High-level diplomats weighed in on the Israel-Hamas war during a United Nations Security Council meeting on Wednesday.
The council’s regularly-scheduled monthly session on the Israeli-Palestinian file drew foreign ministers from China, Brazil and a host of Arab countries. Most who spoke at the meeting called for a permanent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, with the notable exception of the United States.
Israel’s envoy to the United Nations blasted the ceasefire calls in the midst of a temporary humanitarian pause, during which Israel is trading dangerous security prisoners in return for civilian hostages taken by Hamas during its Oct. 7 massacre.
“Every call for a cease-fire means Hamas gets to live to see another day, terrorizing Israelis and impoverishing Gazans,” said Gilad Erdan, noting that Hamas has repeatedly stated its intention to repeat its actions of Oct. 7 until Israel is erased.
“How would you respond and defend your citizens from such a clear threat? With a cease-fire?” Erdan queried the council.
He also used the opportunity, on the anniversary of the 1947 U.N. vote to partition British Mandatory Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, to emphasize the Palestinians’ repeated rejection of statehood in favor of violence towards Israel.
“History is somewhat repeating itself. Foreign ministers of some Arab countries have arrived here today in order to support a terror organization that aims to annihilate Israel,” said Erdan. “Thankfully, the plan to eliminate Israel was unsuccessful then, just as it will be unsuccessful today.”
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, called for increasing aid and greater protections for U.N. staff and for journalists if and when Israeli military operations resume.
“We know Hamas continues to use civilians as human shields purposefully, cruelly putting Palestinian civilians in harm’s way,” she said. “But this does not lessen Israel’s responsibility to protect civilians—consistent with international humanitarian law.”
Thomas-Greenfield said the Biden administration backs an extension of the humanitarian pause in order to free all hostages held by Hamas and other groups.
“Israel has been very clear that it is prepared to continue the pause in fighting for every day that Hamas releases an additional 10 hostages,” she said. “The ball is now in Hamas’s court, and if Hamas decides not to extend this deal, the responsibility will rest squarely on its shoulders.”
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, standing alongside his counterparts from Egypt, Qatar, Jordan, Turkey, Indonesia and Malaysia, told reporters following the council meeting that “A truce is not enough. What is needed is a ceasefire.”
As with many diplomats on Wednesday, he called for a “credible peace and a peace that lasts, and that allows the Palestinians and the Israelis to live side by side in two states. Anything else will result in continuing crises in the region.”
Notably, Prince Faisal said that Saudi Arabia will not back any efforts by any country to accept Gazans as refugees fleeing from the current war.
Several Arab ministers called for full Palestinian membership as a state at the United Nations. Currently, it holds observer status, with the Palestinian Authority serving as the representative government.
It is doubtful the United States, as a permanent member of the Security Council, would acquiesce to such a demand absent a political settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.
Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, did not make the trip to New York, claiming that the State Department issued visas to him and his delegation too belatedly for him to arrive in time.
A U.N. spokesman told JNS he did not know of any initial complaints lodged by Tehran over the issue. The State Department said it doesn’t comment on the issuance of individual visas.
Wednesday also served as the U.N.’s International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. Bizarrely, the U.N. General Assembly used the occasion to pass a resolution demanding Israel withdraw from the “Syrian” side of the Golan Heights, a strategic area that Israel liberated during the 1967 Six-Day War. The resolution, which passed 91-8 with 62 abstentions, also demands of Israel to resume talks with both Syria and Lebanon on border issues.
Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau, the United Kingdom and the United States voted against the resolution.
Vague calls for investigations
Meanwhile, seven weeks after the Oct. 7 massacre, the head of the United Nations finally called out Hamas by name for the rape and sexual assaults it carried out.
Israeli diplomats and civil society groups have been furious with the U.N. Women agency for failing to condemn Hamas for the sexual crimes which have been documented through video, eyewitness accounts and forensic evidence. Both the agency and U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres had only stood by vague calls for investigations of reports of “gender-based violence” on Oct. 7.
Guterres tweeted late Wednesday afternoon: “There are numerous accounts of sexual violence during the abhorrent acts of terror by Hamas on 7 October that must be vigorously investigated and prosecuted. Gender-based violence must be condemned. Anytime. Anywhere.”
The tweet came hours after JNS pressed a Guterres spokesperson at a press briefing as to why the secretary-general and his organization find it so difficult to identify Hamas as the perpetrator of the vicious sexual attacks on Oct. 7.
Guterres’s statement did little to assuage Erdan, who has assailed Guterres over several issues this year.
Erdan noted a protest scheduled for next Monday by a number of Jewish and Israeli nonprofits and civil society organizations. The rally, called “#MeToo, Unless You Are A Jew,” will be held outside the U.N.’s New York headquarters, and aims to call into question why the global body has been so slow to respond to claims of sexual violence committed by Hamas on Oct. 7, and has implicitly shown a distrust of the claims.