On 8th December, the United States vetoed a UN Security Council draft resolution put forward by the United Arab Emirates, calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. The resolution also demanded that all hostages be immediately released and that all parties comply with their obligations under international law regarding the protection of civilians. The United States vetoed the resolution and the UK abstained. The other 13 members of the Council voted in favour of the proposal.
The US criticised the absence in the draft resolution of any condemnation of the Hamas attack on 7 October, noting that the proposed resolution was conspicuously silent regarding reports that Hamas committed sexual and gender-based brutal violence in its attack. The US described the proposal as “divorced from reality” and that it would “only plant the seeds for the next war”. Israel argued that a ceasefire was unrealistic and would leave Hamas in place, able to regroup and repeat its actions of 7 October.
Key Arab countries condemned Israel’s killing of Palestinians in Gaza saying that innocent people were dying. They also contend that Israel’s objective of eradicating Hamas was unachievable. What they failed to acknowledge was that it was the duty and responsibility of Hamas, as the government of Gaza to protect its civilian population instead of using them as human shields.
Adam Creighton, reporting in The Australian asked - what did Hamas think was going to happen after it unleashed “the equivalent of more than a dozen 9/11’s on Israel”. Israel is fighting its enemies to ensure its survival just as Western nations fought Germany and Japan to bring about an end to World War II. The UN resolution ignored the existential realities which Israel faced.
There are two parties to the conflict, not just one. It would be utterly unrealistic to expect Israel to unilaterally agree to a ceasefire without Hamas laying down its weapons, surrendering and committing to permanently cease its attacks against Israel. Imagine such a ridiculous suggestion after Japan bombed Pearl Harbour. Would the world have called on the US to agree to a ceasefire without the Japanese first surrendering.
What might the outcome of the United Nations proposal have been if:
The draft resolution had expressly condemned the Hamas attack and pointed to the nature of the atrocities it committed;
Hamas had immediately agreed to the unconditional release of all remaining hostages and the cessation of further hostilities;
Hamas had surrendered and laid down their arms (as did Germany and Japan in 1945 when they sued for peace); and
Instead of saying that eradicating Hamas was unachievable, the Arab states had jointly committed to ensuring the complete surrender of Hamas.
In those circumstances, Israel and the US may have agreed to the UN resolution and may not have called a ceasefire unrealistic or argued that it would leave Hamas able to regroup and repeat its savage actions.
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