President Trump told Congress Tuesday night he wants to restrict U.S. foreign aid to “America’s friends,” following a United Nations rebuke of his policy towards Israel.
“I am asking the Congress to pass legislation to help ensure American foreign-assistance dollars always serve American interests, and only go to America's friends,” Trump said during the State of the Union address.
Trump didn’t articulate the details of such a bill, but the proposal elevates a threat to cut funding for nations that vote against American policy positions at the United Nations. The issue emerged in early January, when the U.N. General Assembly voted to rebuke the U.S. for recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a move Trump made in December.
“American taxpayers generously send those same countries billions of dollars in aid every year,” Trump noted.
That has been a theme of U.S. diplomacy at the United Nations since the Jerusalem vote, as Ambassador Nikki Haley hosted a reception for the 65 countries that declined to cast a vote against Trump’s move.
“The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation,” Haley said at the time. “We will remember it when we are called upon to once again make the world's largest contribution to the United Nations. And we will remember when so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.”
Trump vowed to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, prompting some world leaders to accuse him of undermining a stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The announcement came as the administration has sought to rally Arab leaders around the idea that Iran, rather than the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate, is the chief cause of instability in the Middle East.
“As we strengthen friendships around the world, we are also restoring clarity about our adversaries,” Trump said. “When the people of Iran rose up against the crimes of their corrupt dictatorship, I did not stay silent. America stands with the people of Iran in their courageous struggle for freedom.”