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The United Nations’ attempts to intervene in the Israel-Gaza crisis before Resolution 2712 (2023)

The Gaza-Israel has received intensified international attention starting from October 7, when Hamas attacked Israel.

On the 15th of November The UN security council adopted the resolution 2712 (2023) calling for Urgent and Extended humanitarian Pauses in Gaza. The Resolution was adopted under Malta’s leadership and saw the abstention of the US. 

The Adoption of the binding resolution is just the latest attempt  by the United Nations to address the situation.  Before that, the Security Council  had found itself in a deadlock for roughly a month. A situation that called for the reconvening of the 10th Emergency special Session October 26th and led to the adoption of a Resolution by the General Assembly. 

But what brought to this situation?  Let’s trace the steps. 

The resolution proposed by the Russian Federation 

On Monday 16th of October a Russian-led text received only five votes in favour  (China, Gabon, Mozambique, Russia and the United Arab Emirates) instead of the nine needed for the approval.  Six other members abstained (Albania, Brazil, Ecuador, Ghana, Malta and Switzerland) and the remaining four voted against (France, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States). 

The proposed resolution called for a humanitarian ceasefire, release of all the hostages, aid access and the safe evacuation of civilians. 

To the accusations moved by the Permanent Representative of Russia to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, towards the “western block” of having stomped on global hopes to put an end to violence for selfish intentions, the Permanent Representatives of the US, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, stated that “By failing to condemn Hamas, Russia is giving cover to a terrorist group that brutalizes innocent civilians”. 

To this result, Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the Observer State of Palestine to the UN, intervened by urging the Security Council to be guided by the principles of international law and asking not to send the message that Palestinian lives do not matter. 

The Vetoed Brazilian resolution 

On the following Wednesday, a Brazilian led resolution calling for humanitarian pauses with twelve votes in favor had been vetoed by the US, while Russia and the United Kingdom abstained. 

Brazilian Ambassador Sérgio França Danese underlined that the paralysis of the Security council was not in the interest of the international community, and that the focus remained on the humanitarian crisis. 

In a similar spirit to the Brazilian concerns, Lana Zaki Nusseibeh, Ambassador for the United Arab Emirates declared that her country voted for the resolution despite it not being perfect, because it supported the basic principles.

The main critics to the Brazilian attempt to address the crisis had been moved by the US and the UK.

Thomas-Greenfield justified the veto by the absence of Israel’s right to self-defence.

UK Ambassador Barbara Woodward motivated the abstention to the text that “rightly condemns” Hamas’ attacks on the 7th of October and calls for actions in line with international humanitarian law, with the absence of a clear reference to Israel’s right to self-defence. Moreover, the Ambassador noted, the resolution ignored the fact that “Hamas are using innocent Palestinian civilians as human shields”.

Two competing resolutions

On October 25th, two resolution adoptions failed. The first one, proposed by the US had ten votes in favor, three against (China, Russian Federation, United Arab Emirates) and two abstentions (Brazil and Mozambique). 

The resolution would have condemned the attacks conducted by Hamas in Israel, stated Israel right to self-defence and called for the duty to comply with the obligations under international law when responding to terrorist attacks. 

The resolution was mainly criticized for the call of a “humanitarian pause” and not a ceasefire by Nebenzia, who also described  the text, in comparison with the one proposed by his delegation on the 16th of October, as politicized. 

The Russian Federations’ proposal had four countries in favour (China, Gabon, Russian Federation and United Arab Emirates) and two against (United Kingdom and United States), with nine abstentions. This attempt called for humanitarian ceasefire and for Israel to cancel the evacuation order, but it did not mention Israel’s right to self-defence.

France abstention, Ambassador Nicolas de Rivière said, has been justified with the absence of classification of Hamas’ actions as terrorist attacks and the impossibility to negotiate on the proposed text. 

