Security Council Fails to Adopt Resolution Calling for Humanitarian Pauses in Israel-Gaza Crisis on Account of Veto by United States
In the aftermath of an air strike on a northern Gaza hospital that marked a sharp escalation in the ongoing Israel-Gaza crisis, the Security Council today failed to adopt a resolution put forth by Brazil that would have called for humanitarian pauses to allow full, safe and unhindered access for United Nations agencies and their partners, due to a veto cast by a permanent member of the Council, the United States.
If adopted, the resolution would have condemned all violence and hostilities against civilians and all acts of terrorism, and would have unequivocally rejected and condemned the terrorist attacks by Hamas that took place in Israel starting on 7 October. It would have also called for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, and for the protection of all medical personnel and humanitarian personnel, as well as hospitals and medical facilities, consistent with international humanitarian law.
By other terms, it would have called for the rescission of the order for civilians and UN staff to evacuate all areas in Gaza north of the Wadi Gaza and relocate in southern Gaza. It would have also strongly urged the continuous, sufficient and unhindered provision of essential goods and services to civilians, including electricity, water, fuel, food and medical supplies, under international humanitarian law.
Although the United States cast a veto, the draft resolution garnered support from 12 Council members, including two permanent members (China, France), with two other permanent members (United Kingdom, Russian Federation) abstaining.
Prior to voting on the text, the Council voted on two amendments proposed by the Russian Federation, neither of which were adopted as they failed to obtain the required number of votes. The first amendment, proposed above the first operative paragraph, would have called for an immediate and fully respected humanitarian ceasefire, while the second would have called for the insertion of a new operative paragraph unequivocally condemning indiscriminate attacks against civilians, as well as against civilian objects in the Gaza Strip resulting in civilian casualties, in particular the strike against Al Ahli Arab Hospital.
Speaking after the vote, Brazil’s delegate said that Council members had asked for his country’s leadership to facilitate a response to the crisis, in particular its humanitarian aspects, stating: “We heeded the call. In our view, the Council had to take action and do so very quickly.” While the text proposed was “robust and balanced”, “sadly, very sadly, the Council was yet again unable to adopt a resolution” on the conflict, he said, adding that, again, silence prevailed “to no one’s long-term interest”. Hundreds of thousands of civilians in Gaza cannot wait any longer, “actually they have waited for far too long, to no avail”.
The delegate of the United States, pointing to President Joseph R. Biden’s trip to the region at present, said that, while she recognizes Brazil’s desire to move the draft resolution forward, the Council needs to let the hard work of diplomacy undertaken by her country “play out”. Expressing disappointment that the draft did not mention Israel’s right to self-defence, she noted that, although Washington, D.C., was not able to support the text, it will continue to work on the issue. “When I talk about the protection of civilians, I mean all civilians,” she added.
The representative of the Russian Federation denounced the very essence of United States policy in the Middle East and the Pacific region, according to which there is no point in restraining Israel from any military action because there are conflicts which need to be resolved with arms, especially arms provided by them for the benefit of their military industrial complex. He voiced hope that “international partners after today’s vote will have no illusions about that and what they’re intending whatsoever”.
Meanwhile, Japan’s representative said that, while he had voted in favour of the text as he supported its main ideas and had in mind the humanitarian situation in Gaza, his delegation had asked to delay the vote on the resolution proposed by Brazil, as diplomatic efforts by various countries, including the United States, were under way. Voicing regret that the text was brought to a vote today, he said his country would nonetheless work towards ensuring the safety of civilians and to realize an early de-escalation of the situation.
The delegate of the United Arab Emirates, noting that she voted in favour of the text as it stated basic principles, not because it was perfect, said: “Each passing hour of this ruinous war makes a mockery of the principles of international humanitarian law.” More Palestinians have died in this outbreak of violence than in any other in the history of the conflict, she said, voicing support for “no less than a humanitarian ceasefire”. As well, she called for an investigation into the attack on the hospital which provided medical care for Gazans for more than 140 years. Although Hamas is indeed responsible for “sparking this latest fire that is now engulfing the streets of the capitals around the region”, she said: “Make no mistake. The kindling was already there fuelled by decades of violent dehumanization.”
