to the holy city."

Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, seeks a state in all of historic Palestine, including what is now Israel. The Western-backed Palestinian Authority, under President Mahmoud Abbas, claims Gaza and the West Bank as part of a future Palestinian state, with east Jerusalem as capital.

1:27 p.m.: Palestinians thank countries after U.N. vote

An aide to the Palestinian president thanked countries that voted in favor of the U.N. resolution "despite all the pressure exerted on them." Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a senior adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, appeared to be referring to the threat by Mr. Trump to cut off U.S. funding to countries that support the resolution.

Abu Rdeneh said in a statement Thursday to the official Wafa news agency that the vote reflects the support the Palestinians enjoy in the international community. He said the Palestinians will continue their efforts in international forums to help create a Palestinian state.

1:15 p.m.: Israel's prime minister rejects U.N. resolution

Israel's prime minister said he completely rejects the "preposterous" U.N. resolution declaring the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital as "null and void." 

In a video posted on Facebook, Benjamin Netanyahu said Jerusalem "always was, always will be" Israel's capital. He also said he appreciates that "a growing number of countries refuse to participate in this theater of the absurd."

Netanyahu thanked Mr. Trump for his "stalwart defense of Israel."

Mr. Trump's declaration on Dec. 6 departed from decades of U.S. policy -- and international consensus -- that the fate of Jerusalem should be decided through negotiations.

Jerusalem lies at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel sees the city as its undivided capital. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem, home to key Muslim, Jewish and Christian holy sites, as their capital.

1:05 p.m.: 8 countries vote with the U.S.

The eight countries that voted with the United States at the United Nations Thursday against the resolution condemning the Trump administration's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital are the following:

Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Togo

12:23 p.m.: UN condemns Trump's Israel decision

The UN General Assembly voted 128-9 with 35 abstentions to declare Mr. Trump's declaration of Jerusalem as Israel's capital "null and void."

Thursday's vote, while a victory for the Palestinians, was significantly lower than its supporters had hoped for, with many forecasting at least 150 "yes" votes. It is noteworthy that 21 countries were absent.

In that sense, it was a victory for the United States, with Mr. Trump's threat to cut off U.S. funding to countries that oppose his decision having an impact. 

11:15 a.m.: Israel's ambassador to U.N. holds up coin to make his case

Danny Danon, Israel's Ambassador to the U.N., held up a coin he said is from 67 AD and bears the words -- in Hebrew -- "Freedom of Zion."

He said it is "clear evidence … that proves the ancient connection of Jews to Jerusalem." 

"No UNESCO declaration, no empty speeches, no General Assembly resolution will ever drive us from Jerusalem," he said. "These are the facts this body does not want to hear. These are the facts this body wishes to ignore."

11:12 a.m.: Nikki Haley speaks 

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley spoke to the U.N. General Assembly ahead of vote.

Haley told an emergency meeting of the assembly that "no vote in the United Nations will make any difference" on the U.S. decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem, which will go ahead because "it is the right thing to do."

She said "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."

"We will remember it when we are called upon once again to make the world's largest contribution to the United Nations," she said. "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."

Haley said Thursday's vote "will make a difference on how Americans look at the U.N. and on how we look at countries who disrespect us in the U.N., and this vote will be remembered." 

11:10 a.m.: Israeli prime minister thanks Trump and Haley

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Mr. Trump and Nikki Haley in a tweet Thursday "for standing up for Israel and for standing up for the truth."

"Ultimately the truth will prevail," he added.

11:00 a.m.: Yemen's U.N. ambassador calls U.S. decision "null and void" 

Yemen's U.N. ambassador introduced the U.N. resolution calling the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital "null and void" and urging all "peace-loving countries" to vote in favor of it. 

Ambassador Khaled Hussein Mohamed Alyemany called President Trump's action "a blatant violation of the rights of the Palestinian people and the Arab nations, and all Muslims and Christians of the world." Alyemany, speaking as chair of the Arab Group at the U.N., was the first speaker at an emergency meeting of the U.N. General Assembly.

He said the U.S. decision "is considered a dangerous violation and breach of international law" and that it threatens peace in the world, undermines any chance for peace in the Mideast "and only serves to fan the fires of violence and extremism." 


Background on the vote

Mr. Trump threatened to cut financial support to those nations that vote in favor of the resolution -- a threat that has raised the stakes in the U.N. vote and sparked criticism at his tactics, which one Muslim group called bullying or blackmail. 

"For 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," Mr. Trump said. "Well, we're watching those votes. Let them vote against us. We'll save a lot. We don't care."

