WASHINGTON >> President Donald Trump issued a threat today to cut off U.S. aid to any country that votes for a resolution at the United Nations condemning his recent decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Trump’s statement, delivered at a Cabinet meeting in which he exulted over the passage of a tax overhaul, followed a letter to General Assembly members from the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, in which she warned that the U.S. would take note of countries that voted in favor of the measure.
“All of these nations that take our money and then they vote against us at the Security Council or they vote against us, potentially, at the Assembly, they take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars and then they vote against us,” Trump said.
“Well, we’re watching those votes,” he added. “Let them vote against us; we’ll save a lot. We don’t care.”
It is difficult to see how Trump can make good on that threat because it could involve cutting off financial assistance to the country’s most strategic allies in the Middle East. Some of those programs, like Egypt’s, are congressionally mandated. While the president can hold up aid unilaterally as a form of leverage, canceling it would require new legislation.
Still, the bitter confrontation at the U.N. shows the lingering repercussions of Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem, which defied world opinion and upended decades of U.S. policy. While the decision has not unleashed the violence in the Arab capitals that some had feared, it has left the U.S. diplomatically isolated.
The General Assembly is scheduled to vote Thursday on a resolution that would express “deep regret at recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem,” according to a draft text. It would urge other countries not to move their embassies there from Tel Aviv.
In Haley’s letter, a copy of which was seen by The New York Times, she said, “As you consider your vote, I want you to know that the president and U.S. take this vote personally.”