THE SITUATION IN THE MIDDLE EAST, INCLUDING THE PALESTINIAN QUESTION
Statements before Voting
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), recalled that, during consultations on 16 October, many Security Council members sought to dissuade them on the depoliticized draft put forth by his country and asked to wait for 24 hours to reach consensus, adding: “We did not agree, and we were right.” Two days later, changes that were proposed to the resolution had not been discussed, he said, voicing regret that the Council wasted 36 precious hours, during which the number of casualties increased. In the context of the 17 October strike on a hospital in Gaza, which killed hundreds, the Council’s inaction looks appalling, he said, warning: “The time for diplomatic metaphors has long gone.”
Anybody that did not support the call for a swift ceasefire must understand they bear some responsibility for what has happened, he continued. The draft put forth by Brazil contained no clear call for a ceasefire, he said, stressing the need to de-escalate the situation on the ground. It instead proposed “humanitarian pauses” and unhindered access to humanitarian workers, he said, adding that pauses will not stop the bloodshed; only a ceasefire will. Therefore, his delegation put forward amendments: the first is a new operative paragraph to unequivocally condemn the indiscriminate attacks on civilians and civilian objects in the Gaza Strip, including the 17 October air strike on Al Ahli Arab Hospital and to condemn the imposition of the blockade. The second amendment adds a new operative paragraph calling for an immediate, sustained and respected humanitarian ceasefire. If these amendments are not included, it will not address the devastating situation; it will only exacerbate divisions within the Council, he said, urging members to vote in favour of the amendments.
Action on Amendments
The Council then failed to adopt the amendments adding a first new operative paragraph to the text, as it did not obtain the required number of votes.
It received 6 votes in favour (Brazil, China, Gabon, Mozambique, Russian Federation, United Arab Emirates) to 1 against (United States), with 8 abstentions.
The Council then failed to adopt the amendments adding a second new operative paragraph to the text, as it did not obtain the required number of votes.
It received 7 votes in favour (Brazil, China, Gabon, Mozambique, Russian Federation, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates) to 1 against (United States), with 7 abstentions.
SÉRGIO FRANÇA DANESE (Brazil), Council President for October, speaking in his national capacity, said the organ’s members asked for his country’s leadership to facilitate a response to the crisis, in particular its humanitarian aspects. “We heeded the call. In our view, the Council had to take action and do so very quickly,” he said. Council paralysis in the face of the humanitarian crisis is not in the interests of the international community, he added. He said that his country had tried to build a unified position, its focus was on and remains on the critical situation on the ground, adding that humanitarian law and international law provided a clear path for the action. He said that the text condemned all acts of violence against civilians and called for hostages’ immediate release and for all parties to abide by international legal obligations, including the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure, and stressed the urgent need for humanitarian access. It reflected the ethical necessity to provide for citizens in Gaza, including with electricity, food and medical supplies. The Council response we proposed was “robust and balanced”, he said. “Sadly, very sadly, the Council was yet again unable to adopt a resolution” on the conflict, he added, saying again silence prevailed “to no one’s long-term interest”. Hundreds of thousands of civilians in Gaza cannot wait any longer, “actually they have waited for far too long, to no avail”.
Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) denounced the very essence of United States policy in the Middle East and the Pacific region, according to which there is no point in restraining Israel from any military action because there are conflicts which need to be resolved with arms, especially arms provided by them for the benefit of their military industrial complex. He voiced hope that “international partners after today’s vote will have no illusions about that and what they’re intending whatsoever”.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) said that President Joseph R. Biden’s trip to the region “is a clear demonstration of the fact that the United States is actively engaging at the highest levels”. She pointed out that her country “is on the ground doing the hard work of diplomacy”, emphasizing that, while she recognizes Brazil’s desire to move the draft resolution forward, the Council needs to let that diplomacy “play out”. Expressing disappointment that the draft did not mention Israel’s right to self-defence, she noted that, although Washington, D.C., was not able to support the text, it will continue to work on this pressing issue. “When I talk about the protection of civilians, I mean all civilians,” she stressed, highlighting that the United States is working to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. “Let us all call for the protection of civilians and unequivocally condemn Hamas,” she stated, urging Member States to support equal measures of justice and freedom.
VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta) noted that her delegation voted in favour of the draft tabled by Brazil and abstained on the two amendments proposed by the Russian Federation. While her delegation had no issue with the latter’s substance, she said it “saw no reason to alter a well-crafted resolution that rested on a delicate balance and sought Council unity on this matter”. Expressing regret that the text was not adopted, she said her delegation remains concerned over the highly volatile situation in Israel and Gaza. The Council must therefore work towards constructive steps that prioritize the protection of civilians and prevent any regional conflagration. Stressing the importance of rapid, unhindered humanitarian access to Gaza, she urged the immediate establishment of humanitarian corridors. Further, she called on all parties to exercise maximum restraint and comply with international law, also underlining the need for Council efforts “to steadfastly align with a just, comprehensive resolution of the Middle East conflict”.
ZHANG JUN (China), recalling his position articulated the night before last, said that his reaction today was one of shock. The draft proposed the night before last focused on civilian protection, to which some countries cast a negative vote, while others agreed to postpone action, leading his delegation to expect that they will vote in favour of today’s text. However, he stressed: “The final result is nothing short of unbelievable.” He voiced disappointment that the amendments, which would have improved Brazil’s text, were rejected, stressing the need for the Council to take rapid action, in view of the rapid deterioration of the situation in Gaza, and the air strike on the hospital, which led to hundreds of civilian casualties. He condemned the air strike and urged Israel to abide by its obligations under international humanitarian law. The text put forth by Brazil reflects the general view of the international community and contained initial steps for a ceasefire, he said, stressing: “The Council must not stand on its hands.” With the escalation of violence in Gaza, civilians are paying the price with their lives, he said, calling for hostilities to cease and for the Council to play its role.
PEDRO COMISSÁRIO AFONSO (Mozambique) said his vote in favour of the resolution expressed his delegation’s concern with the outbreak of violence and deterioration of the situation in Gaza and the unfolding humanitarian crisis. “We are deeply concerned about the human lives that are being lost on a daily basis since the conflict erupted,” he said, adding that his delegation aligned itself with Council efforts to protect civilians and respect international human rights law, international humanitarian law and the Geneva Conventions. He called for humanitarian aid to reach Gaza, including the provision of essential goods and services and medical supplies. “Ultimately, humanitarian problems need political solutions”, he stressed, pointing out that this belief reflects his country’s own experience originating from its protracted struggle against colonialism, racism and apartheid in the Southern Africa region. In this context he urged all parties to stop attacks and engage in constructive dialogue, which is the only way to resolve the issues.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana) said: “The Council, as far as possible, should speak in one voice on this important dispute whose fault lines reach many distant parts of the world.” His delegation voted in favour of that draft, but abstained from the draft proposed on 16 October and amendments to today’s resolution to preserve the broadest possible agreement that was found. Underscoring the Council’s historic responsibility to deliver the two-State solution and preserve the lives of the two nations, he called on parties to de-escalate and seek consensus to support mediation efforts, and on those who can have a moderating influence on the parties to open up spaces for dialogue.
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan) said his country voted for the resolution because it supports its main ideas, bearing in mind various perspectives, including the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Japan has unequivocally condemned the terror attacks by Hamas and others, and called for the immediate release of those who were kidnapped. At the same time, he pointed out that Japan had asked to delay the vote on this resolution proposed by Brazil, understanding that various countries, including the United States, have been carrying out diplomatic efforts on the ground to improve the situation as soon as possible. Japan expresses great regret that the resolution was brought to a vote today, nevertheless. Japan has consistently and strongly supported and put faith in diplomatic efforts by United States President Biden and other relevant countries. Japan will continue to work together with other countries to ensure the safety of civilians and realize an early de-escalation of the situation.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland), calling for an immediate release of hostages and rapid humanitarian access, said that the draft resolution met these priorities and aimed for the Council’s common understanding. Underlining that, for this reason, she voted in favour of the text, she expressed regret that the 15-nation organ was unable to reach consensus on the draft resolution.
