US and Russia Offer Competing Security Council Resolutions on Gaza Crisis | Updates from a Dramatic Week at the UN
What's even the difference between a "humanitarian pause" vs "ceasefire?"
Antonio Guterres is in a bit of trouble with Israel right now. At a Security Council meeting yesterday, Guterres reiterated his calls for a ceasefire, called for the immediate release of Israeli hostages, and unequivocally condemned the Hamas terrorist attack, saying “nothing can justify the deliberate killing, injuring and kidnapping of civilians.”
But then he added: “It is important to also recognize that the Hamas attacks did not happen in a vacuum. The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation.” (But he stressed again, “the grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify the appalling attacks of Hamas. And those appalling attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.”)
The Israelis took extreme exception to this. The Israeli foreign minister was intended to have a meeting with Antonio Guterres, along with family members of hostages. That meeting was cancelled. Then, Israeli’s UN ambassador went a step further and called for Antonio Guterres’ resignation.
Meanwhile, here in the United States right wing voices echoed this call, notably including Nikki Haley, who struck up a good relationship with Guterres as Trump’s UN Ambassador.
Antony Blinken, however, quickly moved to end the pile-on. Not long after the Tweet from Israel’s UN Ambassador, the US Secretary of State issued a statement of his own on Twitter, praising Guterres.
To be honest, when this back-and-forth went down yesterday I thought it was a bit of a side-show. However, things escalated sharply overnight when Israel’s UN Ambassador said that Israel had denied a visa to Martin Griffiths, a British national and the UN’s top humanitarian official. “Due to his [Guterres’s] remarks, we will refuse to issue visas to UN representatives,” [Gilad] Erdan told Army Radio. “We have already refused a visa for Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths. The time has come to teach them a lesson.”
This is a big deal. Griffiths is the UN official most responsible for coordinating aid deliveries to Gaza from Egypt. That Israel is denying Griffiths a visa suggests that Israel’s commitment to allowing humanitarian aid to enter Gaza is rather tenuous — and a concession to the international community that can be easily revoked. Given the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza (the UN says its relief agencies will run out of fuel tonight) this is not a good sign at all.
Why “Humanitarian Pauses” vs “Ceasefire” is Becoming the Central Debate at the UN
This spat over Guterres’ comments adds to an extremely contentious debate underway at the United Nations this week over whether to endorse a “humanitarian pause,” a “ceasefire,” — or neither.
Guterres, Griffiths and senior UN officials are calling for a ceasefire. Full Stop. Until yesterday, the United States fully backed Israel in rejecting any cessation of hostilities whatsoever. That suddenly changed at the Security Council on Tuesday when Antony Blinken invoked the idea of “humanitarian pauses.” Furthermore, a US-drafted Security Council resolution that may be voted on later today uses phrase “humanitarian pauses” in an operative paragraph:
This represents a shift in US policy. In just a little over a week, the United States went from vetoing a Security Council resolution with nearly identical language, to supporting the idea that all sides to the conflict need to take a break, however brief, to allow the provision of humanitarian relief. Significantly, this specifically includes the provision of fuel. Israel has thus far blocked fuel from entering Gaza through the Rafah crossing. The final paragraph from the US-drafted resolution is essentially the United States instructing Israel to include fuel on the list of permitted humanitarian supplies that can enter Gaza via Egypt.
But this all may be for naught!
That is because there’s another competing Security Council resolution that may come up for a vote as well today. This time from Russia. And unlike the US draft resolution this one explicitly endorses an immediate ceasefire.
Below the fold for paying subscribers:
An explanation of what diplomats mean by “Humanitarian Pauses” vs “Ceasefire,” and the evolution of the US position from opposing any sort of cessation of hostilities, to suddenly endorsing “humanitarian pauses.”
What to expect from Russia at the Security Council
A preview of an emergency meeting of the UN General Assembly, which begins on Thursday
A personal note from me about how I gather information about this fraught topic, including links to sources I find useful and credible.
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