With 5 Members in Favour, 4 Against, Security Council Rejects Russian Federation’s Resolution Calling for Immediate Humanitarian Ceasefire in Israel-Palestine Crisis
The Security Council today failed to adopt a resolution put forth by the Russian Federation that would have called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the ongoing Israel-Palestine crisis.
If adopted, it would have strongly condemned all violence and hostilities directed against civilians and all acts of terrorism. By its further terms, it would also have called for the secure release of all hostages and unimpeded provision and distribution of humanitarian assistance, including of food, fuel and medical treatment.
While the draft resolution received support from one other permanent Council Member — China — and three non-permanent members, including Gabon, Mozambique and the United Arab Emirates, the delegations of France, Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom voted against it, and the remaining six Council members abstained from voting.
Prior to the voting, the representative of the Russian Federation described that resolution as a “purely humanitarian text,” which had garnered support from Arab Group members as well as the State of Palestine. Stressing that without a ceasefire, humanitarian efforts will not be possible, he said the draft condemns all violence and calls for the opening up of humanitarian corridors and the safe release of all hostages. After the text was defeated, he said Western countries have stomped on the expectations of the entire world. Nevertheless, he said, the draft has contributed to launching a substantive discussion on this topic in the Council.
The representative of the United States said that it was the attack on Israel by Hamas that led to the dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza. While it is the Council’s responsibility to address the crisis, the proposed resolution falls short by failing to mention Hamas, she said. Council members cannot allow the Council to shift the blame to Israel, she said, adding that her delegation could not vote for a resolution that dishonours victims.
Israel’s delegate stressed that his country needs to obliterate Hamas for its own self-preservation. The world has kept its head in the sand as Hamas embedded its war machine under Gaza’s civilians. But his country is on a rescue mission to “save our hostages, to save our future and the people of Gaza from their savage tyrants” he said, asking why the resolution that was not adopted does not ask Hamas to put down its arms. Before any calls for aid or calm, he stressed, Hamas should be designated a murderous terror organization. Further, the Council must support Israel’s right to defend itself, hold it fully responsible for what’s happening in Gaza and call for the release all hostages.
However, Riyad H. Mansour, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, said that killing more Palestinians will not make Israel more secure. Palestinian lives matter, he stressed, noting that the 3,000 Palestinians killed so far in recent days are overwhelmingly civilian, more than half being women and children. Calling for an end to the assault on Palestinians and their forced transfer from Gaza, as well as humanitarian access throughout the Gaza Strip, he pointed out that people can’t even bury their loved ones and mourn them. Urging Council members to consider the deepening divide between the West and the Arab and Muslim World, he recalled the United Nations’ many calls to Palestinians to choose peace. At this pivotal moment, “why would this Council be unable to call for a ceasefire?” he asked.
Speaking for the Arab Group, Jordan’s delegate said the silence of the international community is dehumanizing the Gazans. Noting that Israel’s prevention of humanitarian aid delivery is a violation of international law, he urged Member States to condemn the killing of civilian Palestinians using the same set of standards it used for Israeli civilians. Per the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, Israel does not have the right to defend itself within the Occupied Palestinian Territory, he said, noting that a comprehensive and just peace is the only means to protect the region from the cycle of violence.
The meeting was suspended at the start at the request of the representative of the United Arab Emirates, so that the Council could conduct closed consultations on the votes.
The meeting began at 6:12 p.m. and ended at 8:50 p.m.
THE SITUATION IN THE MIDDLE EAST, INCLUDING THE PALESTINIAN QUESTION
Statements before Voting
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), condemning what took place on 7 October, the death of Israeli civilians and the deaths of civilians in the Gaza Strip, said the Council must not waste any more time with the same discussions or inaction. Noting that on Friday, his delegation proposed that the Council consider a purely humanitarian draft resolution, he said its main element is a call for an immediate and durable humanitarian ceasefire. Stressing that without a ceasefire, humanitarian efforts will not be possible, he said the draft condemns all violence and calls for the opening up of humanitarian corridors and the safe release of all hostages. Noting that there were no well-argued objections from Council members, he said only one delegation objected. Further, it is telling that the draft has been co-sponsored by many members from the Arab Group, he said, noting that it was supported by Palestine as well. “This is a purely humanitarian text,” he said, calling upon the members of the Council to support the draft.
Action on Draft Resolution
The Council then failed to adopt the text, as it did not obtain the required number of votes. It received 5 votes in favour (China, Gabon, Mozambique, Russian Federation, United Arab Emirates) to 4 against (France, Japan, United Kingdom, United States) with 6 abstentions (Albania, Brazil, Ecuador, Ghana, Malta, Switzerland).
