Israel rejects Security Council resolution in support of its own hostage deal offer

Erdan opposes changes to wording in US initiative; pushback sure to irk Washington but unlikely to impact outcome given that Israel is not a member of the top panel

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan speaks during a United Nations Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East at UN headquarters in New York City on April 18, 2024. (Angela Weiss/AFP)
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan speaks during a United Nations Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East at UN headquarters in New York City on April 18, 2024. (Angela Weiss/AFP)

Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan informed his US counterpart Linda Thomas-Greenfield on Thursday that Jerusalem opposes the Security Council resolution being advanced by Washington that expresses support for the hostage-ceasefire proposal Israel made last week.

The opposition is not expected to influence the vote, which could take place as early as Monday, given that Israel is not a member of the Security Council. However, the resistance from Jerusalem is likely to irk the United States, given that the latter has repeatedly blocked initiatives at the Security Council deemed hostile to the Jewish state.

More substantial pushback could still come from permanent Security Council members Russia and China, which have been known to veto US resolutions, including ones pertaining to the Israel-Hamas war.

Explaining Erdan’s opposition, an official in the Israeli mission pointed out that an updated version of the resolution refers to the hostage deal as one that will bring about a “ceasefire,” as opposed to the original draft that described the end goal as a “cessation of hostilities,” which Israel reads as less permanent in nature.

Israel also objects to the updated draft’s call for both sides to fully implement the latest hostage deal proposal. The earlier version only called on Hamas to accept the proposal. The updated draft does the same, but also notes that the latest hostage deal proposal is “acceptable to Israel.”

The Israeli mission also does not like the updated version’s inclusion of the three phases of the hostage deal — steps that were already publicly laid out by US President Joe Biden last week.

Finally, the Israeli mission opposes a new clause in the draft that “rejects any attempt at demographic or territorial change in the Gaza Strip, including actions that reduce the territory of Gaza, such as through the permanent establishment officially or unofficially of so-called buffer zones.”

US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield addresses members of the UN Security Council, April 24, 2024, at United Nations headquarters. (AP/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

Israel has already advanced plans to create a security buffer zone on the Gazan side of the border, which some of its officials have insisted is temporary — a plan that has been condemned by the US and the international community.

The US resolution also expresses “unwavering commitment to achieving the vision of a negotiated two-state solution… consistent with international law and relevant UN resolutions, and in this regard stresses the importance of unifying the Gaza Strip with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority.” The two-state framework is rejected by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, which has also worked to weaken the PA, likening the governing body to Hamas. However, the Israeli official did not include this clause in the list of reasons for why Jerusalem opposes the resolution.

Laying out the Israeli proposal

The US drafted its resolution earlier this week, seeking to rally international support for the Israeli proposal submitted to Hamas last Thursday.

Convinced time is running out to secure a hostage deal and not wanting to go through the same motions in negotiations that have repeatedly ended in deadlock over the past six months, Biden chose a different strategy on Friday, giving a high-stakes speech in which he revealed key details of the Israeli proposal and called on Hamas to accept it.

The speech was aimed at forcing Netanyahu to stand behind the proposal submitted by his negotiating team. The premier authorized the offer but had avoided going public with its exact details, fearing backlash from his far-right coalition partners. Those fears were warranted, as National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich have indeed gone on to threaten to topple the government if Netanyahu moves forward with the deal.

The move by Biden also placed the ball in Hamas’s court, as Washington has repeatedly highlighted that the Israeli offer is nearly identical to the one made by Hamas in the last round of negotiations.

The three-stage Israeli proposal envisions a first phase truce lasting six weeks during which the remaining living female, elderly and sick Israeli hostages would be freed along with several bodies of those abducted on October 7. In exchange, Israel will release hundreds of Palestinian security prisoners; withdraw the IDF from Gaza population centers; allow the unrestricted return of Palestinians to all areas of the Strip; and facilitate the daily entry of 600 trucks of humanitarian aid into the enclave.

