By Afshain Afzal
Despite a tense geopolitical environment due to intense diplomatic lobbying and coercion through indirect threats on attacks in pursuance to eliminating suspected Hamas elements in their countries, to some extent this time the rights of Palestinians and respect to international law was acknowledged. In a breakthrough on 8 December 2023, the UN General Assembly at its emergency special session “on Israeli actions in occupied Palestinian territories” overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling for a humanitarian truce in Gaza leading to a cessation of hostilities between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers. The 193-member of the United Nations Organization adopted the resolution by a vote of 120-14 with 45 abstentions. But unfortunately, this resolution is not binding.
In another breakthrough, two days earlier, on 6 December 2023, the UN Secretary-General wrote a letter to the President Security Council dated 6 December 2023 (S/2023/962), invoking Article 99 of the Charter of the United Nations. The Muslim and Western world leaders trusted Turkey and Saudi Arabia to perform the lead role in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian deadlock but countries including UAE and Qatar hijacked and tried to sideline them. Even though we witnessed Russia, US Iran visiting Saudi Arabia and Turkey in connection with the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, wittingly or unwittingly a weak draft resolution was tabled as an eyewash on the “Palestinian question” to defeat the opportunity provided at UNSC. It is difficult to comment if the Palestine issue was intentionally derailed or it was a matter of misfire due to lust to become the leader of the Muslim nations. Veto by the US on 8th December draft resolution on Palestine, no doubt, has put a dent on US credibility in the Muslim world and peace-loving countries around the world.
If we recall, soon after the tweet of UN Secretary-General António Guterres on 6 December, “I've just invoked Art.99 of the UN Charter - for the 1st time in my tenure as Secretary-General,” UAE Mission to UN tweeted at 10:52 pm on 6 December 2023, the tweet read; “The UAE calls for a humanitarian ceasefire resolution to be adopted urgently and has just submitted a draft to the UNSC. The situation in the Gaza Strip is catastrophic and close to irreversible. We cannot wait. The Council needs to act decisively to demand a humanitarian ceasefire… The UAE draft resolution has the support of the Arab and OIC groups. This is a moral and humanitarian imperative and we urge all countries to support the call of the Secretary-General.” UAE insisted voting on its own authored draft resolution on “The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question” for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire on 8 December.
Interestingly, a day later on 7 December, Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer said, “Frankly, if the war were stopped today, Hamas would continue to pose a threat, which is why we’re not in place yet of asking Israel to stop or for a ceasefire.” If we critically, examine Mr Jon Finer's statement, we would easily comprehend that Washington wants assurance from Muslim leaders, to be conveyed to Israel, that Hamas would carry out peaceful negotiations and would not pose a threat to Israel. Over the insistence of UAE the draft resolution was tabled in haste, which can be judged from the fact that the Council was expected to vote on a draft resolution in the morning but it was postponed to 5:30 pm to provide time for further negotiations and finally, the vote was subsequently moved up to 3 pm.
The US is justified that the horrific terrorist attack on Israel on 7 October 2023, condolences, and condemnation of their murderers were not made part of the Resolution. The statement of US Ambassador Robert Wood, with few exceptions, is justified as Washington has categorically assured, “The United States will continue the hard work of diplomacy to free hostages, to increase protection of civilians, to expand humanitarian aid and to create an opportunity for Palestinians and Israelis to live side by side in peace and security.” The efforts of all members of the United Nations must be respected but why these members could not have a consensus before tabling the resolution? The Resolution could always start with “We condemn the horrific terrorist attack on Israel on 7 October 2023, unjustified killings of civilians and instance sexual violence and kidnapping, reportedly by Hamas or whosoever committed these acts of terrorism and also express condolence with all those killed including Israelis and Palestinians post 7th October attacks. We demand these incidents must be investigated and condemned and those civilians kidnapped must be released unconditionally” and must also come up with the solution of the Palestinian question.”
The UN Secretary General's letter is also seen with concern, the draft Resolution voted on 8 December had many flaws and we cannot blame any single country including the US for failing to get the draft resolution passed at the UNSC. We should not take an expelled Hamas leaders like Ismail Haniyeh as statements from Hamas. We still have time to develop a consensus over the draft Resolution before re-tabling at UNSC at some appropriate date. Let us hope to re-phrase and re-table for peace in the Middle East and beyond. Exaggerated figures of killing, injuries and crimes would never resolve the issue, however, hope is still there and one feels optimistic that in days to come we the peace-loving people of the world will be able to come to a consensus.