Mr. Trump went a step further than U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who hinted in a tweet and a letter to most of the 193 U.N. member states on Tuesday that the U.S. would retaliate against countries that vote in favor of a General Assembly resolution calling on the president to rescind his decision.

Haley said the president asked her to report back on countries "who voted against us" -- and she stressed that the United States "will be taking names." 

With the letter and the tweet, Haley is pressing other countries to stand by the U.S. decision, hoping for a better result than in another recent vote on a similar resolution in the Security Council which left the U.S. alone against the 14 other Council members, CBS News' Pamela Falk reported. The U.S., as a permanent member of the Council, was able to veto that measure with a single vote.

Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, tweeted after Mr. Trump's comments: "Our government should not use its leadership at the UN to bully/blackmail other nations that stand for religious liberty and justice in Jerusalem. Justice is a core value of Christianity, Judaism and Islam."

The Palestinians and their Arab and Islamic supporters sought the General Assembly vote after the United States on Monday vetoed a resolution supported by the 14 other U.N. Security Council members that would have required Mr. Trump to rescind his declaration on Jerusalem as Israel's capital and not move the U.S. Embassy there. 

Before Haley's letter and tweet, Palestinian U.N. Ambassador Riyad Mansour told The Associated Press he expected "massive support" for the resolution in the General Assembly.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu accused the U.S. of intimidation. They told reporters at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport on Wednesday before flying to New York to attend the General Assembly meeting that they believe U.N. member countries will ignore "pressure" from Haley.

Al-Maliki said he believes that countries will vote their conscience, and "they will vote for justice, and they will vote in favor of that resolution."

"No honorable state would bow to such pressure," Cavusoglu said. "The world has changed. The belief that 'I am strong therefore I am right' has changed. The world today is revolting against injustices." 

Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said Thursday he hopes the United States will be "taught a lesson" during the U.N. vote. Speaking at a cultural awards ceremony in Ankara, Erdogan accused Mr. Trump of seeking countries whose "decisions can be bought with dollars."

"Mr Trump, you cannot buy Turkey's democratic will with your dollars. Our decision is clear," he said. 

"I call on the whole world: Don't you dare sell your democratic struggle and your will for petty dollars," he added. 

Ambassador Rhonda King of the tiny Caribbean nation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines sent Haley a letter saying that her country treasures the United States "as an enduring ally" but will vote against Mr. Trump's action.

"Sometimes, friends differ; on Jerusalem, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines respectfully differs from the USA; and so, too, do many of the staunchest friends and allies of the USA," King wrote. "We gently urge yet again that the government of the USA rethink its position and approach on this entire matter."

Some diplomats predicted the resolution would be supported by at least 150 countries, and possibly 180 nations.

Israel had been conducting a global lobbying campaign against the resolution, government officials said Wednesday. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged Thursday the vote would likely pass by a wide margin but said Israel "completely rejects this vote before it is made." 

Haley said in her letter, sent to delegations of over 180 countries, that the Trump administration is "simply asking that you acknowledge the historical friendship, partnership, and support we have extended and respect our decision about our own embassy."

She said the U.S. Congress decided 22 years ago that Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of Israel and Mr. Trump followed through on that decision.

Her tweet was sharper: "At the UN we're always asked to do more & give more. So, when we make a decision, at the will of the American ppl, abt where to locate OUR embassy, we don't expect those we've helped to target us. On Thurs there'll be a vote criticizing our choice. The US will be taking names."

This was not the first time that Haley threatened to keep track of U.S. opponents. On Jan. 27, the day she arrived at the United Nations as ambassador, Haley announced a new way the United States would be doing business. The Trump administration's goal is to show U.S. strength, speak out and defend its allies -- and as for countries opposing America, "We're taking names," she said.

The letter on the Jerusalem vote was the first time since then that Haley vowed to compile a list.

Her action recalled to some veteran U.N. diplomats the run-up to the Iraq war in 2002 when then U.S. President George W. Bush launched a campaign against France and other opponents of military action who refused to support a Security Council resolution to authorize war. The resolution, which former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was pressing for and the U.S. backed, was withdrawn by Britain because it was certain to be defeated as a result of strong council opposition.

The resolution that was voted on Thursday was co-sponsored by Turkey, chair of the summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and Yemen, chair of the Arab Group at the U.N. It is very similar to the defeated Security Council resolution.

The draft resolution said Jerusalem "is a final status issue" and reaffirmed 10 Security Council resolutions on Jerusalem, dating back to 1967, including requirements that the city's final status must be decided in direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

It "affirms that any decisions and actions which purport to have altered, the character, status or demographic composition of the holy city of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded."

The draft resolution "demands that all states comply with Security Council resolutions regarding the holy city of Jerusalem, and not to recognize any actions or measures contrary to those resolutions."