Moments after she filed a controversial veto to a U.N. Security Council resolution that called for humanitarian pauses in the war between Israel and Hamas, Washington’s U.N. envoy walked out of the U.N. chambers side by side with her Israeli colleague on Wednesday.
“This council must speak out,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told the council. “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.”
Twelve of the 15 nations in the council voted for the text, which was drafted by Brazil, the nation that holds the council presidency. Apparently eager to prevent Israel’s hands from being tied in its avowed mission to destroy the terrorist group Hamas, Washington rejected the resolution.
Thomas-Greenfield noted that the bill did not mention Israel’s right to self-defense in the wake of Hamas’s massacre of more than 1,400 people, wounding of thousands and taking hundreds hostage on Oct. 7. London also abstained for the same reason.
“We thought it was very unfortunate that that resolution did not recognize Israel’s right to defend itself in the face of these terrorist attacks. We think that is an important principle,” U.S. State Department Spokesman Matthew Miller said when asked during the department’s press briefing on Thursday why the United States cast a veto.
“Israel just suffered a massive terrorist attack, something that is 10 to 15 times the impact of 9/11 when you look at it on a per capita basis,” he added. “The other reason we exercised that veto is there is ongoing diplomatic work about this very question right now … with that work ongoing and with a resolution that did not exercise Israel’s right to defend itself, we thought this step we took was the appropriate one.”
‘Let diplomacy play out’
Washington appeared to be broadcasting the message that with U.S. President Joe Biden on the ground in Israel during both wartime and at the time of the U.N. vote, the United States plans to lead the way and achieve substantive results in its humanitarian push. It also made clear that Washington is taking Israel’s security interests into greater account than the council is.
“We are on the ground, doing the hard work of diplomacy, and while we recognize Brazil’s desire to move this text forward, we believe we need to let that diplomacy play out,” Thomas-Greenfield said.
That is especially the case when U.S. officials and “regional actors are engaged in intensive dialogue on the very issues we are deliberating on today,” she said.
On Monday, the council rejected a Russian-led resolution and agreed to soften the language in the Brazilian text at Washington’s behest, following a postponed Tuesday vote. That led several council members to chide Thomas-Greenfield. (Russia is also a member of the council.)
“We don’t see any contradiction between supporting Israel after this tragedy … and granting humanitarian access,” said Nicolas de Rivière, the French ambassador to the United Nations.
Asked if Washington vetoed the Brazilian draft resolution so that the United States can “solve the crisis unilaterally,” China’s Ambassador to the United Nations Zhang Jun pointed a reporter to the council’s chambers. “You have all the answers there,” he said.
Sérgio França Danese, Brazil’s U.N. ambassador, said the council “very sadly” was unable to adopt a resolution on “the conflicts.”
“Again, silence and inaction prevailed to no one’s true long-term interest,” he said.
‘You cannot unite even on that basic thing’
Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan said the council was failing in a deeper way.
“Up until today, you have not even done the most basic thing: You have not condemned, as a council, Hamas’s brutal terror attack,” he said. “It is really unfathomable. You cannot unite even on that basic thing.”
Erdan told the council that aid and establishing humanitarian corridors “are important and noble causes, but they are certainly not a solution to prevent Hamas’s next atrocious massacre.”
The council had called Wednesday’s emergency meeting in response to an explosion on Tuesday at a hospital in Gaza, which Hamas blamed on Israel and said killed more than 500 civilians. Many U.S. and international media outlets uncritically reported that claim. In reaction to the incident, violent protests broke out throughout the Middle East, and Amman canceled a planned summit between Biden, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, the Jordanian king and the Egyptian president.
Video and photographic evidence, in addition to independent investigations by Israel and the United States, verified that Palestinian Islamic Jihad had misfired the rocket and caused the disaster. Evidence also suggested that there was a much smaller death toll than Hamas is claiming.
Erdan blasted U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres and other officials for knee-jerk acceptance of claims about the incident from terrorists who just murdered Jewish babies.
“Today, some of you repeated these lies,” he told the council. “How can the secretary-general forget that he has the obligation to verify the facts before issuing a condemnation? I guess it’s easy when it comes to Israel.”