Gabon Ambassador Lily Stella Nguema-Ndong voted in favour of both solutions as a show of support for both populations, she also regretted the antagonism inside the Security Council that prevented from the reach of a consensus text. 

UN GA Emergency Special Session

After the Security council failed to adopt four resolutions, on the 26th of October the Tenth Emergency Special Session has been reconvened following requests of Member States and letters signed by Jordan, Mauritania, Nicaragua, Russia and Syria. 

“The ceaseless  bombardment on the Gaza Strip by Israel and its consequences are deeply alarming, the right of self-defence does not and cannot lawfully give license to undertake indiscriminate and unproportionate reprisal” Said the President of the General Assembly Dennis Francis at the session opening, “our  preeminent priority  must be to protect and to save civilian lives” .

Francis remarked that Parties to the conflict must abide by international humanitarian law and create the conditions to allow the opening of humanitarian corridors to the Gaza Strip. To the opening followed the intervention of Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Iran and Mauritania.

Adoption of Gaza resolution

On the 27th of October A Jordan led resolution has been adopted. The vote took place at 3 p.m.. During the morning many delegates intervened.

The first country was Venezuela, Joaquín Alberto Pérez Ayestará called for an immediate ceasefire and the end of inflammatory rhetoric and dehumanizing language, which alimented tension and violence. Among the other interventions, the European Union’s representative, Olof Skoog, declared that the EU regretted the use of the veto in the Security Council when there was the need for a strong, united message.

Turkey, co-author of the resolution, represented by Sedat Önal, stated that peace would not be possible as long as the Palestinians aspirations for freedom, dignity and statehood would be denied. 

Canada amended the resolution with the introduction in the test of the unequivocal rejection and condemnation of the terrorist attacks by Hamas. The intention, as Bob Rae  stated, is not to forget what was the critical reason that caused the crisis and required the intervention of the UN. Rebutting  Canada’s intervention, Pakistan’s Ambassador Munir Akram said that if Canada was being fair it would have agreed to name also Israel which for 50 years occupied Palestinian territories and killed Palestinians.

The Canadian Amendment failed to be added in absence of the two-thirds majority (85 for, 55 against, 23 abstentions), but the Jordanian resolution has been adopted by the General Assembly with 121 votes in favour, 45 abstentions and 14 votes against. 

The adopted resolution called for “immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities”(1); demanded to all parties to “immediately and fully comply with their obligations under international law”, particularly In regard to the protection of civilians, humanitarian personnel, persons horse de combat and humanitarian facilities and assets(2); demanded continued sufficient and unhindered provision of essential goods and services to civilians throughout the Gaza Strip(3); called immediate humanitarian access for UN humanitarian agencies and other humanitarian organizations, encouraging the establishment of humanitarian corridors (4); called for the immediate and unconditional release of all civilians illegally held captive (7) and for Israel to rescind the order of evacuation of the north area of the Gaza Strip (5).

Security Council resolution 2712 (2023) 

On the 11th of November Malta’s representative, Vanessa Frazier,  proposed a solution that mainly focused on children. Russian Federation ambassador proposed an amendment repeating the General Assembly resolution statement on the illegal Israeli actions in the occupied Palestinian territory and East Jerusalem. The Amendment was not adopted with only five votes in favour, nine abstentions and one vote against (United States). 

The text, adopted on November 15th, calls for humanitarian pauses to allow unhindered humanitarian access;, the establishment of humanitarian corridor throughout the Gaza Strip for a “sufficient number of days”; the safe and unconditional release of all hostages, especially children; and  the recognition of the children’s special vulnerable status. 

After almost six weeks of inaction by the Security Council an unified message – not without friction and compromises- finally arrived. Although the resolution can be considered far from perfect on many sides and for many countries, the urgency to intervene in an “already catastrophic situation” and to safeguard children, the “north star of the Council” as United Arab Emirates Lana Zaki Nussebibeh defined them, is what prevailed and conducted to this important international achievement, in the hope that the Crisis may soon end.

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