Statements after Voting
Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), expressing regret that the draft was not adopted, said the entire world had waited with bated breath for the Security Council to take steps to put an end to the bloodletting. But Western countries have basically stomped on those expectations, he said, adding that they have blocked the Council from sending a unified message for purely selfish and political interests. However, the draft has fulfilled its task because it has contributed to launching a substantive discussion on this topic, he noted, adding that without it, “everything would probably have been limited to empty discussions.”
LINDA THOMAS GREENFIELD (United States) stated that terror was unleashed on Israel by Hamas over a week ago, with the worst massacre of Jewish people since the Holocaust, leading to the slaughter of more than a thousand civilians, including American citizens. Such acts brought to mind the heinous atrocities by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as Da’esh, and it is these acts by Hamas that led to the dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza, she said, stressing: “Civilians should not suffer for these atrocities, and it is the Council’s responsibility to address the crisis, unequivocally condemn Hamas and support Israel’s right to self-defence under the Charter of the United Nations.” However, the proposed resolution does not meet these conditions, by failing to mention Hamas, she said, calling this “outrageous and indefensible”. The United States could not vote for a resolution that dishonours victims. It is Hamas that set the crisis in motion, she said, stressing that members cannot allow the Council to shift the blame to Israel. United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken is engaged in intensive discussions with Israeli Government officials and other stakeholders in the region, she said, underscoring the critical need for civilians to have access to food, water and medicine.
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan) said his country voted against the resolution but not mainly for its contents — though that could have been improved “if it had been put in the larger context and perspectives”. He stated that his country is second to none in caring for the humanitarian situation on the ground and for Palestinians and Israelis, saying that his country’s track record shows that. Japan voted against the resolution because of the way it was handled. He asked why it was put to vote when there was still a chance for further engagement, by which it would have been possible to avoid a showing of disunity of the Council. “That is something that we have witnessed today, and it is not helpful to anyone,” he said. “We need a united resolution that could really deliver things on the ground to help the people, to help the Palestinian people.” As this wasn’t the case, his country voted against it, he said.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) said she voted no on the draft resolution, as she cannot support a document which fails to condemn Hamas terror attacks. Citing the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, she said: “Hamas actions were an existential strike at the very idea of Israel as a safe homeland of the Jewish people.” Emphasizing that it is unconscionable for the Council to ignore the largest terror attack in Israel’s history, she stressed that all measures on the ground must be taken to ensure that civilian casualties are minimized and to facilitate humanitarian aid. She said the situation requires serious Council discussions, noting that this draft resolution is not a serious attempt to find consensus.
VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta), noting her country’s abstention, said the text proposed by the Russian Federation left out important elements that also need to be recognized and addressed by the Council. While fully cognizant of the need for dire humanitarian relief to reach the people of Gaza without further delay, the text excludes crucial elements that are currently impacting the situation on the ground, she added, noting that those also need to be addressed. She once again condemned in the strongest possible terms the terrorist acts perpetrated by Hamas on Israel. Israel has the right to live in peace and security. It has a right to self-defence, but always in line with humanitarian and international law, and the principles of distinction and proportionality. Malta is determined to engage in a constructive manner on the way forward, she said, stressing the need for the Council to take action on this situation of grave concern.
HERNÁN PÉREZ LOOSE (Ecuador) expressed regret that the text that was put to vote was not subject to negotiations and reflects only the position of the proposing State. Further, the text was put “in blue” though several members requested more time for consideration. Noting also that the Council President was making an effort to incorporate the points of view of all members in a common text, he said the draft just voted on does not mention the terrorist attacks of Hamas, which are the direct cause of the escalation of violence. The seriousness of the situation should not be used to score political points, he said. Noting also that all the elements in the Russian Federation’s text were being taken into consideration in the draft proposed by the Council President, he said his delegation abstained for all these reasons.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland) condemned the indiscriminate attacks and hostage-taking perpetrated by Hamas against the Israeli population, and deplored the deaths of thousands of civilians in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in Gaza. She offered her condolences to the families and the staff of the UN and other organizations who lost their lives in the line of duty, and commended the courage of those who remain engaged. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been forced to evacuate from their homes and are in a precarious situation, without protection, access to essential services or aid, she said, underscoring the need for the Council to act in unity. She noted her country’s abstention due to the lack of a clear reference to international humanitarian law, stressing: “Even armed conflicts have rules.” Switzerland participated constructively in the alternate proposal put forth by Brazil and hopes efforts will be unified to respond to the crisis. Humanitarian corridors must be established as soon as possible, she said, adding that Israel must allow the resumption of deliveries of water, electricity and fuel into Gaza.
