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U.N. fails to adopt U.S. resolution calling for immediate ceasefire in Gaza

The United States ended decades of stalwart support for Israel in the United Nations Security Council on Thursday, submitting a draft resolution that calls for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

But the U.N. Security Council failed to adopt the resolution in a Friday morning vote, with Algeria, China and Russia voting against the measure.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., sharply criticized the vetoes from China and Russia, noting that those countries have not condemned Hamas for its Oct. 7, 2023, attacks on Israel.

“Once again, Russia put politics over progress,” Thomas-Greenfield said shortly after the vote.

It was not immediately clear if or when another vote would take place. France said it would work on drafting its own ceasefire resolution after the U.S. one failed.

🇺🇳 How we got here

Several Security Council members seated at United Nations headquarters in New York City.
U.N. Security Council members vote on a U.S. resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza at United Nations headquarters in New York City on Friday. (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)

The U.S. had negotiated the language of the proposed resolution with the governments of Egypt and Qatar before submitting it to the U.N. Security Council for a vote. A version of the resolution that was circulated early Thursday linked the cessation of fighting with the release of hostages held in Gaza by Hamas, the Associated Press reported. The revised version that was voted on Friday, however, makes no such precondition for “the imperative of an immediate and sustained cease-fire.”

The proposed resolution states that “toward that end” it would unequivocally support diplomatic efforts “to secure such a cease-fire in connection with the release of all remaining hostages.”

In February, the U.S. was the only nation on the Security Council to veto a similar resolution, saying that calling for an immediate end to military hostilities would imperil hostage negotiations.

🇺🇸 Why did the U.S. decide to submit its resolution now?

President Biden addresses the nation from the Oval Office.
President Biden addresses the nation on the conflict between Israel and Hamas and the Russian invasion of Ukraine from the Oval Office on Oct. 19, 2023. (Jonathan Ernst/AFP via Getty Images)

The U.S. move comes at a delicate moment for U.S. and Israeli relations. With more than 30,000 Palestinians estimated killed in Gaza as a result of the Israeli government’s military campaign responding to the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas that left nearly 1,200 dead in Israel, the Biden administration and congressional Democrats have recently increased pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to change his tactics.

Israel has largely ignored those calls, and announced plans to attack Rafah, a city in southern Gaza where it initially directed Palestinians to flee as it conducted operations in the northern part of the territory.

The U.S. has strongly opposed the idea, and global aid organizations have declared that the residents of Gaza are on the brink of famine.

A map of the Gaza Strip.
Yahoo News

“A major military operation in Rafah would be a mistake, something we don’t support," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a news conference in Cairo earlier this week.

Blinken met with Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on Friday morning.

Last week Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer delivered a blistering speech on the Senate floor describing Netanyahu as an “obstacle to peace” and calling for new Israeli elections.

Biden praised the speech, further angering Netanyahu, who addressed congressional Republicans on Wednesday to denounce it.

🔎 What will the resolution actually accomplish?

A man yells during a search for survivors following an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City.
A man yells during a search for survivors following an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on Oct. 24, 2023. (Ali Jadallah/Anadolu via Getty Images)

That’s unclear. The U.S. is using the resolution to send a very public message to Netanyahu’s government that it opposes the way Israel is conducting the war in Gaza.

Unlike the council’s past votes on authorizing the use of force in Iraq, this one would not have called on nations to carry out the enforcement of its objectives.

🇮🇱 U.S. history of blocking resolutions critical of Israel

Protesters calling for a ceasefire march in Los Angeles.
Protesters calling for a ceasefire march in Los Angeles on March 2. (David McNew/Getty Images)

Perhaps the most notable aspect regarding the U.S. resolution is the venue where it is being submitted. Since 1945, the U.S. has vetoed dozens of Security Council resolutions designed to force the Jewish state to make concessions to the Palestinians. As a permanent member of the Security Council, the U.S. has been viewed as a lock to support Israel in that body.

On Oct. 18, 2023, for instance, the U.S. vetoed a Security Council resolution that called for humanitarian pauses in the fighting in Gaza and demanded that Israel rescind its evacuation order for residents in the northern half of the territory. At the time, Thomas-Greenfield said that “the actions we take must be informed by the facts on the ground and support direct diplomacy that can save lives,” Al Jazeera reported.

🗳️ How the resolution will play domestically

President Biden puts his arm around Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv.
Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on Oct. 18, 2023. (GPO/Handout/Anadolu via Getty Images)

For many Democratic voters, Biden’s embrace of Israel following the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks was too one-sided in that it ignored decades of Palestinian suffering in Gaza.

In Michigan’s presidential primary, many Democrats protested Biden’s handling of the war, with 13% casting a vote for “uncommitted.” Michigan has the largest Arab American population of any state, but younger voters have expressed their displeasure with Biden over U.S. support for Israel across the country.

The Wall Street Journal’s conservative editorial board published a piece on Monday that suggested Democrats in Washington had turned on Israel to win over those disgruntled voters.

But it’s unclear exactly how the resolution will be perceived. A February poll of U.S. adults conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 50% believe that Israel’s military offensive has gone too far. In November, that number was 40%.

Destroyed buildings inside the Gaza Strip.
Destroyed buildings in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday. (Ariel Schalit/AP)