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon) observed that “this morning, the Council is seeing its credibility being put to the test”. Rhetoric around the table provided no succour to the citizens of Gaza, and geopolitics have — once again — paralysed the organ’s ability to act. Noting that his delegation voted in favour of the draft resolution tabled by Brazil and the two amendments proposed, he said it did so out of the urgent, crucial need to act in the face of deadly violence that has caused immeasurable distress. He called for an immediate cessation of hostilities and the opening of humanitarian corridors to alleviate the suffering of civilians. Further, hostages must be released with no conditions or blackmail. Again expressing regret that the Council was unable to overcome its differences, he underlined the need to find a solution to the situation in the Middle East — the chronic nature of which questions the organ’s credibility and tarnishes its reputation.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) noted that the text rightly condemned the appalling attacks carried out by Hamas on 7 October, stressed the importance of ensuring humanitarian access and protecting civilians, while emphasizing the Council’s shared priority in preventing the regional escalation of the conflict. However, the text could have been clearer on Israel’s inherent right to self-defence, and it ignored the fact that innocent Palestinian civilians were being used as human shields. Therefore, her delegation abstained from voting on the text, she said, reiterating her country’s support for Israel in defending itself against Hamas, in taking back hostages and strengthening long-term security. She also called on Israel to avoid harming Palestinian civilians and act in line with international humanitarian law. As well, the United Kingdom will continue to work with partners to ensure civilians are protected and have access to food, water, medicine and shelter, she said, adding it will also continue to work towards the peace promised by the two-State solution.
HERNÁN PÉREZ LOOSE (Ecuador) said his country voted in favour of the resolution as it was the result of a constructive negotiating process. “The Council cannot continue in silence in the face of events which are clearly a threat to international peace and security,” and which are already having serious humanitarian consequences, he said. More so, the credibility of the Council depends on its decisions at times like this. Noting that his country abstained regarding the amendments since they were elements covered in the resolution, he underscored that this is not the end of his delegation’s efforts to ensure that the Council can act regarding this conflict. It remains, as it has been in the past, for the great Powers related to the conflict to be guided to seek solutions to establish constructive peace and not hamper possible agreements and understandings, he stressed.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) said his country voted in favour of the resolution because it responded to core objectives on the issue and towards a coherent and principled position. Among others, the text strongly and unequivocally condemned Hamas and its indefensible terrorist attacks on Israel on 7 October, called for the immediate release of hostages and provided for protection of civilians and the flow of humanitarian aid to all those in need. While his delegation supported the draft, it also reaffirms full support of Israel and its right to self-defence, like every other nation under attack, which the resolution falls short to mention, he said.
LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates), recalling that, for more than 140 years Al Ahli Arab Hospital has provided medical care and shelter for Gazans, added: “Each passing hour of this ruinous war makes a mockery of the principles of international humanitarian law.” Noting that “Gaza is laid to waste, and nobody feels safe”, she called for an investigation to this incident. She also reported that more Palestinians have died in this outbreak of violence than in any other in the history of the conflict, expressing her support for a “no less than a humanitarian ceasefire”. Stressing that Hamas is indeed responsible for “sparking this latest fire that is now engulfing the streets of the capitals around the region,” she stated: “Make no mistake. The kindling was already there fuelled by decades of violent dehumanization.” She emphasized that she voted for the draft resolution not because it is a perfect text, but because it states basic principles. Recalling that three years ago the United Arab Emirates established diplomatic relations with Israel through the Abraham Accords, she noted that, along with Israeli and United States partners, her Government “thought a new middle East” where coexistence and cooperation deliver prosperity, security and peace for all.