ZHANG JUN (China) condemned all acts that harm civilians and opposed any violation of international law. “We welcome all initiatives conducive to protecting civilians.” Based on this position, his country voted for the draft resolution, he said. He called for a stop to fighting as soon as possible. Relevant countries need to “take an objective and just position to hit the brakes so that we can avoid a large-scale conflict and humanitarian disaster” and an even bigger blow to regional and international stability, he said, adding: “The indiscriminate use of force is unacceptable. The maintenance of one’s own security cannot come at the cost of harming innocent civilians.” He called for opening of humanitarian relief corridors as soon as possible to avoid a more serious humanitarian disaster. He was seriously concerned about Israel’s full siege of the Gaza Strip and its call for people to move within the territory, and called on it to stop the collative punishment of people in Gaza. He said all parties should seek consensus, adding the solution to the Palestinian problem is an independent State of Palestine.
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon) said he voted in favour of the draft resolution, noting that this is an action that responds to the serious crisis that has caused thousands of deaths. Moreover, this action is in lockstep with Member States’ obligations under humanitarian law. Expressing regret that the Council was unable to reach consensus, he stressed that States must have greater engagement and commitment to find a lasting solution to the severity of the humanitarian situation to avoid a catastrophe with irreparable consequences.
LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates) pointed out that long before Hamas’ unjustifiable attack on Israel on 7 October, Gaza was already one of the most desperate places to live in. All Council members have rightly condemned the indiscriminate murder of innocent Israeli civilians and the taking of 199 of them hostage, she recalled, reiterating that condemnation. “But Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people or the people of Gaza who are suffering immensely,” she stressed, underscoring the urgent need for Council unity on the file. In the past decade, Gazans have lived through three rounds of major conflict. Before this outbreak, 1.3 million Gazans required aid for their basic survival, and today they are once again facing a ruinous war with nowhere safe to go. “The international community must recognize that the call for the evacuation of more than 1 million people who have nowhere safe to go and no assistance for what it is — an unjustified demand, unmeetable in its nature.”
At a minimum, the Council should be able to come together around the need to protect all civilians, the unconditional release of all hostages and the safe provision of humanitarian assistance, she continued. Access to fuel, food, water, medical aid and other basic necessities must be fully restored. A framework for rapid unimpeded and safe humanitarian access must be created for those who are working to risk their lives on the ground, she said, adding that the call for humanitarian ceasefires is essential for the realization of all the above. Her country voted in favour of the draft put forward by the Russian Federation because it responds to these specific humanitarian needs, she said, voicing disappointment that it could not command the Council’s support today. Expressing hope that the Council can come quickly and with one voice on the file, she said: “Palestinians and Israelis deserve not only to live, but to thrive side by side in their own independent, prosperous and secure States.”
FERIT HOXHA (Albania), condemning the unjustifiable acts of Hamas, said they do not represent any religion or nation. Acknowledging the need for the Council to act, as well the right of States to defend themselves, he said it is vital to prevent further exacerbation or any spillover of an already dangerous situation. His delegation abstained because the text introduced failed to present the full picture and did not incorporate core elements on substantial issues. There is room to continue to remain actively engaged, he said, adding that this critical situation doesn't need the competition between texts. Rather, he said, “it requires active diplomacy by regional and international actors as is happening now.”
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) condemned the terrorist attack conducted by Hamas on 7 October, without a doubt the worst experience by Israel since its creation. He underscored the need to protect Israel’s security and its right to defend itself. Humanitarian assistance and the protection of civilians are also essential, as is adhering to the Geneva Conventions. The population of Gaza is also a victim of Hamas. France voted against the draft, as it lacked several essential elements. The Council should unite behind the draft put forth by Brazil, agree to condemn the terrorist attack, ensure the provision of humanitarian assistance, and protect the civilian population of Gaza.
RIYAD H. MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, said that for 10 days, the world has watched Israel assaulting over 2 million Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip. Stressing that killing more Palestinians will not make Israel more secure, he recalled the many times he had appealed to the Council for action. “You now have important decisions to make,” he said, calling on its members to be guided by the rule of international law, with no exception or exceptionalism. The Council must not send the signal that Palestinian lives don’t matter, he said. It must not blame the victim, he said, adding that Israel has killed, as of now, 3,000 Palestinians, most of them overwhelmingly civilians, more than half of them women and children. More than 1,000 Palestinian children have been killed so far in this assault.
