In a recent turn of events, Russia and China have blocked a U.S. initiative aimed at addressing the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict through the United Nations Security Council. The proposal sought to establish humanitarian ceasefires, ensure civilian protection, and halt the arming of Hamas and other militant groups in the Gaza Strip.
The United States introduced its draft resolution in response to growing international concerns regarding the deteriorating humanitarian crisis and the rising civilian casualties in Gaza. This move came shortly after the U.S. vetoed a humanitarian-focused resolution from Brazil, asserting the need for more time for U.S.-led diplomatic efforts.
The initial U.S. text surprised many diplomats with its straightforward assertion of Israel’s right to self-defense and its demand for Iran to cease the export of arms to militant groups. Notably, it did not include provisions for humanitarian pauses to facilitate aid access. However, the final text presented for a vote was notably toned down.
Following the double veto by Russia and China, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, expressed her disappointment but emphasized the need to persevere, stating, “Though today’s vote was a setback, we must not be deterred.”
The U.S. decision to propose Security Council action was a rare occurrence, as the United States has traditionally shielded its ally, Israel, within the United Nations.
The U.S. resolution received the support of ten members, while the United Arab Emirates voted against it, and Brazil and Mozambique abstained. However, China’s U.N. Ambassador, Zhang Jun, criticized the resolution, stating it did not align with the international community’s calls for an immediate ceasefire and a resolution to the conflict.
As the Security Council remains deadlocked on the issue, the 193-member United Nations General Assembly is set to vote on a draft resolution put forward by Arab states on Friday, which calls for an immediate ceasefire. Unlike the Security Council, the General Assembly operates on a non-binding basis but holds significant political influence.
The Israel-Hamas conflict has seen Israel vowing to eliminate Hamas, which governs Gaza, in response to an October 7 attack that resulted in the deaths of 1,400 people. Israel has conducted airstrikes in Gaza, imposed a siege on the territory housing 2.3 million residents, and is reportedly preparing for a ground invasion. According to Palestinian authorities, over 6,500 individuals have lost their lives.
Amidst the international deliberations, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has consistently appealed for a humanitarian ceasefire to alleviate the escalating crisis.
The double veto by Russia and China prompted a vote on a rival Russian-drafted text within the Security Council. This alternative proposal called for a humanitarian ceasefire and the withdrawal of Israel’s order for civilians in Gaza to relocate south in preparation for a ground assault. However, it failed to garner the minimum support required for adoption, with only four votes in favor.
A Security Council resolution necessitates a minimum of nine votes and no vetoes from the United States, France, Britain, Russia, or China.
In light of the Security Council’s inability to reach a consensus, the ten elected members of the council plan to collaborate on a new draft resolution. Malta’s U.N. Ambassador, Vanessa Frazier, stressed the urgency of the situation, citing the growing risk of a regional spillover. She asserted, “We have the duty and the obligation to act.”
As the world watches, the international community continues to grapple with how best to address the Israel-Gaza conflict and mitigate its devastating impact on the region.