The Guardian view on the UN security council’s ceasefire resolution: the US talks tougher on Israel | Editorial

The extent of the Biden administration’s shift at the United Nations security council on Monday should not be underestimated. The US is not only by far Israel’s most important ally and supplier of aid, but has provided it with stalwart diplomatic support. That it abstained instead of vetoing a resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire – as it had previously done – was a major departure and leaves Israel looking extremely isolated, as Benjamin Netanyahu’s angry reaction showed.

Yet the US has since done its best to talk down its decision, with officials insisting that there has been no change in policy and describing the resolution as non-binding. That is not the view of other security council members or the UN itself. António Guterres, the UN secretary general, wrote that it would be “unforgivable” to fail to implement the resolution, which also called for the unconditional release of hostages. But Israeli airstrikes have continued.

The Biden administration is well aware that this war is ravaging its international standing: it is judged both complicit in the suffering in Gaza and ineffectual in its ability to restrain Israel’s conduct of the war. At home, it is costing the president vital Democratic support in an election year. But more Americans believe that Israel’s conduct of the war is acceptable than unacceptable, although there is a clear – and generational – divide.

Mike Johnson, the Republican speaker of the US House of Representatives, has already said that he will invite Mr Netanyahu to speak before Congress. Though many in Israel fully understand the long-term damage the Israeli prime minister has done to his country’s interests as he fights for his own, there is no sign that US exasperation will speed his departure or moderate the conduct of this war.

While the Biden administration treads gingerly, the humanitarian catastrophe gallops ahead in Gaza. The UN resolution stipulates a ceasefire for Ramadan – already half passed. More than 32,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to Gaza’s health authorities. Disease and starvation are claiming more lives as the most intense famine since the second world war takes hold – a famine entirely human-made by the destruction of so much of Gaza and the reduction of aid to a trickle. Unrwa, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees central to relief efforts, has said that Israel has banned it from making aid deliveries in northern Gaza.

Mr Biden has described the placing of conditions on US military aid as a “worthwhile thought”, but it does not appear to be one that he intends to translate into reality, though past administrations have threatened or imposed them. Recipients of arms must now give assurances that they abide by international law, but the US says it has “no evidence” that Israel is not in compliance. Many Democrats disagree.

Canada has already announced that it is suspending further sales. The UK shifted from abstaining to supporting the ceasefire resolution on Monday, and David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, has urged the Foreign Office to publish its formal legal advice on whether Israel is breaching international law in Gaza. The reality is, however, that 99% of Israel’s arms imports come from the US and Germany. Hand-wringing over humanitarian suffering is pointless when you continue to supply the weapons creating the disaster. Monday’s abstention was an important symbolic moment, but it appears that little will alter unless the US makes a substantive change.

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Source: US Politics -


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