Palestinians, he continued, have been killed daily by Israeli soldiers or settlers for years now, and yet the Council always pressed them to choose peace. Now, at this pivotal moment, “why would this Council be unable to call for a ceasefire?” he asked. The humanitarian and health system in Gaza has collapsed, he continued, noting that over 1 million people have been displaced. People can’t even bury their loved ones and mourn them. Israeli officials said they were fighting “human animals,” he said. What would have been the Council’s reaction if any Palestinian official had done the same, he asked.
Highlighting three urgent calls — an end to the assault on Palestinian people; immediate and unimpeded humanitarian access throughout the Gaza Strip; and an end to the forced transfer of Palestinian people — he said that anything else would be legally, morally and politically unacceptable. “In the next hour, Israel will kill 12 Palestinian civilians, including 5 children. And then the next, and the next and the next, until you decide to act,” he said.
Reminding the Council how it insisted that Palestinians should not resort to violence, regardless of their legitimate grievances about the occupation, blockade, killing and mass imprisonment, he said that by the same logic, nothing can justify the killing of Palestinian civilians. Urging Council members to consider their own credibility and the deepening divide between the West and the Arab and Muslim World, between North and South, he cautioned of the regional and international spillover of the conflict. The Palestinian struggle will continue, he stressed, pledging, “we will not fade away.” Right is on the side of Palestine, he added.
GILAD MENASHE ERDAN (Israel) said the Security Council is facing one of the most pivotal moments in its history, a turning point, a moment of truth, that demonstrates whether it holds legitimacy and whether the United Nations has a moral compass. Hamas is not a political organization but a terror organization that seeks to exterminate; that’s its purpose and stated goal, he said. If Hamas has the opportunity to commit these atrocities again it will and it will not stop until Israel is obliterated. “Israel must obliterate Hamas first,” he said, “we must do so for self-preservation.”
He said that for the past 16 years, the international community and the United Nations have “been complacent to Hamas’ terrorist build-up. The world has kept its head in the sand” as Hamas embedded its war machine under Gaza’s civilians. He said that the international community has seen with its own eyes that nothing will change Hamas’ ideology, not any promise of a brighter future. The United Nations and the United States tried, among others, he said. Nothing can change a genocidal ideology, he said, adding that abundant resources and aid from the United Nations were squandered by these terrorist monsters. He said that Israel is on a rescue mission to “save our hostages, to save our future and the people of Gaza from their savage tyrants.” He added this war can end without one more shot fired should Hamas put down its arms tomorrow and return hostages and turn themselves in. He asked why this is not part of the resolutions.
He said Hamas should be designated a murderous organization, before any calls for aid or calm. He asserted that the Council must support Israel’s right to defend itself — meaning standing in solidarity with Israel in its rescue mission to obliterate Hamas capabilities and eradicate the group. He called for the Security Council to designate Hamas as a terror organization, hold it fully responsible for what’s happening in Gaza, uphold Israel’s right to defend itself, and call for the release all hostages, and that these should be addressed in all future discussions.
MAHMOUD DAIFALLAH HMOUD (Jordan), speaking for the Arab Group, said that the Council is meeting as Israel’s “brutal war” continues against the Gaza Strip, threatening the explosion of wider cycles of violence in the region. He stressed the need to immediately stop the war and prevent its expansion, also noting that a silence of the international community is a silence vis-à-vis an aggression that dehumanizes the Gazans and prevents them from the right to protection. In this regard, Israel’s prevention of humanitarian aid delivery and forcing more than a million of its citizens to leave their homes is a violation of international law, he said. Further commending the role of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in assisting civilians in the Gaza Strip, he called on the international community to provide the Agency with immediate support. He noted that any attempt to displace the Palestinian people is a crime, urging Member States to address the war against Gaza using the same set of standards to condemn the killing of civilian Palestinians as it did with Israeli civilians.
He also recalled that according to the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, Israel does not have the right to defend itself within the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Emphasizing that Israel’s military actions do not respect the “bare minimum” stipulated by humanitarian law, he added: “It [Israel] is not even claiming to be doing so.” He reaffirmed that the comprehensive and just peace is a “strategic Arab choice” and is the only means to protect the region from the cycle of violence. He further stressed that Israel will not attain peace and security if security and freedom are not provided to the Palestinian people in an independent State with the “occupied Jerusalem” as its capital within the borders of 4 June 1967.