Israel pushes back on UN ceasefire call; Gallant: We’ve ‘no moral right’ to end war

Gantz, Lapid say Security Council resolution will mean very little practically, but pan Netanyahu for canceling senior aides’ trip to Washington over US failure to veto

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant issues a video statement from Washington DC, March 25, 2024. (Elad Malka/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant issues a video statement from Washington DC, March 25, 2024. (Elad Malka/Defense Ministry)

Israel has “no moral right to stop the war in Gaza,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said in a video statement from Washington on Monday, where he was on an official visit, after the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution calling for a ceasefire in the war between Israel and the Hamas terror group.

As well as an immediate ceasefire, the resolution called for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages. It passed after the United States withheld its veto and abstained from the vote.

Gallant’s remarks were released by his office ahead of meetings with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.

Calling the UN decision “scandalous,” the defense minister said that in his meeting with Sullivan he would “make clear the importance of bringing down the Hamas regime and returning the hostages to their homes.”

“We will act against Hamas everywhere, even in areas where we have not been yet,” he added. “We will create an alternative to Hamas so that the IDF can complete its mission.”

“We have no moral right to stop the war in Gaza until we return all the hostages to their homes. If we don’t reach a clear and absolute victory in Gaza, it could bring a war in the north closer,” Gallant added.

Monday’s vote was the first time that the Security Council passed a resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza since the start of the war in October.

Resolution 2728 is understood to be non-binding and is not expected to have an immediate impact on the ongoing fighting in Gaza, as has been the case with previous Security Council resolutions that have been adopted in other conflicts that were subsequently ignored.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield votes abstain on a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, during a United Nations Security Council meeting at UN headquarters in New York on March 25, 2024. (Angela Weiss / AFP)

While Gallant will attend meetings in the US as scheduled, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to cancel a planned trip to Washington by his top aides Ron Dermer and Tzachi Hanegbi to discuss Israel’s planned Gaza offensive in Rafah, citing the US’s refusal to veto the resolution.

His decision was met with criticism from war cabinet minister Benny Gantz, who suggested that not only should the trip proceed as scheduled, but that Netanyahu himself should be holding these meetings.

“The special relationship between Israel and the United States is an anchor in Israel’s security and foreign relations, and the direct dialogue with the American administration is essential, and must not be abandoned, even when there are challenges and disputes,” Gantz said, noting his displeasure.

“The prime minister would do well to travel to the US himself and hold direct dialogue with President Biden and senior officials,” said Gantz, who is considered the main rival to Netanyahu in any new election, and the likeliest to form the next government, according to polls.

In response, Netanyahu hit out at Gantz for suggesting that the trip take place, especially after Hamas praised the UN Security Council vote.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu rejected the suggestion,” his office said.

War cabinet Minister Benny Gantz (standing), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (center), and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, at a press conference at the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv, November 22, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Gantz also noted that the UN decision “has no operational significance” for Israel, but echoed Gallant’s comments about the country’s “moral obligation to continue fighting until the hostages are returned and the threat of Hamas is removed.”

Israel Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan, meanwhile, accused the council of believing that “Israeli blood is cheap” in remarks to the body following the vote.

“On the one hand, the resolution says that taking civilians hostage is in violation of international law, yet on the other hand — despite the fact that you know Hamas won’t listen to your calls and release the hostages — you demand a ceasefire,” he said.

Erdan charged that the council’s failure to condition a ceasefire on the hostages’ release “not only isn’t helpful, but it undermines the effort to secure their release. It is harmful to these efforts because it gives Hamas terrorists hope to get a ceasefire without releasing the hostages.”

He then read out a text of a resolution that he thought should have been adopted by the council today — one that condemns human rights abuses such as hostage-taking and rape and demands the terror group responsible to immediately cease its abuses.

He revealed that this was the text of the resolution that the council adopted 10 years ago to condemn Boko Haram’s kidnapping of schoolgirls in Nigeria.

“Why can this council call on Boko Haram to lay down their arms, but the same can’t be demanded of the murderous Hamas terrorists?” he asked. “Is the life of little baby Kfir Bibas worth less than the life of a Nigerian child?”

“Sadly, it’s for the same reason why you can condemn terror attacks in Russia and Iran, but not in Israel. To this council, Israeli blood is cheap. This is a travesty and I’m disgusted,” the ambassador added.

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan speaks during a United Nations Security Council meeting at UN headquarters in New York on March 25, 2024. (Angela Weiss/AFP)

Echoing Erdan’s accusation of the UN harming the chances of the 134 hostages held in Gaza, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said that the US’s decision to abstain from the vote rather than veto it, “plays into Hamas’s hands.”

The decision “harms efforts to return the hostages and stabilize the region by eliminating the radical forces and strengthening the moderate forces,” the ultranationalist lawmaker added.

Israel’s relationship with the US has “always been one of partners, not a patron state,” Smotrich said, voicing support for Netanyahu’s government and calling for unity during the ongoing war with Hamas.

“This is not the first time that an Israeli government has needed to make decisions contrary to the US government’s position,” he said.

Other members of Netanyahu’s governing coalition were quick to condemn the UN resolution and the US abstention and to defend the prime minister’s decision to cancel the visit by Dermer and Hanegbi.

“The State of Israel will not hold fire,” Foreign Minister Israel Katz wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “We will destroy Hamas and continue to fight until the last of the abductees return home.”

Backing Netanyahu’s decision, Likud lawmaker and former UN ambassador Danny Danon charged that Israel’s “enemies are trying to forget what happened on October 7,” when the Hamas terror onslaught on Israel launched the war in Gaza.

Dismissing the Security Council’s decision as having “no practical meaning,” Opposition Leader Yair Lapid instead laid into Netanyahu’s handling of the disagreement with the US.

“It could have been managed differently. We are allowed to — and sometimes have to — say no to the Americans. Israel is indeed an independent country and we do not need anyone’s permission to defend ourselves,” Lapid said.

“But there is a way to do so. It is better to keep the quarrels behind closed doors — on the international stage, it is better to coordinate everything with the largest world power and our most important ally.”

“The irresponsibility shown by Netanyahu is unimaginable,” the Yesh Atid leader added.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

Most Popular
read more: