by Andrew Friedman
The Foreign Ministry has advised Israeli embassies and consulates around the world to ask Jewish communities around the world to lobby their governments to oppose tomorrow’s expected UN General Assembly vote on Jerusalem. The world body is expected to denounce the United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and declare the decision void.
The preparations for the vote suggest that after the local celebrations that followed U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement on December 7, Israel’s government is now concerned the move could be backfiring. Prior to the announcement, most countries tacitly accepted the fact that Jerusalem is the capital, whereas now, the international community is poised to declare en masse that Jerusalem is not Israel’s capital.
On the other hand, some observers suggest taking the UN General Assembly vote with a proverbial grain of salt.
“The General Assembly is a political forum with 57 Islamic votes, and most of the other countries either just go along with them or abstain on motions like these,” said Prof. Gerald Steinberg, a professor of Political Studies at Bar Ilan University who specializes in international relations. “But they are resolutions with no real teeth to them.
“Take the ‘Zionism is racism’ resolution in 1975. It was nasty, but didn’t really have any impact. Same thing with the 2004 resolution denouncing the so-called ‘Apartheid’ wall. Then, they even referred the story to the International Court of Justice, which issued an advisory decision. But they didn’t have any real impact. To the contrary: These resolutions exposed the propaganda nature of the resolutions,” Steinberg said.
Despite the request, however, some Diaspora Jewish groups, particularly in North America, say that while they continue to support the State of Israel, they have no intention of lobbying on behalf of the Netanyahu government.
“I don’t have anything to say about the Jerusalem issue at hand,” said Rabbi Andrew M. Sacks, director of the Masorti Rabbinical Assembly in Israel and a representative for the Conservative movement to the Western Wall negotiations. “There are definitely for-and-against arguments to make about President Trump’s announcement.
“But I am appalled that the current government of Israel could have the audacity to ask me for a favor, after slapping us in the face time after time after time. I would be incensed if we were to be asked to lobby for the government in light of its failure to treat our pluralistic Diaspora community with the respect it deserves,” said Sacks, who also as a representative for the Conservative movement to the Western Wall negotiations that were ultimately shelved by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the request of the haredi parties.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Netanyahu declined to comment.
The General Assembly session comes on the heels of a similar effort by the Security Council on Monday. That vote was vetoed by U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who chastised the world body for proposing to dictate foreign policy to the United States. But Washington does not have a veto to yield in the full assembly, and the revised measure is expected to win ratification by a wide margin.