At last, a UN Security Council Resolution over Gaza, but what’s next?

At last, a UN Security Council Resolution over Gaza, but what’s next?

Last Monday, a resolution finally passed, thanks to the US abstaining from the vote. (Screenshot)
Last Monday, a resolution finally passed, thanks to the US abstaining from the vote. (Screenshot)
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There was something beyond infuriating about the slowness, and even more so the cynical manner, with which discussions about a UN Security Council resolution calling for a truce in the war in Gaza were conducted.
It took five attempts before a draft resolution was passed, after four were vetoed, three of them by the US and one by Russia and China. Meanwhile, the direct victims of this big-power game were the entire Palestinian population of Gaza and the Israeli hostages still held by Hamas.
This situation made a mockery of the Security Council, a body that is assigned the task of maintaining international peace and security but which over the years has repeatedly failed to achieve this objective. Instead it has turned into a talking shop in which its five permanent members — the US, the UK, Russia, China and France — goad and cancel each other through endless rhetoric and their power to veto any decision.
Last Monday, a resolution finally passed, thanks to the US abstaining from the vote, that called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza during the month of Ramadan that is “respected by all parties, leading to a sustainable, lasting ceasefire.” It also demanded “the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.”
Yet the fighting continues to rage. The path to reach this resolution was excruciating but the bigger question remains how to make it count. In other words, is it enforceable?
Regardless of how one reads the text of the resolution, it could and should have been agreed and adopted weeks, if not months, ago. In the end, it might have helped that the successful resolution was drafted by the 10 non-permanent members of the Security Council; at least it saved the blushes of China, Russia, and the US for their prior failures to reach an agreement on a resolution.
From the outset, there was no draft resolution that could possibly satisfy the requirements of the main antagonists in this war, Israel and Hamas, or the three major powers. Russia and China insisted on a resolution that demanded a permanent ceasefire, while the US was determined to include explicit condemnation of Hamas.
The priority should always have been a focus on saving lives, ending the misery of those held captive by Hamas and its allies, and rescuing the entire population of Gaza from the brutality of the war.
Civilians should never be mere pawns caught in the crossfire between warring sides. When innocent people in their thousands are losing their lives, when hospitals and schools are becoming battlefields, when millions are facing famine with no adequate medical help available, a call for an immediate ceasefire is a moral imperative, as is the demand to free all hostages who are going through hell at the hands of their captors.

Israel desperately needs the support of Washington as it becomes increasingly isolated in the international arena. 

Yossi Mekelberg

It is the duty of the international community, led by the Security Council, to ensure that a truce is called, hostages are returned home, and sufficient humanitarian aid gets through to those who need it so desperately, even before the pursuit of accountability for the ongoing killings and destruction.
A permanent ceasefire, and beyond that a horizon for lasting peace, should remain the ultimate target, one that ensures the atrocities of Oct. 7 and the disproportionate response by the Israeli army will never happen again.
Admittedly, this will require a gradual deescalation of the present situation, starting with the injection of some rational behavior after nearly six months during which death and destruction have reigned supreme.
Israel’s rejection of the resolution and Hamas’ support for it were diametrically opposed but neither reaction offered any sign they have eventual peace in their hearts.
On top of this, the US immediately described the resolution as “nonbinding,” which implied that there was no legal obligation to abide by it, thereby undermining the efforts to reach a ceasefire agreement.
Nevertheless, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu directed his rage at Washington anyway for abstaining from the vote, thereby allowing the resolution to pass. He canceled a planned visit by a senior delegation to the White House to discuss Israel’s plan to launch a ground assault on the city of Rafah in southern Gaza, which the Biden administration strongly opposes, especially in the absence of any viable proposal for the evacuation of civilians sheltering there.
Pulling the plug on discussions with the US over Rafah might have been a convenient way for Netanyahu to use the US abstention from the Security Council vote to avoid difficult conversations in Washington about the planned military incursion in Rafah. Yet it was a clear case of “cutting off your nose to spite your face,” because Israeli authorities desperately need the support of Washington as they become increasingly isolated in the international arena.
Despite Netanyahu subsequently rowing back on his decision to cancel the visit by the delegation, it was a clear indication of his incoherent state of mind, and the fact that his own domestic political calculations take precedence over Israel’s national interests, including efforts to bring home the hostages.
Hamas, meanwhile, is keen on a ceasefire but wants a permanent one. It is under severe military pressure and the support it has among Palestinians is on the decline compared with where it stood at the beginning of the war. However, some of its leaders are fully aware that a ceasefire will not be their savior, not politically and perhaps not militarily either.
The adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2728 this week was a small step forward, then, even if it was too little and, for many people who have lost their lives or loved ones, too late. Moreover, even if both sides fully comply with the requirements of the resolution, the month of Ramadan is more than halfway through. This means that at best it would be a two-week truce, and unless negotiations that are taking place outside of the UN system are successful, we will be back to square one, with the danger that Israel might feel it needs to rush to “finish the job.”
The resolution should therefore serve more as a springboard for accelerating negotiations on a longer-term truce that also includes agreements to exchange Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons, to allow a massive increase in deliveries of humanitarian aid to Gaza, and to create the momentum needed for a transition to a permanent ceasefire, followed by the reconstruction of Gaza.
It is left for those with influence on either or both of the combatants to apply pressure on them to comply with the Security Council resolution. In the final analysis, a worse outcome than no resolution at all would be to have one that is ignored — something that this international body is not without previous experience of.

  • Yossi Mekelberg is a professor of international relations and an associate fellow of the Middle East and North Africa Program at international affairs think tank Chatham House. X: @YMekelberg
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