Israel thanks US for blocking UN statement calling for immediate ceasefire in Gaza

Joe Biden tells Benjamin Netanyahu he supports end to fighting but stresses Israel’s right to self defence

Andrew Buncombe
Chief US Correspondent
@AndrewBuncombe
Tuesday 18 May 2021 13:18
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Israel has thanked the US for blocking a United Nation’s Security Council statement calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, and stressing the need to protect children and other civilians.

On Monday, the Biden administration rejected - for the third time - the draft of a statement that would have called for a deescalation of violence, and expressed concern over the loss of civilian lives, and those injured in more than a week of violence.

While the US has a long history of stopping criticism of Israel in official UN statements, even regularly using its veto power to do so, there was a hope the US would sign on to a statement that called for both Israel and Hamas to act to prevent further casualties.

But for the third time in a week, the US said it would not agree to the wording, a decision that reportedly startled some of its allies.

On Monday afternoon, Israel’s defence minister, Benny Gantz, posted a tweet thanking the US for its actions.

“My sincere thanks to the US administration and in particular to @SecDef Lloyd Austin, with whom I spoke this week, for rightly preventing the unjust UN Security Council statement criticising Israel’s actions in Gaza,” he wrote.

“While Hamas, a terror organisation, targets our civilians and commits war crimes, our aims are solely to dismantle terror infrastructure and protect our people. This criticism of Israel is hypocritical and detrimental to the global fight against terror.”

On Monday, the White House said Mr Biden had spoken with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and voiced “support” for a ceasefire.

The US president, who has long record of being a strident defender of Israel, is said to have stressed his belief in Israel’s right to defend itself, but also welcomed efforts to address inter-communal violence and to bring calm to Jerusalem.

The phone conversation between the two leaders and strategic allies came as the violence in the Middle East, triggered by a series of events including long-simmering outcry over Israel’s efforts to force Palestinian families to leave East Jerusalem, entered its second week.

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At least 212 people, including 61 children, have lots their lives in Gaza, and 10, including two children, in Israel. There have been nightly clashes in Jerusalem between police and Palestinian protesters.

Hamas, a militant group that has controlled Gaza since 2007, has been firing rockets into Israel. Israel’s military - modern and powerful - has been pounding Gaza with air strikes and bombing runs. Since the creation of Israel in 1948, the US has provided it with $146bn in bilateral assistance and missile defence funding. In 2019, that figure was around $4bn, and in recent years all that aid was in the form of military assistance.

While Mr Biden is said to have voiced support for a ceasefire, there is pressure from some Democrats for him to speak out more firmly, though he has not done so. In Copenhagen, Mr Biden’s secretary of state, Antony Blinken, claimed at a press conference that Washington was working behind the scenes.

“Any diplomatic initiative that advances that prospect is something that we’ll support,” he said. “And we are again willing and ready to do that. But ultimately it is up to the parties to make clear that they want to pursue a ceasefire.”

But on Monday, the United States blocked moves by China, Norway and Tunisia in the UN Security Council for a statement by the UN’s most powerful body, including a call for the cessation of hostilities. The proposed statement called for an end to “the crisis related to Gaza” and the protection of civilians, especially children.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric spoke of the need to take unified action, telling a press conference: “I would really restate the need for a very strong and unified voice from the Security Council, which we think will carry weight.”

The AFP news agency said the US refusal to endorse a joint Security Council statement was met with “disbelief” by its allies.

It quoted one diplomat as saying: “We are just asking the US to support a statement by the Security Council that would pretty much say similar things which are being saying bilaterally from Washington.”

Additional reporting by the Associated Press

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