UN vote on Jerusalem sets a historic precedent

UN vote on Jerusalem sets a historic precedent

The vote on Jerusalem at the United Nations General Assembly on Dec. 21 is not just a strong response and denunciation against United States President Donald Trump’s unilateral, illegitimate decision on one of the most sensitive issues in the world but also a development that has set a historic precedent in international relations. 

At first glance, the vote that isolated Trump with an overwhelming majority backing the resolution that declared his Jerusalem decision as null and void, will have serious consequences on international diplomacy and regional issues. 

Here are some of them:

- The vote at the General Assembly has revived the power of the international community and has shown that the president of the sole super power in the world will not be able to make a law by himself on issues concerning peace, security and stability in the world. Trump’s fait accompli on Jerusalem was rejected as his earlier attempts to annul a nuclear agreement with Iran were not backed by the other four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, as well as the European Union. Only less than a year since he has come office, President Trump’s charisma has been seriously tarnished after subsequent diplomatic defeats.

- The U.N. has resumed its role and responsibility as the supreme international body. The General Assembly vote on the matter followed the historic decision taken by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) that recognized East Jerusalem as the occupied capital of the Palestine and the EU’s rejection of Trump’s move at a summit on Dec. 14. With this precedent, the U.N. General Assembly can turn to be a frequent venue on issues five permanent members of the Security Council cannot agree on.

- Another important aspect of this decision is the fact that countries from different continents with different religions and political priorities agreed on the Jerusalem resolution that reiterated the special status of this holy city. The striking point is the fact that only nine countries stood against the resolution while 128 supported and 35 abstained. Many in Ankara believe that a good portion of those who abstained are in fact of the opinion that Jerusalem should not be recognized as the capital of Israel.

- Although non-binding, the resolution backed by 128 countries also calls on the international community to exert efforts on a two-state solution for the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian problem. This has a very symbolic importance at a moment when Israel and the U.S. have long been ignoring calls for a political settlement based on two-states. It has also reaffirmed the U.N.’s stance since 1967, which obliges direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians to decide on the final status of Jerusalem.

- Trump’s move on Jerusalem distracted attention from Iran to the Israeli-Palestinian question, although the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia have been making efforts to place the Iranian regime as the most important threat to the regional and global security. It would be harder for these three countries to create an efficient fracture within the Islamic world after the Jerusalem bid.

- Both the Istanbul Summit of the OIC countries and the issued declaration, as well as the united stance at the U.N. General Assembly provided a rare unity for the Islamic world. This unity on a common cause in the Islamic world would bring about new initiatives towards Jerusalem, although it is hard to predict how long this togetherness can last.

- The world’s sensitivity on the future status of Jerusalem and calls for a two-state solution would at the same time create more pressure on the Israeli government, especially on its new settlement project on occupied territories. Israel’s continued expansion over Palestinian territories would receive more international reaction afterwards. 

- Turkey, a frontrunner country when it comes to issues concerning Jerusalem, has a share in this historic gain worth elaborating on. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan did not hesitate to challenge the decision taken by Trump and to directly criticize the U.S. President. As the term president, Turkey’s initiative to gather leaders from 57 Islamic countries only a week after Trump’s controversial move and to issue a strong response was a quick and successful move. This mobilization of the Islamic world yielded its result at the U.N. General Assembly, which brought about a strong denunciation against the U.S.

 - At a moment when Turkey’s ties with both Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and some other Gulf countries are not that brilliant, its leadership on the Jerusalem issue brought about a certain moral superiority in the Muslim world. This vote will sure have repercussions on the regional and international level with many developments to be seen in 2018.

UN vote, Serkan Demirtaş,