On December 21, 2017, Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a non-profit, non-partisan policy institute located in Washington, D.C. appeared on CNN International to discuss the UN vote to annul the decision to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
CNN International: Mark Dubowitz with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies is with us now. Mark, good to see you.
Mark Dubowitz: Thanks for having me.
CNN International: This draft resolution at the General Assembly it mirrors one which went to the Security Council on Monday. The US used its veto power to kill that even though 14 other council members, including American allies like Britain and France, voted in favor. Nikki Haley described that as an insult.
That resolution on Monday, it was drafted by Egypt. Egypt receives more than a billion dollars in US aid every year. Is President Trump serious about cutting assistance to Egypt? If he is, then that comes with a whole lot of repercussions for Israel. If the president doesn’t follow through, then isn’t this just a hollow threat?
Mark Dubowitz: Donald Trump always seems serious when he makes these threats. I’m not sure if he’ll cut aid to Egypt, but there’s certainly lots of other countries that’ll be voting for this UN General Assembly resolution. I think Nikki Haley is serious that she will be taking names. She gets a lot of requests all the time in New York from all of these countries for the United States to do favors. She is going to be expecting that these countries go along with the US’ sovereign right to put its embassy wherever it wants.
CNN International: Turkey is one of the countries which requested the emergency session on Thursday. Listen to how the country’s foreign minister responded to that threat of taking names.
Mevlüt Ç.: [Turkish language 00:01:22]. What will you do by getting these names? Will you allow invasions into those countries as well or will you punish them? The world has changed. The notion of “I am powerful therefore I am right” has changed. Now the world is rising against the unfair. From now on, no honorable nation, no honorable state will bow to such pressure.
CNN International: Is it possible that these types of threats could just backfire and see a lot of countries dig in and try and stand up to the US?
Mark Dubowitz: Turkey’s leadership has a lot to answer for themselves. This is an authoritarian president that’s been arresting tens of thousands of journalists and dissidents and business people who oppose President Erdoğan. I think the United States is on a much better moral footing than countries like Turkey or any other country.
Again, let’s be sensible about this. The United States is recognizing something that the United States Congress recognized in 1995 by a vote of 93 to 5. In June of this year, 90 US Senators, bipartisan basis, recognized Jerusalem as its capital. President Trump, all he’s doing is he’s following longstanding US policy, bipartisan policy, to recognize that the US embassy with be in Israel’s capital, Jerusalem. I think that it is a sensible policy. I don’t think the United States is going to be kowtowing to the likes of President Erdoğan or anyone else.
CNN International: I guess I’m more referring to the tactic here which the US is using, threatening foreign aid if countries don’t vote in favor of the United States. As much as the US has a right to decide where its embassy located, countries around the world have a right to criticize that decision without having a threat to their foreign aid.
Mark Dubowitz: Actually, the United States has every right to decide who gets foreign aid. This is the United Nations and everybody plays power politics in the United Nations except the United States? Of course not. The United States is going to play power politics just like the Russians and the Chinese and the Europeans and everybody else. That’s taxpayer money and the US has a sovereign right to decide which countries get its money. If those countries are going to be voting against US interests, then I think it’s legitimate that the United States decides to direct that money elsewhere to support countries who are supporting US interests. I think that’s just basic politics.
There’s certainly something that Nikki Haley is practicing in a longstanding tradition of people like Jeane Kirkpatrick, the great ambassador, a Democrat who crossed the floor and became Ronald Reagan’s ambassador in the 1980s. Jeane Kirkpatrick and others also practiced power politics at the UN. I think Nikki Haley is continuing in that proud tradition.
CNN International: Just to clarify here. As a tactic for diplomacy, something like Jerusalem requires a scalpel and precision as opposed to a sledgehammer, which this seems it is.
Mark Dubowitz: Again, I’m not sure it’s a sledgehammer. The United States’ longstanding bipartisan support for Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital. That’s not a sledgehammer. Recognizing that the capital of Israel is Jerusalem … That’s where the prime minister is, the president is, the Israeli Parliament is, the Supreme Court is. Diplomats from Tel Aviv, who are based online at embassies in Tel Aviv have to every day drive one hour to Jerusalem to go visit their Israeli counterparts.
Everybody recognizes that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. The United States is saying that now. It’s establishing that as a matter of US policy. Now it’s going to use that I believe as leverage to kickstart these negotiations. To me that’s a scalpel. There’s a lot they could do where they could have used the sledgehammer. This is not it.
CNN International: I guess the sledgehammer part is the threatening billions of dollars in foreign aids to poor countries if they don’t vote the way the US wants.
Mark Dubowitz: Again, it’s not necessarily billions of dollars to poor countries. It may be billions of dollars to countries that we’ve been providing assistance to. They may at this point … Donald Trump has been reevaluating foreign aid. There’s been a lot of criticism, some of it legitimate that the United States wants to cut foreign aid. I don’t believe we should cut foreign aid to advance American interests and American objectives and we should not be directing foreign aid to countries that are acting against our interests whether it’s on Jerusalem or whether it’s on any other issue that’s important to US national security and foreign policy. I think that is a perfectly appropriate way to use our foreign aid and to direct our foreign aid to US allies that help advance our interests.
CNN International: Mark, I appreciate the conversation. Thanks so much.
Mark Dubowitz: Thanks for having me.