The main point of contention in previous rounds has been Israel’s insistence on being able to resume the fighting after hostages are released and Hamas’s refusal to free those it abducted unless Israel commits up front to a permanent ceasefire.

US President Joe Biden speaks about an executive order in the East Room at the White House in Washington, June 4, 2024. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

In an attempt to bridge this divide, clause 14 of the Israeli proposal states that during the first phase, the parties will launch talks on the terms of phase two — a permanent ceasefire — that they will aim to conclude by the end of the fifth week of the initial truce.

If the sides don’t succeed in reaching an agreement within that allotted time, the phase one ceasefire can be extended indefinitely, so long as the talks on the terms of phase two continue.

However, if Hamas is found to violate its commitments under the deal, Israel can resume fighting.

If agreements are reached in the phase one talks, a six-week phase two can commence, during which Hamas will release the remaining living Israeli hostages, including young men and male soldiers. In exchange, Israel will release an agreed-upon number of Palestinian security prisoners — likely an even higher number than those released in phase one, including some of the most notorious terror convicts — in addition to the IDF withdrawing completely from Gaza.

During the six-week phase three, Hamas will release the remaining bodies of hostages it is still holding while Israel will allow the commencement of an internationally backed Gaza reconstruction plan.

The US says that Israel has continued to stand by the plan, although Netanyahu has complicated talks by insisting that the proposal allows Israel to complete its war aim of dismantling Hamas.

Protesters hold a large banner reading “Thank you, Biden,” during a march supporting a hostage deal in Jerusalem on June 1, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The comments have reportedly led Hamas officials to demand more ironclad assurances from the mediators that the deal will indeed lead to a permanent ceasefire, indicating that clause 14 is insufficient.

Hamas leaders could theoretically agree to go into exile during those phase one negotiations, rather than risk being killed on the battlefield. But the possibility appears to be less likely given the ideological nature of its leader Yahya Sinwar and the fact that he and his deputy Mohammed Dief have managed to evade capture for the past eight months.

The US has insisted the hostage deal proposal will help ensure Hamas is removed from power but has offered limited details about how that comes about if the terror group is the one making the agreement with Israel.

US officials speaking to The Times of Israel last month sought to differentiate between Israel’s goal of dismantling Hamas and what it views as a more realistic aim of dismantling the “threat of Hamas.”

Biden argued that Israel has already done the latter and that Hamas is no longer able to carry out another October 7 attack during which some 1,200 Israelis were slaughtered and another 251 were taken hostage. 121 of those abductees remain in Gaza.

A member of the Lebanese security forces inspects the damage around a building that was targeted by an Israeli airstrike in the southern Lebanese town of Wadi Jilo, east of Tyre, on June 6, 2024. (Mahmoud Al-Zayyat/AFP)

“Indefinite war in pursuit of an unidentified notion of ‘total victory’ will only bog down Israel in Gaza, draining military, economic and human resources and further Israel’s isolation in the world,” Biden said in his speech last week, making a direct attack on Netanyahu, who has repeatedly vowed to achieve “total victory” in Gaza.

US officials asserted to The Times of Israel last month that while the hostage deal it is advancing may allow Hamas to limp on in some form, the broader diplomatic initiative Washington is pushing would see the terror group marginalized in Gaza by alternative forces backed by America’s Arab allies.

Netanyahu has indicated that he opposes this approach, and while Arab officials insist Hamas will be willing to step away from the management of Gaza after the war, the terror group has yet to publicly express such a desire.

In the meantime, the US is aiming to first convince the sides to agree to begin implementing phase one of the deal, hoping that will provide enough momentum for the truce to be turned into a permanent ceasefire.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 36,000 people in the Strip have been killed or are presumed dead in the fighting so far. The toll, which cannot be verified, includes some 15,000 terror operatives Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

Most Popular
read more: