Report

Haley Warns Diplomats on Jerusalem: Trump Is Watching You

“We will take note of each and every vote on this issue.”

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley at a U.N. Security Council meeting in New York on Dec. 18, 2017. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley at a U.N. Security Council meeting in New York on Dec. 18, 2017. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

That was the message U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley emailed to scores of members of the U.N. who are weighing whether to vote Thursday in favor of a General Assembly resolution urging the United States to rescind its decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

“As you consider your vote, I want you to know that the President and U.S. take this vote personally,” Haley wrote in an email that was obtained by Foreign Policy. “The President will be watching this vote carefully and has requested I report back on those countries who voted against us. We will take note of each and every vote on this issue.”

Haley said the U.S. is not asking other countries to follow its lead and move their embassies to Jerusalem, “though we think it would be appropriate.”

The U.S. ambassador’s remarks follow President Donald Trump’s Dec. 6 announcement that the United States would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, reversing nearly seven decades of U.S. foreign policy and shattering the U.N. consensus that the status of Jerusalem would be settled as part of a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

Trump’s decision drew expressions of condemnation from capitals around the world. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said the president’s decision disqualified Washington as a Middle East mediator, saying “a crazy person wouldn’t accept” the United States as a peace broker after Trump’s announcement.

The tough rhetoric hinted that the United States was weighing retaliating against those who defy America’s wishes. But several diplomats said any such threat would likely be empty, as the vast majority of U.N. members, including close allies like Britain and France, are likely to vote yes.

The letter went out a day after the United States vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution, introduced by Egypt, that also urged the United States to reverse course, saying the decision by any government, including the United States, to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would “have no legal effect” and is “null and void and must be rescinded.” The resolutions, which gained the support of all 14 other U.N. Security Council members, left the Americans diplomatically isolated.

The United States portrayed its decision as a purely sovereign matter that merely codified decades of congressional support for moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

“At the UN we’re always asked to do more & give more,” Haley tweeted Tuesday. “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.”

In her letter to U.N. states, Haley noted that 22 years ago the U.S. Congress first declared “Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of Israel, and that the U.S. Embassy should be located in Jerusalem. President Trump affirmed that declaration by officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”

The president’s decision, she noted, does “not prejudge final status negotiations in any way, including the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem.”

She also noted that the president still supports “the status quo at Jerusalem’s holy sites.”

U.N. diplomats saw Trump’s action as an affront to the United Nations and the rule of law, a blunt repudiation of 10 previous U.N. Security Council resolutions on Jerusalem adopted since 1967, including a 1980 resolution calling on states that had already established diplomatic missions in Jerusalem to withdraw them.

Haley’s letter dominated diplomatic chatter at U.N. receptions at the residences of the Finnish and Japanese ambassadors.

“This is just political theater,” said one ambassador.

“Cowboy diplomacy,” said another diplomat who considers himself a friend of Haley’s. “What, is she saying, ‘I’m not your friend anymore?’”

Colum Lynch is Foreign Policy’s award-winning U.N.-based senior diplomatic reporter. @columlynch

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