The United States on Wednesday vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling for a “humanitarian pause” in the raging Israel-Hamas war because the text did not include respect for Israel’s right to defend itself.
“The United States is disappointed this resolution made no mention of Israel’s right of self-defense,” said US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield. “Like every nation in the world, Israel has the inherent right of self-defense, as reflected in Article 51 of the UN Charter.”
The envoy added that “following previous terrorist attacks by groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIS, this council reaffirmed that right. This text should have done the same.”
Twelve out of 15 council members voted in favor of the resolution put forward by Brazil and negotiated over several days, while Russia and the United Kingdom abstained.
The United States was the only vote against, but as one of the body’s five permanent members, its vote counts as a veto.
The resolution said the council “firmly condemns all violence and hostilities against civilians and all acts of terrorism.”
It said the body “unequivocally rejects and condemns the heinous terrorist attacks by Hamas… and the taking of hostages” and also “urges all parties to fully comply with their obligations under international law.” A Russian version of the resolution voted down on Tuesday did not even mention Hamas.
Thomas-Greenfield said following the vote that US President Joe Biden was in the region engaging in diplomacy to secure the release of hostages, prevent the conflict from spreading and stress the need to protect civilians: “We need to let that diplomacy play out,” she said.
She said resolutions are important and the Security Council must speak out, “but the actions we take must be informed by the facts on the ground and support direct diplomacy efforts that can save lives — the council needs to get this right.”
Before the vote on the resolution, council members voted on two proposed Russian amendments. Both were rejected because they failed to get the minimum nine “yes” votes. One called for a “humanitarian ceasefire” and the other sought to condemn indiscriminate attacks on civilians and “civilian objects” in Gaza, which include hospitals and schools.
Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said the Brazil resolution, calling for “humanitarian pauses” to deliver aid, would not have helped avoid Tuesday’s explosion at a Gaza hospital that purportedly killed hundreds. “It is only a ceasefire that will help to do this,” he said.
The IDF has blamed a failed Islamic Jihad rocket launch for causing the hospital blast, and cast doubt on the number of casualties, presenting numerous items of evidence, which have convinced many allies, including the US. Hamas has blamed an Israeli airstrike for the explosion, and said Wednesday that 471 people were killed, while hospital officials have said only that the toll was in the hundreds, and one doctor said he thought the toll was closer to 250.
Nebenzia told council members who abstained or opposed the amendments – the US voted against both – that they will have to “bear responsibility” for what happens now to people in their own countries, the region, “and the people who are living under this deadly threat.”
After the US veto of the resolution, Nebenzia accused the United States of “hypocrisy” and “double standards,” saying the Americans did not want a solution in the Security Council.
The divided Security Council has been even more polarized since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, and the votes on the Brazil resolution reflected the divisions.
Immediately after the votes and speeches, the council started an emergency meeting to discuss the explosion at the Gaza hospital. Russia, the United Arab Emirates, and China called for the emergency session.