Amid Predictable UN General Assembly Vote on Jerusalem, Some Countries Resist Condemnation of US and Israel
As predictable as the outcome of Thursday’s UN General Assembly vote on Jerusalem was, a handful of countries stood out for resisting the prevailing anti-US and anti-Israel mood in the assembly chamber.
Foremost among these was Bosnia and Hercegovina — the recipient of a relatively small amount of American aid (just $57 million in 2016) and one of Europe’s two Muslim-majority states (the other being Albania) — whose delegate abstained on the vote.
That decision was noted critically by the pro-government press in Turkey, with the Daily Sabah arguing that the Balkan country should have taken into account its “historical ties with the region as both Bosnia and Palestine were constituent parts of the Ottoman Empire.”
Turkey cosponsored the UNGA resolution along with Yemen, with Ankara’s foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, flying to New York to deliver a speech before the assembly in which he slammed both the US and Israel.
Run by a tripartite Muslim-Serb-Croat presidency since the end of the genocidal war of 1992-95, Bosnia’s foreign policy decisions require a consensus among the three. According to the digital outlet Balkan Insight, “Bakir Izetbegovic, the Bosniak (Muslim) member of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency, wanted to vote against Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital at the United Nations, but both Croats and Serbs opted to abstain.”
The outlet also carried the text of a letter from Milorad Dodik, the president of Republika Srpska, Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity, to the Serb member of the Bosnian presidency, Mladen Ivanic, calling for Bosnia to support Israel and US President Donald Trump at the UN General Assembly on Thursday.
“In the light of the delicacy of the years-long problem between Israel and Palestine, and in the light of President Donald Trump’s decision to move the US diplomatic mission to Jerusalem, I urge you… to do all that is necessary that the head of the Bosnia and Herzegovina mission to the UN does not support the resolution,” Dodik wrote to Ivanic.
Halid Genjac — a leading member of the main Bosnian Muslim political party, the SDA — reminded critics that Bosnia’s need to retain an internal consensus was paramount.
“Bosnia and Hercegovina is a country marked by different opinions,” Genjac explained. “Under these conditions, we had no other choice but abstain.”
The decision to abstain on the UN Jerusalem vote does not appear to have caused much of a storm in Bosnia, with the country’s media focused mainly on domestic and European stories on Friday, the day after the vote.
But in Albania — a recipient of just $27 million of US aid in 2016 — the decision to vote in favor of the resolution met with wide criticism. Former Prime Minister and current Democratic Party MP Sali Berisha took to Facebook to condemn the vote as “against the country’s national interest.” Balkan Insight, meanwhile, observed that “on social networks, many citizens also commented on Albania’s stand, considering that it might have been better to abstain over the Jerusalem issue.”
“Known as a close US ally, as well as having friendly relations with Israel, Albania felt the need to explain its vote at the UN, saying Albania ‘held the joint position of the overwhelming majority of EU members countries,'” Balkan Insight reported.
Other Balkan countries either voted in favor or abstained. Despite the position of the political leadership of Bosnia’s Serb population, Serbia itself — the recipient of $33 million in US aid in 2016 — voted for the resolution. Croatia ($3.4 million) abstained, while Slovenia ($716,000) — the home country, as one Croatian news outlet was quick to point out, of US First Lady Melania Trump — voted in favor.
While many countries that retain strong bilateral ties with Israel nonetheless voted in favor of the resolution, Israeli officials were philosophical about the challenges ahead.
“We have an interest in tightening our bilateral relations with a long list of countries in the world, and expect and hope that one day, they will vote with us, or for us in the United Nations,” Michael Oren, Israel’s deputy minister for diplomacy, said on Tel Aviv radio station 102 FM, according to Reuters.
Oren ruled out a chill in ties with countries like India, whose Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid an unprecedented and highly-publicized visit to Israel in July 2017. “I am not prepared to suspend all cooperation with important countries, such as India,” Oren said.