Close this search box.

UN Demand for Gaza Cease-fire Provokes Clash between US, Israel since War Began

UN Demand for Gaza Cease-fire Provokes Clash between US, Israel since War Began

The United Nations Security Council has issued its first demand for a cease-fire in Gaza, with the US angering Israel by abstaining from the vote. Israel responded by canceling a visit to Washington by a high-level delegation in the strongest public clash between the allies since the war began.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the US of ‘retreating’ from a ‘principled position’ by allowing the vote to pass without conditioning the cease-fire on the release of hostages held by Hamas, a Palestinian Resistance Movement.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said the administration was ‘kind of perplexed’ by Netanyahu’s decision. He said the Israelis were ‘choosing to create a perception of daylight here when they don’t need to do that.’

Kirby and the American ambassador to the UN said the US abstained because the resolution did not condemn Hamas. US officials chose to abstain rather than veto the proposal ‘because it does fairly reflect our view that a cease-fire and the release of hosta
ges come together,’ Kirby said.

The 15-member council voted 14-0 to approve the resolution, which also demanded the release of all hostages taken captive during Hamas’ Oct. 7 surprise attack in southern Israel. The chamber broke into loud applause after the vote.

The US vetoed past Security Council cease-fire resolutions in large part because of the failure to tie them directly to the release of hostages, the failure to condemn Hamas’ attacks and the delicacy of ongoing negotiations. American officials have argued that the cease-fire and hostage releases are linked, while Russia, China and many other council members favored unconditional calls for a cease-fire.

The resolution approved yesterday (Monday) demands the release of hostages but does not make it a condition for the cease-fire for the holy month of Ramadan, which ends in April.

Hamas, a Palestinian Resistance Movement said it welcomed the UN’s move but said the cease-fire needs to be permanent.

‘We confirm our readiness to engage in an immediate
prisoner exchange process that leads to the release of prisoners on both sides,’ Hamas said. For months, Hamas have sought a deal that includes a complete end to the conflict.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres tweeted: ‘This resolution must be implemented. Failure would be unforgivable.’

The US decision to abstain comes at a time of growing tensions between President Joe Biden’s administration and Netanyahu over Israel’s prosecution of the war, the high number of civilian casualties and the limited amounts of humanitarian assistance reaching Gaza. The two countries have also clashed over Netanyahu’s rejection of a Palestinian state, Jewish settler violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the expansion of settlements there.

In addition, the well-known antagonism between Netanyahu and Biden – which dates from Biden’s tenure as vice president – deepened after Biden questioned Israel’s strategy in combating Hamas.

Then, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Biden ally, suggested that
Netanyahu was not operating in Israel’s best interests and called for Israel to hold new elections. Biden signaled his approval of Schumer’s remarks, prompting a rebuke from Netanyahu.

During its US visit, the Israeli delegation was to present White House officials with its plans for a possible ground invasion of Rafah, a city on the Egyptian border in southern Gaza where over 1 million Palestinian civilians have sought shelter from the barbaric war.

Last week, Netanyahu rebuffed a US request to halt the planned Rafah invasion – vowing during a visit by Secretary of State Antony Blinken to act alone if necessary. Blinken warned that Israel could soon face growing international isolation, while Vice President Kamala Harris said Israel could soon face unspecified consequences if it launches the ground assault.

The Security Council vote came after Russia and China vetoed a US-sponsored resolution last Friday that would have supported ‘an immediate and sustained cease-fire’ in the Israeli-Hamas conflict. That
resolution featured a weakened link between a cease-fire and the release of hostages, leaving it open to interpretation, and no time limit.

The United States warned that the resolution approved yesterday (Monday) could hurt negotiations to halt the hostilities, raising the possibility of another veto, this time by the Americans. The talks involve the US, Egypt and Qatar.

Because Ramadan ends on 9 April 2024, the cease-fire demand would last for just two weeks, though the draft says the pause in fighting should lead to ‘a lasting sustainable cease-fire.’

The US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said the resolution ‘spoke out in support of the ongoing diplomatic efforts,’ adding that negotiators were ‘getting closer’ to a deal for a cease-fire with the release of all hostages, ‘but we’re not there yet.’

The resolution, put forward by the 10 elected council members, was backed by Russia and China and the 22-nation Arab Group at the United Nations.

Under the United Nations Charter, Security Coun
cil resolutions are legally binding on its 193 member nations, though they are often flouted.

Since the start of the war, the Security Council has adopted two resolutions on the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza, but none has called for a cease-fire.

More than 32,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed during the fighting by Israeli occupation forces, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. The agency does not differentiate between civilians and combatants in its count, but says women and children make up two-thirds of the dead.

Gaza also faces a dire humanitarian emergency. A report from an international authority on hunger warned last week that ‘famine is imminent’ in northern Gaza and that escalation of the war could push half of the territory’s 2.3 million people to the brink of starvation.

Source: Oman News Agency