On Thursday, a resolution to condemn the Palestinian militant group Hamas failed to garner the support necessary to pass the United Nations. This followed a last-minute rule change, which required that the resolution obtain a two-thirds majority. The U.S.-drafted resolution fell short with a vote of 87 in favour, 57 against, and 33 abstentions. This represented a significant blow to the U.S. ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, in what is likely one of her final major actions in this role.
Haley, as well as other allies of the resolution — notably Israel — attempted to portray this resolution as a condemnation of anti-Semitism. “What the UN chooses to do today will speak volumes about each country’s seriousness when it comes to condemning anti-Semitism,” Haley said, “Because there is nothing more anti-Semitic than saying terrorism is not terrorism when it’s used against the Jewish people and the Jewish state.”
As expected, Israel displayed a strong reaction. Danny Danon, the Israeli envoy to the United Nations, reprimanded the states that rejected the resolution. “Your silence in the face of evil reveals your true colours,” Danon stated. “It tells us what side you are on — the side that does not care about the lives of innocent Israelis and innocent Palestinians who have fallen victim to the terrorists of Hamas.” By contrast, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the “large majority” of nations that “took a stance against Hamas for the first time”.
The rejection of this resolution represents a defeat for peace and security in the region. Hamas has wrought violence amongst Israelis and Palestinians for over a decade. Neither can Israel play the victim, as its blockade of the Gaza Strip has created what the World Bank describes as a humanitarian crisis.
As Reuters reports, the Palestinian economy has collapsed, resulting in drastic shortages of water, electricity, and medicine. Yet, to remain mired in base hatreds that obscure the nature of Israeli-Palestinian relations is not how stability will be attained. To condemn Hamas is not to reduce the culpability of Israel in bringing about human suffering, but rather to recognize the violence of Hamas. What is perhaps needed might be just a more nuanced condemnation — one that unambiguously rejects Hamas, while acknowledging Israeli accountability. Though, granted, any such resolution seems untenable to pass the United Nations, as it would satisfy neither the Arab nor the U.S.-Israel blocks. Instead, a continuation of the long history of violence between Israel and Palestine seems more probably.
Israel captured Gaza in the 1967 Middle East war, but withdrew in 2005, holding onto most of the separate West Bank, where Palestinians have limited self-rule. Since 2007, the Sunni-extremist group Hamas has served as the de facto government of the Gaza Strip. For decades, there has been constant provocation — notably the ceaseless encroachment of Israeli settlers into Palestinian territories — which formed the basis of a reproachful December 2016 Security Council resolution. In return, the military wing of Hamas launched attacks against Israeli military and civilians alike, often characterizing them as retaliatory, particularly for the assassination of its high-ranking members.
Overall, Thursday’s vote is a continuation of what has long occurred in the Middle East. Mutual hatred and distrust between Israel and its Arab neighbours have produced a stalemate, blocking any progress towards peace and stability in the region. For progress, some cession must occur, and Thursday’s vote could have been a significant opportunity had the United Nations taken the step towards condemning the actions of Hamas. Instead, old trends prevailed and progress faltered.
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