Gaza: the United States still opposes a request for an “immediate” ceasefire at the UN

Despite international pressure to tone down its support for Israel, the United States again blocked the UN Security Council on Tuesday (February 20) from demanding an “immediate” ceasefire in Gaza, circulating an alternative text on a possible truce under conditions

Gaza: the United States still opposes a request for an “immediate” ceasefire at the UN

Despite international pressure to tone down its support for Israel, the United States again blocked the UN Security Council on Tuesday (February 20) from demanding an “immediate” ceasefire in Gaza, circulating an alternative text on a possible truce under conditions.

The draft resolution, which demanded "an immediate humanitarian ceasefire that must be respected by all parties", received 13 votes in favor, one abstention (UK) and one against, the third US veto since the beginning of the war between Israel and Hamas.

Presented by Algeria after more than three weeks of discussions, the text also opposed the "forced displacement of the Palestinian civilian population", while Israel spoke of an evacuation of civilians before a ground offensive in Rafah, where cram 1.4 million people into the southern Gaza Strip.

“A vote for this draft resolution is support for the Palestinian right to live. Conversely, voting against means support for the brutal violence and collective punishment inflicted on them,” Algerian Ambassador Amar Bendjama commented on Tuesday, just before the vote.

For a conditional ceasefire

The United States had warned this weekend that the Algerian text was not acceptable. “I understand the Council's desire to act urgently […] but this desire cannot blind us to the reality on the ground, and cannot undermine the only path, I repeat, the only path leading to a lasting peace,” US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield insisted on Tuesday.

Israel's primary supporter, the United States, believes that this resolution would have endangered the delicate diplomatic negotiations on the ground to obtain a truce including a new release of hostages. In this context, they circulated an alternative draft resolution, seen by Agence France-Presse (AFP).

While they had until now systematically opposed the use of the term "ceasefire", vetoing two texts in October and December, their version supports a ceasefire but not immediate , and under conditions. Echoing recent statements by Joe Biden, the text thus evokes a “temporary ceasefire in Gaza as soon as it is feasible”, and on the basis of a “formula” including the release of all the hostages.

The American project is also firm on Rafah, warning that “a large-scale land offensive should not take place under current conditions”. “We do not plan to rush to a vote on our text,” a senior American official said Monday, saying he did not have a “deadline.”

“No excuse can justify the inertia of the Security Council”

But some question the objective of the United States with this text. “Do they really want this resolution or do they want to push for a veto? », noted anonymously a diplomatic source, in reference to the high probability of a Russian veto to a text produced by the Americans.

In any case, this American project “will make Israel nervous,” Richard Gowan, an analyst at the International Crisis Group, commented for AFP. “The United States is finally using the Security Council as a platform to show the limits of its patience with the Israeli campaign.”

The Council, largely divided on the Israeli-Palestinian issue for years, has only been able to adopt two resolutions since October 7, essentially humanitarian. Without much result: the entry of aid into Gaza remains largely insufficient.

Despite the prospect of an American veto, the group of Arab countries at the United Nations had reiterated its support for Algeria's text before the vote. “No excuses can justify the inertia of the Security Council and all efforts must converge to stop the carnage in Gaza,” he pleaded in a statement. “The time has come” for the Council to act “before it is too late.”