US proposes Security Council resolution backing temporary ceasefire to stymie Rafah push

Language advanced by Washington calls for pause in fighting ‘as soon as practicable,’ warns against Israel expanding offensive to southern Gaza city

A man rides a bicycle in Rafah in southern Gaza, on February 18, 2024. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)
A man rides a bicycle in Rafah in southern Gaza, on February 18, 2024. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

NEW YORK — The United States has proposed a rival draft of the United Nations Security Council resolution that would underscore the body’s “support for a temporary ceasefire in Gaza as soon as practicable, based on the formula of all hostages being released,” according to the text seen by Reuters on Monday.

Washington has been averse to the word “ceasefire” in any UN action on the Israel-Hamas war, but the US draft text echoes language that US President Joe Biden said he used last week in conversations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The US draft text also “determines that under current circumstances a major ground offensive into Rafah would result in further harm to civilians and their further displacement including potentially into neighboring countries.”

Israel plans to expand its offensive into Rafah in southern Gaza, where more than one million Palestinians have sought shelter, prompting international concern that such a move would sharply worsen the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

The draft US resolution says such a move “would have serious implications for regional peace and security, and therefore underscores that such a major ground offensive should not proceed under current circumstances.”

Washington has specified in recent weeks that it wants to see a detailed plan from Israel demonstrating how the million-plus Palestinians will be protected before the IDF moves forward with the Rafah operation. Biden indicated on Friday that he would not support the offensive while hostage negotiations are ongoing.

The US draft specifically “tak[es] note of renewed diplomatic efforts by Egypt and Qatar aimed at resolving the hostage crisis and alleviating the suffering of civilians in Gaza through an extended humanitarian pause.”

It was not immediately clear when or whether the draft resolution would be put to a vote in the 15-member council. It appeared unlikely to pass in its current form, given the overwhelming support among members for a more permanent ceasefire.

The US put forward the text after Algeria on Saturday requested the council vote on Tuesday on a draft resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war. US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield quickly signaled that it would be vetoed, arguing that it would harm the negotiations between Israel and Hamas aimed at securing a humanitarian pause and release of the hostages.

The decision by the US to craft its own resolution, regardless, appeared to be the result of growing pressure from the international community to act more aggressively to bring about an end to the fighting.

But Washington’s insistence in the resolution that the ceasefire only be temporary highlights that it continues to back Israel’s overall goal of dismantling Hamas and believes that a permanent ceasefire would allow the terror group’s leaders — which have vowed to continue perpetrating October 7-like attacks — in power.

In fact, the call for a temporary ceasefire did not appear radically different than the resolution already passed by the Security Council in November that called for humanitarian pauses. The US abstained in that vote because the resolution didn’t condemn Hamas. However, it still backed the overall effort and allowed it to pass. It abstained on another successful resolution pushing for the scale-up of humanitarian aid in December.

US officials told The Times of Israel earlier this month that the Biden administration is hoping to use the still-elusive extended pause to negotiate a more permanent ceasefire in Gaza. Ending the fighting for good would allow the administration to advance regional initiatives that include an Israel-Saudi Arabia normalization agreement and the creation of a political horizon toward an eventual Palestinian state, the officials said.

The UN Security Council meets about the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, at UN headquarters in New York on December 22, 2023. (Charly Ttriballeau/AFP)

Washington traditionally shields its ally Israel from UN action and has already twice vetoed council resolutions since October 7, the day thousands of Hamas terrorists stormed into southern Israel, touching off war with a massacre that left some 1,200 dead and hundreds more captive in Gaza. Most victims were civilians and over 100 hostages remain in Gaza, as well as the remains of over two dozen others taken on October 7.

The American draft appears to be a collection of previously stated US stances regarding the war.

It includes language condemning the “sexual violence, including rape” perpetrated by Hamas on October 7.

It also expresses “concern the potential for heightened violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank during the period following the start of Ramadan, absent a temporary cessation of fighting in Gaza.”

It stresses that “Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza do not stand for the dignity or self-determination of the Palestinian people, and that Hamas has been designated as a terrorist organization by numerous member states.”

It adds that “the Gaza Strip constitutes an integral part of the territory occupied in 1967, and reiterating the vision of the two-State solution, with the Gaza Strip as part of the Palestinian State.”

The draft condemns calls from Israeli ministers to displace Palestinians from Gaza as well as Israeli efforts to reduce the territory of the Strip.

It calls on members to “intensify their efforts to suppress the financing of terrorism, including by restricting financing of Hamas through applicable national-level authorities.”

The draft resolution also expresses support for the independent probe launched by the UN “to assess whether UNRWA is doing everything within its power to ensure its neutrality” following allegations that 12 of its staffers participated in Hamas’s October 7 terror onslaught. It “underscores the vital importance of additional immediate measures to restore confidence in and demonstrate UNRWA’s commitment to the principle of neutrality.”

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