Glimmer of hope as UN resolution forces pause in Mid-East conflict


View of the UN Security Council chamber as members discuss the Middle East crisis (UN Photo)

Venu Menon
Wellington, June 12,2024

In a dramatic turnaround from past practice, when it vetoed three previous ceasefire resolutions in the United Nations, the United States has successfully pushed a new Middle East ceasefire plan through the United Nations Security Council.

Russia refrained from exercising its veto as the remaining 14 of the 15 Council members voted in favour of the US-sponsored resolution on June 10, which has raised hopes of an end to the fighting in the Gaza Strip.

But the new ceasefire plan hangs in the balance as speculation surrounds the respective  stands  adopted by the main combatants. While Hamas has guardedly accepted the terms of the peace plan, Israel is yet to commit to it publicly.

The latest UN resolution lays out a three-phase plan. The first phase calls for an immediate ceasefire, the release of all hostages held by Hamas in exchange for Palestinians jailed in Israel, the return of displaced Gaza residents to their homes and the complete withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza.

The second phase ushers in a mutually-agreed permanent ceasefire while the third phase moots a reconstruction plan for Gaza.

There will be no change in the territorial status of the Gaza Strip.

But Israel’s UN representative Reut Shapir Ben-Naftaly has said her country “will continue until all of the hostages are returned and Hamas’s military capabilities are dismantled.”

The Security Council resolution marks a diplomatic breakthrough for US President Joe Biden in the leadup to the presidential election in November.

But the text of the resolution lacks clarity on whether Israel is on board.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finds himself caught in a pincer. While the Israeli army’s recent operation in Gaza that rescued some hostages held by Hamas (accompanied by a high Palestinian civilian death toll) has eased domestic pressure on him somewhat, hawks in his Cabinet are threatening to pull his government down if he compromises the country’s  war goals. The resignation of Defence Minister Benny Gantz and his demand for a snap general election has further muddied the pitch for the embattled Israeli premier. Add to that the ongoing public protests by the relatives of the hostages, coupled with international pressure for an urgent and lasting ceasefire in Gaza, and Netanyahu is clearly wedged into a corner.

The UN Security Council resolution itself exerts pressure on Israel to comply, especially in view of Hamas’ tactical, albeit tentative, approval of it.

The US-backed resolution welcomes the ceasefire proposal, assumes Israel’s tacit acceptance, calls on Hamas to agree to it and “urges both parties to fully implement its terms without delay and without condition.”

Algeria, the sole Arab member of the Security Council, sums up international sentiment when its Ambassador to the UN, Amar Bendjama, says:

“It offers a glimmer of hope to the Palestinians. It’s time to halt the killing.”

Current hostilities in Gaza were triggered by the 7  October 2023 attack launched by Hamas into Israel’s border areas, which resulted in more than 1,200 deaths and over 250 people being taken hostage by Hamas, according to Israeli estimates. Over 100 hostages are believed to be still held captive in Gaza.

Israel launched a protracted retaliatory attack on the Palestinian enclave of 2.3 million people, killing more than 37,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run health authorities in Gaza.

Venu Menon is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Wellington

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