Trying to decide who is ‘up’ and who is ‘down’ after the U.N’s recent condemnation of America’s decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem seems a futile exercise. A more consequential issue may be emerging with long-term implications for America, the United Nations and the Middle East – “when does a sovereign nation’s independent action become the legitimate business (that is, concern) of the U.N.?”
To be specific, “is it the rightful business of the U.N. to pass institutional judgment on America’s sovereign decision about her own embassy?”
By a 128-9 vote, the General Assembly condemned America’s embassy decision. This followed almost immediately upon America’s veto of an otherwise unanimous Security Council resolution last week to the same effect. These votes certainly reveal long-held convictions of the United Nations.
The U.N. has never claimed formal, supra-sovereign authority to oversee the internal affairs of Israel, but has frequently spoken and, where allowed, acted as though it is entitled to do so – especially where Jerusalem is concerned. Typically, the U.N. appeals to its self-proclaimed responsibility to serve as an ‘unbiased’ trustee of the city’s sacred religious sites.
A parallel position had remained largely hidden until now. This holds that Jerusalem’s status as Israel’s capital is somehow ‘open’, even though the city’s status has been legally, politically and militarily resolved on Israel’s behalf, repeatedly, for more than a century.
These unwarranted U.N. assertions show how last week’s vote of condemnation was a wholly political, not legal, event. This may be why Prime Minister Netanyahu, using the harshest possible language, described the United Nations itself as a “house of lies” in advance of the vote.
U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley had warned Assembly members in advance that any intrusion into United States sovereignty would provoke a specific and individually-tailored American response. Member nations either judged this an empty threat or reasoned that any consequences would be less serious than appearing to ratify, by implication, this statement of historic fact: “Jerusalem has always been the national capital of the Jewish people.”
The Administration has already matched actions to words. The U.S. will reduce its contribution to the U.N. budget next year by 285 million dollars. Reductions of direct aid to other nations who joined the vote will be weighed separately.
America’s embassy policy in Israel falls far outside any legitimate ‘business’ oversight of the United Nations. America’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital neither contradicts nor repudiates any U.N. statute. If America’s decision implies rogue rejection of a tacit U.N. insistence on keeping Jerusalem’s status open, then an open airing of ‘rights’ is long overdue.
In accord with international law, history and tradition, the location of Israel’s capital does not come under the determination of America or the U.N. The United States will move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem for the sufficient reason that Israel has always declared Jerusalem to be her national capital.