By Yoni Hersch, Mati Tuchfeld, Dan Lavie, Itsik Saban, Associated Press and Israel Hayom Staff
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday described the United Nations as a “house of lies” ahead of a vote on a draft resolution calling on the United States to withdraw its Dec. 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, whether the U.N. recognizes it or not,” he said. “It took the United States 70 years to officially recognize it and it will be many years before the U.N. does the same.
“But the attitude toward Israel is changing in many countries, and it will eventually permeate the United Nations – a house of lies,” he said.
“The State of Israel utterly rejects this vote, even before approval. Jerusalem is our capital and we will continue to build there, and foreign embassies, led by the United States, will move to Jerusalem. It will happen,” he stated.
Israel has been intensively lobbying countries around the world to oppose the U.N. resolution criticizing U.S. President Donald Trump’s Dec. 6 move, Israeli officials said Wednesday.
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley vetoed a similar resolution in the Security Council on Monday, calling it “an insult” that will not be forgotten and saying that the United Nations forced the U.S. to cast a veto simply because of its right to decide where to put its embassy.
The veto prompted the Palestinian Authority to call for an emergency meeting of the General Assembly, where a vote demanding the U.S. rescind the move is more likely to go in its favor, as no country has veto power over assembly resolutions. But unlike the Security Council, the assembly’s resolutions are not legally binding.
While symbolic, General Assembly votes serve as a barometer of international sentiment on key issues. A vote denouncing Washington’s move is expected to further illustrate the Trump administration’s isolation over the Jerusalem issue.
The Foreign Ministry has ordered Israeli missions worldwide to pressure foreign ministries in their respective countries to oppose the Palestinian bid to negate Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
A Foreign Ministry official said those efforts were coordinated with local American ambassadors.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said that the U.S. and Israel were making “immense efforts” to block the resolution.
“We have a very, very simple message: Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years and the capital of Israel for almost 70 years,” she told Channel 10 News.
Another Foreign Ministry official confirmed the government was making a “very vast” effort to minimize the resolution’s impact, saying Israel is trying to persuade allies to abstain or even vote against it.
The official refused to identify which countries Israel has approached or say how he expects them to vote. But he said he thinks the campaign will be “successful to a certain extent.”
Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon lambasted the Palestinian General Assembly bid.
“The Palestinians have once again proven that they will refuse any overture. They only care about generating headlines that undermine any attempt to promote the negotiations,” he told Israel Hayom.
Thursday’s vote “serves no purpose. We will continue to act, alongside the United States, to promote the just, moral and historical truth by which Jerusalem is Israel’s capital,” he said.
In some ways, the vote is a test of Netanyahu’s foreign policy. In recent years, the Israeli leader has invested great efforts to look beyond Israel’s traditional allies in Washington and Western Europe and cultivate ties with developing nations that have traditionally been supportive of the Palestinians.
He has portrayed these efforts as both a savvy strategy aimed at opening new markets for Israeli technology exports, as well as countering what Israel says is a deep-seated bias against it at the United Nations.
This year alone, Netanyahu has visited China and hosted India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Jerusalem. He also has attended two summits in Africa, meeting with a host of leaders from across the continent, and in September, became the first sitting Israeli prime minister to visit Latin America with stops in Argentina, Mexico and Colombia.
The votes cast by these countries will provide an indication of whether the diplomatic outreach is paying off.
Votes by other key allies with traditionally close ties to Israel, including Germany, Britain, Australia, Canada and smaller European countries like the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Poland and Hungary, could also provide valuable indicators about support for the U.S.-Israeli approach.
Many of these countries either abstained or opposed a landmark 2012 vote in the General Assembly that afforded the Palestinian Authority upgraded status as a nonmember state.
The Israeli official said a single vote at the U.N. on Thursday would not determine the success of Israel’s diplomatic outreach. But he said, “This is certainly part of it.”
Haley on Tuesday warned U.N. member states of possible retaliation if they support the resolution, saying Trump takes the vote “personally” and the U.S. “will be taking names.”
Trump went even further, telling reporters at a cabinet meeting in Washington that opponents were likely to face a cutoff in U.S. funding. “For all these nations, they take our money and then vote against us,” Trump said. “We’re watching those votes. Let them vote against us. We’ll save a lot. We don’t care.”
The comments prompted accusations of U.S. intimidation, especially from the Palestinians.
A draft of the resolution on which the U.N. stands to vote calls for affirming that any actions that “have altered the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem” have no legal standing and must be rescinded. It also calls upon all states “to refrain from the establishment of diplomatic missions” in Jerusalem.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki, who was in New York for the vote, called the U.S. threats “dangerous” and predicted that they would not have a major impact.
“We believe that there is world consensus against the U.S. decision on Jerusalem. This was clearly reflected in the Security Council, despite the U.S. veto,” he said.