The United States cleared the way for a United Nations cease-fire resolution on Gaza, escalating its dispute with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

gaza ceasefire
Smoke rises during an Israeli raid at Al-Shifa hospital and the area around it, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Gaza City, March 20, 2024. REUTERS/Dawoud Abu Alkas. Dawoud Abu Alkas, REUTERS

The United Nations Security Council passed a decision on Monday calling for a ceasefire in Israel’s war in Gaza during the  Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The resolution also demanded the release of all hostages from Gaza, as the U.S. refused the vote.

The United States who is a loyal ally to Israel allowed the decision to advance by not participating in the vote. This abstention marked the first time a cease-fire resolution passed the council since fighting started between Israel and Hamas. The council’s 14 other member nations voted to approve the decision.

The Biden administration had vetoed three previous efforts to pass similar cease-fire resolutions, which had failed a total of four times.

“Our vote does not − and I repeat that, does not − represent a shift in our policy,” Shortly after the vote, White House national security spokesman John Kirby addressed reporters.

The Biden White House and Israeli government were locked in a rising feud when Kirby stepped in to try to calm tensions. He affirmed Israel’s status as a strong U.S. ally and said that even close friends “can disagree”, referring to the U.S. abstention that was staunchly opposed by Israel.

Halting delegation from traveling to US is how Netanyahu responds

Why did the U.S. not vote for the cease-fire resolution?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the halting of a planned delegation that was to meet with Biden administration officials in Washington this week. This comes as Israel gears up for a potential military operation in Rafah, located in southern Gaza.

“In light of the change in the American position, Prime Minister Netanyahu has decided that the delegation will not travel to the U.S.,” Netanyahu’s office said. “The withdrawal of the U.S. from its position hurts efforts to release the hostages because it gives Hamas hope that international pressure will allow them to accept a cease-fire without the release of our hostages,”Kirby stated that Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is currently in Washington. The White House anticipates that the Rafah operation will be discussed during Gallant’s conversations in Washington. Gallant met with White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Monday.

Kirby stated that Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is currently in Washington. The White House anticipates that the Rafah operation will be discussed during Gallant’s conversations in Washington. Gallant met with White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Monday.

“We’re kind of perplexed by this,” Kirby said of Netanyahu’s response. “The prime minister’s office seems to be indicating from public statements that we somehow changed here. We haven’t. And we get to decide what our policy is. It seems like the prime minister’s office is choosing to create a perception of daylight here when they don’t need to do that.”

Ramadan began on March 10 and will end on April 9.

The U.S. objected to previous cease-fire resolutions because the language did not address the Israeli hostages being held in Gaza. Most recently, Russia and China vetoed a U.S.-sponsored resolution on Friday calling for an “immediate and sustained cease-fire” that also condemned Hamas for the deadly attack on Israel on October 7.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield cited the absence of language condemning Hamas in the latest resolution as the primary reason the U.S. did not vote in favour. She blamed Hamas for the failure to reach a cease-fire agreement, which has been under negotiation for weeks.

“We did not agree with everything in the resolution, for that reason we were unfortunately not able to vote yes,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “However, as I’ve said before, we fully support some of the critical objectives in this non-binding resolution, and we believe it was important for the council to speak out and make clear that our cease-fire − any cease-fire − must come with the release of all hostages.”

US increasingly at odds with Netanyahu

António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, praised the passage of the long-awaited Gaza resolution, which also stressed the urgent need to increase the flow of aid and supplies into Gaza.

“This resolution must be implemented. Failure would be unforgivable,” Guterres said in a statement.

The Biden administration and Netanyahu government are increasingly at odds over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as Netanyahu refuses Biden’s call for a two-state solution and pledges to continue military action in Gaza until Hamas is defeated.

The tensions have grown amid Israel’s restrictions on humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians in Gaza and Netanyahu’s consideration of a ground invasion of Rafah.

Can strong allies can disagree?

Before meeting with Sullivan, Gallant reaffirmed Israel’s unwavering commitment to pursue Hamas militants wherever they are located.

“We will operate against Hamas everywhere − including in places where we have not yet been,” Gallant said in a statement.

After exiting the White House, Gallant told reporters, in Hebrew, that he had a “good meeting” with Sullivan.

Biden has faced increasing pressure from Democrats and Arab-Americans over his unwavering support for Israel despite the rising death toll in Gaza. Since Israel began its war against Hamas, the death toll in Gaza has now reached 32,000, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

“We all recognize how important it is that Israel still be able to defend itself,” Kirby, the national security spokesman, said. “At the same time, making sure that the humanitarian assistance is getting in, civilian casualties come down, we get those hostages out.”

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