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Israeli officials decry UNSC ceasefire resolution, US abstention

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“The United States has abandoned its policy in the U.N. today,” charged Netanyahu in response to the Biden administration’s failure to exercise its veto.

Akiva Van Koningsveld, Amelie Botbol


Israeli government officials were near-unanimous on Monday in their condemnation of a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding a two-week halt to the war against Hamas, with Prime Minister Netanyahu slamming the U.S. decision to refrain from exercising its veto power.

“The United States has abandoned its policy in the U.N. today,” said Netanyahu, according to a statement released by his office. He noted that just days ago, Washington had supported a draft resolution that directly linked a call for a truce to the release of hostages.

While the resolution adopted on Monday does call for the “immediate and unconditional release of all hostages,” the text leaves it open to interpretation whether this is actually linked to the ceasefire demand.

The premier’s sentiment was echoed by Likud Party lawmaker Danny Danon, a member of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee who served as ambassador to the United Nations between 2015 and 2020.

“Unfortunately, this reminds me of the U.N. Security Council’s 2016 vote in which the Obama administration decided to abstain rather than exercise its veto power,” Danon told JNS, referring to UNSC resolution 2334, which condemned Israeli construction beyond the 1967 lines.

Richard Goldberg, a senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told JNS that although “the resolution demands a ceasefire and separately demands the release of hostages, it does not call for a ceasefire that is conditioned on hostages being released.”

The White House has claimed that the vote did not mark a departure from the administration’s previous stance, but according to Goldberg the decision to abstain does in fact represent a “clear shift in policy.”

“Just last Friday, the Americans proposed a draft that called for a ceasefire in connection with the release of hostages. Three days later, the standard is merely that you talk about a ceasefire and the release of hostages in the same general location [of the text], not that the two must go hand in hand,” he said.

“The United States makes itself look weaker on the world stage by abstaining on a pro-Hamas resolution backed by China and Russia…The more Washington projects distance from a close ally, the more America’s adversaries take note and get emboldened,” the analyst added.

According to Netanyahu, Resolution 2728 “gives Hamas hope that international pressure will force Israel to accept a ceasefire without the release of our hostages,” harming both military and diplomatic efforts.

Danon concurred that Washington’s abstention marked a policy shift.

“One cannot ignore the fact that allowing this resolution to pass is a change in policy; our colleagues in Washington are aware of it. This isn’t only about the language, which is problematic. This is a slippery slope for more resolutions to pass,” he said.

Following Monday’s vote, the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office canceled the departure of a high-level delegation that was slated to fly to Washington this week to discuss the looming Israeli ground operation against Hamas in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant—who arrived in the U.S. capital on Monday at the invitation of his American counterpart—stressed in an apparent response to the developments at the United Nations that Israel has “no moral right to stop the war while there are still hostages held in Gaza.”

He also warned that failure to achieve decisive victory in Gaza could bring Israel closer to a war against Hezbollah.

מתחיל את ביקורי בוושינגטון, במסר הברור שאעביר ליועץ לביטחון לאומי סאליבן ומזכיר המדינה בלינקן:

אין לנו זכות מוסרית לעצור את המלחמה בעזה עד אשר נחזיר כל החטופים לביתם. עצירת המלחמה בעזה לפני הכרעה ברורה מסכנת את ביטחון ישראל ועלולה לקרב אותנו למלחמה מצפון. pic.twitter.com/QY6U0YPoJJ

— יואב גלנט – Yoav Gallant (@yoavgallant) March 25, 2024

His words were echoed by Minister-without-Portfolio and War Cabinet member Benny Gantz, who vowed to continue military efforts “until the hostages are returned and the Hamas threat is removed.”

The National Unity Party leader dismissed the UNSC decision as “lacking operational significance” for the Israel Defense Forces. At the same time, Gantz urged Netanyahu “to travel to the United States himself and hold a direct dialogue with President [Joe] Biden and senior officials.”

“The special relationship between Israel and the United States is an anchor in Israel’s security and foreign relations, and the direct dialogue with the American administration is an essential asset that must not be given up even when there are challenges and disputes,” he said.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz was short in his response, tweeting on Monday: “The State of Israel will not cease fire. We will destroy Hamas, and will continue to fight until the return of all hostages to home.”

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who also holds the post of minister in the Defense Ministry, likewise pledged to continue fighting in Gaza “until Hamas is completely destroyed and the hostages are returned.”

“The U.S. decision not to impose a veto in the Security Council plays into Hamas’s hands and harms efforts to return the hostages and stabilize the region by eliminating the radical forces and strengthening the moderate forces,” charged Smotrich.

Israel’s minister of national security, Otzma Yehudit Party leader Itamar Ben-Gvir, tweeted “Um-Shmum,” using a traditional Hebrew expression indicating utter disgust for the United Nations’ bias against the Jewish state.

או”ם שמום.

— איתמר בן גביר (@itamarbengvir) March 25, 2024

Ministry of Diaspora Affairs and Combating Antisemitism Amichai Chikli noted that “the rapists and child murderers of Hamas” had praised the U.N. resolution, and accused the body of having lost its moral compass.

“You claimed to stand with the victims when their blood was flowing; you claimed to stand with the hostages when their cries still echoed; are you deserting them now?” he asked.

Meanwhile, Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) directed most of his criticism at Netanyahu, blaming the premier for fabricating an “unnecessary and avoidable” clash with Biden for political gain.

“This is an alarming irresponsibility from a prime minister who has lost it,” tweeted Lapid, though he added that “the latest Security Council decision has no practical importance [for Israel].”

According to a survey published earlier this month, even Israelis who do not back Netanyahu’s leadership continue to support some of his key war policies, including his opposition to the two-state solution and his insistence that the IDF defeat the Hamas battalions in Rafah.

Image: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside his office at the Knesset in Jerusalem, March 13, 2024. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

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