The US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, vetoes a Security Council resolution on Jerusalem on Monday.
The US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, vetoes a Security Council resolution on Jerusalem on Monday. Eskinder Debebe

US to cut funding for those voting against it

DONALD Trump has threatened to withhold billions of dollars in aid from nations that criticise his controversial decision to unilaterally recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

In a raising of the stakes over the US's move to recognise Jerusalem and eventually shift its embassy there - something long requested by Israel and its conservative supporters in the US - Mr Trump said he could penalise countries that voted against it at the UN.

Previously, the US's UN Ambassador Nikki Haley had warned the US would would be "taking names" of any countries that supported a resolution criticising Washington's actions.

A vote was expected on Thursday after the US vetoed a vote by the UN Security Council that would have demanded Mr Trump reverse his decision.

Associated Press said Ms Haley had written to most of the 193 UN members states warning of possible retaliation. She said the President was taking the matter personally.

On Wednesday, Mr Trump told members of his cabinet he liked what Ms Haley had spelled out. "For all these nations, they take our money and then vote against us. They take hundreds of millions of dollars, even billions of dollars and then they vote against us," Mr Trump said.

"We're watching those votes. Let them vote against us. We'll save a lot. We don't care."

Earlier this month, Mr Trump declared he was recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv, a decision that other countries had for decades declined to take because the status of the city was always considered central to part of any peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

"Today we finally acknowledge the obvious: that Jerusalem is Israel's capital," he said when he made the announcement.

"This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do. It's something that has to be done."

His decision sparked widespread criticism and demonstrations and many questioned whether the US could have any meaningful role in trying to establish a Middle East peace deal, something Mr Trump has vowed to pursue.

The Palestinians had sought the General Assembly vote after the US used its veto on Monday. The UK had supported the censure and will likely do so again in the General Assembly.

Unlike votes taken by the Security Council, assembly resolutions are not legally binding although they do reflect world opinion.

In the letter sent by Ms Haley, she said: "The US is simply asking that you acknowledge the historical friendship, partnership, and support we have extended and respect our decision about our own embassy."

She added: "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."

On Twitter, she had written: "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 criticising our choice. The US will be taking names."

- Andrew Buncombe, The Independent