Divide deepens as UNSC fails to pass several resolutions to halt Gaza fight
Geopolitical confrontation further impedes UN mechanism, prolongs conflict
Published: Oct 26, 2023 10:43 PM
The UN Security Council votes on a draft resolution on Israel-Palestine conflict at the UN headquarters in New York, on October 25, 2023. China vetoed the draft resolution, pointing out that the draft is seriously out of balance and confuses right and wrong. Photo: Xinhua

The UN Security Council votes on a draft resolution on Israel-Palestine conflict at the UN headquarters in New York, on October 25, 2023. China vetoed the draft resolution, pointing out that the draft is seriously out of balance and confuses right and wrong. Photo: Xinhua

A US-backed draft resolution on the Israel-Hamas conflict was vetoed for it did not reflect the world's strongest calls for a ceasefire in Gaza, showing that the deadlock is deepening at the UN Security Council (UNSC) after several relevant drafts on the issue failed to pass in recent weeks. Some observers saw Washington as playing a proxy role for Israel, with an apparent long-term biased view at the UNSC, impeding efforts to tackle the Israel-Palestine issue. 

The resolution drafted by the US would have reaffirmed Israel's right to self-defense, urged respect for international laws — especially protection of civilians — and called for "humanitarian pauses" to deliver desperately needed aid to Gaza, the AP reported on Thursday. 

In Wednesday's vote in the 15-member council, 10 countries voted in favor, Russia, China and the United Arab Emirates voted against. The resolution was not adopted because permanent council members Russia and China cast vetoes.

The draft is seriously out of balance and confuses right and wrong, was introduced in haste and lacked the consensus it deserved, Zhang Jun, China's permanent representative to the UN, said in an explanation of the vote.

It does not reflect the world's strongest calls for a ceasefire and an end to the fighting, and it does not help resolve the issue, Zhang said.  

The initial US text shocked many diplomats with its bluntness in stating Israel has a right to defend itself and demanding that Iran stop exporting arms to militant groups, Reuters said. It did not include a call for humanitarian pauses for aid access, according to the media report. 

After the failure of the US resolution, the UNSC voted on a Russian-drafted text that called for a humanitarian ceasefire and withdrawal of Israel's order for civilians in Gaza to relocate south ahead of a ground assault, Al Jazeera reported on Thursday. 

This was the second draft resolution led by Russia in two weeks, but was not adopted as it failed to secure the sufficient number of votes in favor. 

Earlier last week, a Brazil-led draft resolution calling for humanitarian pauses for full and unhindered aid into Gaza, condemnation of violence against all civilians and rescission of Israel's evacuation order failed to be adopted due to a veto by the US. 

There's a long history of divergences at the UN on the Palestine issue. The US has vetoed a number of resolutions in the past concerning Israeli occupation of some Palestinian territory or Israel's massive retaliation that caused humanitarian crisis, Li Weijian, a research fellow with the Institute for Foreign Policy Studies of the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

"Such divergences delayed the resolution of the Israel-Palestine issue, which also impeded the UN from playing its normal role," Li said, noting that the US veto of the Russia-led resolution came out of intensifying geopolitical confrontation. 

Escalating humanitarian crisis 

Israeli ground forces operated within the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday, attacking multiple Hamas targets before withdrawing, Reuters reported. 

Given the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza, European Union leaders will call for the establishment of "humanitarian corridors and pauses" to get urgently-needed aid into Gaza at a summit in Brussels on Thursday, the media report said. 

A video showing Wael Al Dahdouh, a journalist from the Al Jazeera, who lost his wife, son, daughter, and grandson in a reported Israeli airstrike on Wednesday, was circulating on Chinese social media on Thursday, grabbing the public's attention on how severe the humanitarian crisis is now in Gaza. 

The Gaza conflict has gone through two stages, firstly the attack by Hamas on Israelis, and second Israel's bombing of Gaza, but the US-led resolution mainly focused on Israel's "right of self-defense," Liu Zhongmin, a professor at the Middle East Studies Institute of Shanghai International Studies University, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

In explaining China's veto on the US-led resolution, Zhang said the draft resolution attempts to establish a new narrative on the Palestine question, ignoring the fact that the Palestinian territory has been occupied for a long time and evading the fundamental issue of independent statehood for the Palestinian people.

"It is important to also recognize the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum," UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said recently, who also accused Israel of clear violations of humanitarian law in the Gaza Strip. 

"The UNSC is now in an awkward position as it's difficult for the five permanent members of the UNSC to achieve an agreement now. The US is playing the role of a proxy for Israel by only repeating its stances," Liu said, noting that this kind of bloc confrontation will dodge some key issues and prolong the Israel-Palestine conflict. 

Ceasefire urged 

The top priority on the Palestine-Israel issue is to cease fire, avoid humanitarian disasters, downgrade conflicts, and allow the UN to play its due role, Special Envoy of the Chinese Government on the Middle East Issue Zhai Jun told a symposium on the Arab-Chinese Relations and Dialogue between Arab and Chinese Civilizations recently. 

The solution to the Palestinian issue is a two-state solution, which is to establish an independent Palestinian state and achieve peaceful coexistence between the Palestinians and Israel. The right way to advance the two-country plan is to resume peace talks as soon as possible and allow various peace mechanisms to play a positive role, Zhai said. 

China's position is based on facts and justice, responding to the strong appeal of the international community, especially the Arab countries, Mao Ning, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, told a press conference on Thursday. 

China has no selfish interests on the Palestinian question. China will firmly support anything conducive to peace, and will exert its utmost to do anything conducive to the reconciliation between Palestine and Israel, she said. 

On Thursday, the China International Development Cooperation Agency announced it would provide another 15 million yuan ($2.05 million) in emergency humanitarian supplies to the Gaza Strip to help those affected by the conflict, given the deteriorating humanitarian situation. The Chinese government recently provided $1 million in cash assistance through the Palestinian National Authority and the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East. 

Experts said there is still a possibility for a ceasefire, especially with the US and Israel facing pressure globally and domestically, which will force Washington to exert some influence on Israel. 

"Supporting Israel is the politically correct stance in the US, especially as the Biden administration is also facing pressure from pro-Israel Republicans as elections loom, so it has to demonstrate its firm support," Li said. 

But as the conflict continues, the US needs to consider the international pressure that Israel is facing and how it will interact with Arab countries in the future, which could provide some possibilities for a future ceasefire when Israel's stated targets are reached, he added.