U.S. President Donald Trump used his first State of the Union address to double down on his blackmail strategy toward nations that go against the policies of his administration as he called on Congress to cut aid to U.S. "enemies” that voted against Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital at the United Nations General Assembly last month.
“Dozens of countries voted in the United Nations General Assembly against America’s sovereign right to make this recognition,” Trump told lawmakers Tuesday night referring to recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital by his government last month.
“In 2016 American taxpayers generously sent those same countries more than US$20 billions of dollars in aid. That is why, tonight, I am asking the Congress to pass legislation to help ensure American foreign-assistance dollars always serve American interests, and only go to friends of America, not enemies of America.”
In late December, just weeks after Trump’s controversial decision, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution against the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, with 128 countries voting in favor of the Egypt-sponsored resolution.
The U.S. president ended decades of Washington’s policy stating that the status of the city of Jerusalem must be decided as part of a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine, a position that most of the international community continues to fully support.
In the 1967 war Israel took over the eastern part of the city as well as the West Bank from Jordan. In 1980, Israel annexed East Jerusalem and declared the whole city as its capital, a move that was rejected by most countries in the world.
The western side of the city is part of the widely-accepted territory of the state of Israel which was founded in 1948 after the end of the British Mandate for Palestine. The Palestinian leadership and most of the international community consider East Jerusalem as occupied territory and the future capital of a sovereign Palestinian state.
Ahead of the vote at the end of December, Trump made his intentions clear of cutting aid to those defying his decision.
“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."
The U.S. president has already cut aid to a U.N. agency in charge of delivering aid to Palestinian refugees inside Palestine and in neighboring countries as he ramps up his blackmail and punishment tactics against Palestinians for rebuking his Jerusalem decision.
His administration announced earlier this month a cut of US$65 million of its annual aid for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine, known as UNRWA. Trump has also threatened to cut aid to the Palestinian leadership unless they engage in largely pro-Israel peace talks backed by Washington and its oil-rich Arab states Saudi Arabia and UAE.
However in a blow to his aggression, 11 countries have so far agreed to advance hundreds of millions in donations to finance UNRWA programs in coming months, head of the agency Pierre Kraehenbuehl said Tuesday.