UN Security Council Passes Resolution Affirming Biden-Proposed Gaza Cease-Fire Deal

UN Security Council Passes Resolution Affirming Biden-Proposed Gaza Cease-Fire Deal
Members of the United Nations Security Council listen as Representative of the United States to the UN, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaks during a meeting on the situation in the Middle East at the United Nations headquarters in New York on June 10, 2024. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

The United Nations Security Council voted on Monday in favor of a U.S.-led resolution affirming a Gaza cease-fire proposal that President Joe Biden announced on May 31.

Thirteen members of the 15-member Security Council voted alongside the U.S. delegation in favor of the deal. Russia, one of four permanent members on the Security Council with veto power, abstained from voting.

The cease-fire deal could see an end to the fighting between Israeli forces and the terrorist group Hamas after more than eight months of combat in the Gaza Strip. As of Monday, the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry has reported that some 37,124 Palestinians have been killed and 84,712 injured in the course of the fighting, though the organization doesn’t distinguish between combatants and non-combatants.

According to President Biden, phase one of the deal would last at least six weeks, and involves “a full and complete cease-fire; a withdrawal of Israeli forces from all populated areas of Gaza; a release of a number of hostages—including women, the elderly, the wounded—in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.”

He said phase one of the deal also includes measures to ensure up to 600 truckloads of food reach the Gaza Strip daily.

President Biden said phase two of the plan would be contingent on continued negotiations along with the peace established in phase one would hold beyond six weeks. If those negotiations succeed, he said phase two would entail Hamas releasing its remaining captives; a group that consists of male Israeli military members. He said if this final hostage release succeeds, Israel will withdraw from the Gaza Strip altogether and the cease-fire will become permanent.

The president said the third and final phase of the cease-fire plan would involve the start of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip, while Hamas would be expected to turn over the remains of any deceased hostages.

While the Biden administration has said the cease-fire proposal he articulated on May 31 is an Israeli government proposal, the deal President Biden laid out has met with some criticism within Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet.

The proposal President Biden described on May 31 didn’t meet Mr. Netanyahu’s wartime goal to eliminate Hamas and the Israeli prime minister has recently said he would not accept a permanent cease-fire deal that leaves Hamas intact.

Other members of Mr. Netanyahu’s cabinet have also threatened to pull their support for his coalition government if the deal doesn’t conclude with Hamas’s defeat.

“I have now spoken with the Prime Minister and made it clear to him that I will not be part of a government that will agree to the proposed outline and end the war without destroying Hamas and returning all the abductees,” Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich announced in a June 1 social media post.

Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir also threatened in a June 3 social media post that he would pull his support from the Netanyahu coalition if the Israeli prime minister agrees to a “promiscuous deal” to end the war without outright eliminating Hamas.

US Ambassador Says Onus on Hamas to Close Cease-Fire Deal

The Biden administration has repeatedly said the cease-fire proposal he described on May 31 is in line with the latest terms Israeli negotiators have offered Hamas.

The Biden administration has said the Israeli side is fully on board with the cease-fire proposal he described on May 31, and that it’s now on Hamas to accept the terms and enable a cessation of hostilities.

“Today, this council sent a clear message to Hamas: accept the cease-fire deal on the table,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas Greenfield said following the Monday afternoon vote.

Past efforts to halt the current Gaza conflict have divided the 15-member Security Council.

The U.S. delegation used its veto power as one of five permanent members of the Security Council to block an Algerian-led cease-fire resolution in February.

On March 22, the Chinese and Russian delegations vetoed a U.S.-led Security Council resolution that called a Gaza cease-fire “imperative,” but which the Chinese and Russian delegations argued wasn’t strong enough. Three days later, on March 25, the United States was the lone abstention from a vote on another cease-fire resolution, allowing it to pass in the Security Council.

Explaining his abstention during Monday’s vote, Russian Ambassador to the U.N. Vassily Nebenzia said his country has consistently favored a cease-fire in the ongoing Gaza conflict, but said the Russian delegation had not seen sufficient details about the Biden-articulated cease-fire proposal to warrant their full support.

“We have a whole of host of questions about the American draft resolution, whereby the Council welcomes some deal—the ultimate outlines of which are not known to anyone perhaps except the mediators,” Mr. Nebenzia said.

The Russian diplomat also questioned whether the Israeli side had fully accepted the cease-fire proposal the Biden administration laid out on May 31.

Israeli Delegate: Israel ‘Will Not Engage in Meaningless Negotiations’

Reut Shapir Ben-Naftaly, the political coordinator for the Israeli delegation to the United Nations, sat in on the Monday Security Council vote. Ms. Ben-Naftaly didn’t challenge the U.S.-led resolution but said the Netanyahu government intends to achieve its wartime goal of outright defeating Hamas before it makes any Gaza cease-fire deal permanent.

“Israel is committed to these goals to free all the hostages, to destroy Hamas’s military and governing capabilities, and to ensure that Gaza does not pose a threat to Israel in the future,” Ms. Ben-Naftaly said following the vote. “And as we have echoed numerous times in this very chamber, once these goals are met, the war will end. If Hamas were to release the hostages and turn themselves in, not one more shot needs to be fired.”

While the Biden administration has said the cease-fire established in the initial phase of the peace proposal could continue beyond six weeks if phase two negotiations continue, Ms. Ben-Naftaly warned that Israel won’t allow the phase-one peace to hold indefinitely.

“Israel will not let Hamas rearm or regroup so that Gaza could pose a threat to Israel. This is the unwavering goal that we are determined to achieve,” she said. “This also means that Israel will not engage in meaningless and endless negotiations which can be exploited by Hamas as a means to stall for time.”

Ms. Ben-Naftaly concluded by urging the members on the Security Council to pressure Hamas to release hostages and surrender.

Security Council Members Condemn Civilian Deaths

After voting in favor of the resolution endorsing a Gaza cease-fire, Maltese Ambassador to the U.N. Vanessa Frazier urged greater efforts by Israel to prevent civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip. Ms. Frazier said her country welcomed news of an Israeli military operation on June 8 in which they rescued four hostages from Hamas captivity near the Nuseirat refugee camp, but expressed dismay at reports of civilian deaths arising from the operation.

“All those that remain in captivity must be immediately and unconditionally released,” Ms. Frazier said. “However, images from the aftermath of the Israeli operation into the Nuseirat refugee camp in which scores of Palestinians including children were reportedly killed are truly horrifying. This incident is not isolated and is emblematic of the scale of suffering in Gaza. We unequivocally stress that international humanitarian law must be respected by all parties.”

Swiss Ambassador to the U.N. Pascale Baeriswyl said she was also “alarmed” by the “very high number of Palestinian casualties reported in recent days, particularly during the rescue operation.”

“We reiterate that the distinction must be made at all times between civilians and combatants, and between civilian objects and military targets,” she said.

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