Back in December, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley had a stern warning for countries thinking about opposing the U.S. decision to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
Before 128 nations voted to condemn the move recognizing Israeli claims to the contentious city, the U.S. implied foreign aid to those nations would be at risk if they opposed the move.
“The US will be taking names,” Haley said at the time.
But when the Donald Trump administration unveiled its 2019 budget this week, none of the dissenting countries saw any proposed aid cuts.
BuzzFeed reports the budget proposal specifically requests hundreds of millions of dollars for countries that voted against the U.S., including:
▪ Nigeria, to support democratic governance and agriculture sector productivity;
▪ Somalia, to support “critical state-building processes” and “reduce corruption”; and
▪ Zimbabwe, for “promoting good governance” and “respect for human rights.”
Even as the president’s budget envisions a 30 percent drop in funding for the $41 billion international affairs budget, the Times of Israel quotes a senior U.S. foreign aid official denying any cuts will be tied to December’s UN vote.
“If you look at our budget, it is focused on where we think the most appropriate assistance level should be based on where our security needs are,” said Hari Sastry, director of the Office of US Foreign Assistance Resources, but “There’s nothing specific just tied to that (vote) because that is only one factor.”
At the time of the vote, Haley warned that a vote against the U.S. position could have negative consequences.
“At the UN we're always asked to do more & give more,” the former S.C. governor said in a social media post at the time. “(W)e don't expect those we've helped to target us.”
Trump himself told reporters at the time the vote could affect how much the U.S. put spend on other countries’ needs in the future.
“For all these nations, they take our money and then vote against us,” Trump said. “We’re watching those votes. Let them vote against us. We’ll save a lot. We don’t care.”
Some worried a lack of follow through on those threats could cause the administration to be seen as less credible when it takes a strong stance in the future.
“It's a very important signal for the United States to send,” Heritage Foundation scholar Brett Schaefer told the Washington Post. “If it finds a particular vote in the U.N. General Assembly vital to the national interest, it should do all it can to exert leverage over countries so that it will have a successful outcome.”
The status of Jerusalem has been a sticking point in Middle East peace negotiations. Israel maintains the city is its undivided capital, while Palestinians also claim the city as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
Past U.S. administrations – along with most other countries – have avoided putting an embassy in the city for that reason, even after Congress passed a law mandating the embassy be moved from Tel Aviv in 1995.
Haley’s office did follow through on one promised action after the vote. The U.S. mission hosted a “friendship” party for the nine countries that voted with it, plus 35 who abstained and another 21 who were absent.