Why didn’t the US use its veto against the UN Security Council ceasefire resolution?

Dr Amira Abo el-Fetouh

While I acknowledge that UN Security Council Resolution 2728 calling for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip came six months too late, there were certainly political factors that prevented such a resolution being agreed any earlier. I appreciate that all of the local, regional and international parties connected to the military offensive did not anticipate it taking the course that it did, and this prompted gradual changes in their positions and statements. Comparing what the US, EU, Russia and China said at the beginning of the offensive with their latest statements reveals some shifts. It is sufficient to point out, though, that the Security Council failed in all previous attempts but one to agree on a resolution due to the US veto; on that odd occasion, it failed because of a joint Russia-China veto.

The most important changes that made the US not use its veto to block Resolution 2728 are represented by several factors, the most important of which is popular pressure in most Western countries opposed to the ceasefire. In this regard, it is enough to say that more than 12,800 pro-ceasefire demonstrations have been organised around the world, but only 23 per cent were in the US.

Moreover, the US veto has been criticised by international bodies and commentators due to the serious level of the violation of international humanitarian law and the massacres committed against the Palestinians by the Israeli occupation forces. This has become the main focus in the media and the testimonies of international organisations such as the World Health Organisation, UNICEF and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. This is in addition to the bold criticism of what is happening in Gaza by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Then we have the EU concerns that Palestinians displaced from Gaza may head for Europe.

The continent has had to contend with many refugees and migrants from war-torn countries in the Middle East and beyond over the past decade, and is still doing so. Furthermore, there is a general feeling in the West that the situation in Gaza is overshadowing other important issues, especially Ukraine, and has paved the way for Russia’s Vladimir Putin to achieve more of his objectives; and China has been using the Gaza crisis in its position on Taiwan.

Another factor that should not be overlooked is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s mismanagement of the offensive. He has failed to achieve the goals he set for himself, namely eliminating Hamas, returning the hostages and controlling Gaza; there is also tension within the occupation state between the military and the secularists over army service for ultra-Orthodox Jews. Netanyahu has made controversial statements that even some Zionist leaders could not tolerate, not to mention the criticism of such Israeli figures as Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert, Naftali Bennett and others.

The International Court of Justice has placed more legal and moral pressure on the occupation state and its allies, and this has been reflected in Israel’s international image and reputation. This was evident in the shifts in European and African positions, and those of most Latin American countries. Chinese and Russian statements strengthened this aspect. Suffice to say that Resolution 2728 was drafted by ten non-permanent Security Council members representing almost all regions of the world. European approval, including that of the UK, was also taken into account, which is what would have made the US use of its veto very embarrassing. US President Joe Biden, therefore, opted to abstain instead.

That is the political context of the resolution, which has been seen as a serious shift in the international position towards Israel’s genocidal offensive in Gaza. This angered Netanyahu, of course, because he is aware of the possible repercussions on Israel’s military capabilities and operations, as well as the efforts to release the hostages held in Gaza.

What annoyed Netanyahu and many Zionists was not that the resolution would be implemented immediately because, bizarrely, the US claimed that it is non-binding, even though Security Council resolutions are indeed binding and enforceable, as per the UN Charter. Rather, what angered them was the fact that the resolution opens the door for very negative — from Israel’s point of view — changes in international attitudes towards the occupation state. If it ignores the resolution, the Security Council will take tougher decisions that will most probably snowball. This will intensify Israel’s international isolation and encourage many countries to impose sanctions against it; arms supplies could — and should — dry up, and lucrative deals and trading terms would have to be reconsidered.

According to Netanyahu and his “war cabinet”, Resolution 2728 “rewards” Hamas and will encourage the resistance movement not to make any concessions in negotiations. Such a “free” ceasefire, it is argued, would mean that Hamas will insist on its demands, especially an end to the offensive; a complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza; the return of displaced Palestinians to all parts of the enclave; and the release of a significant number of Palestinian prisoners and detainees held by Israel.

There is no doubt that Netanyahu is adept at manoeuvring and crisis management

However, what the Zionist state has been going through since 7 October carries existential risks for the apartheid entity in the form of basically losing the war and being unable to achieve its goals despite the genocide, killing and mass destruction. Its “protected” international status is falling away, just like the hated apartheid regime in South Africa which crumbled under sanctions and international isolation.

At some point, Netanyahu’s intelligence agencies may betray him, and he may find himself the biggest loser on a personal level and be the cause of a major defeat for Israel, making life there unacceptable for large numbers of Zionists. The state is losing its false halo of goodness created by the Zionist and Western propaganda that portrays Israel as an oasis of democracy and Western values or, as the so-called father of Zionism Theodor Herzl put it, an “outpost of Western civilisation in a sea of barbarism”.

Operation Al-Aqsa Flood has removed the fig leaf of acceptability from Israel and exposed it to the world for what it really is: a rogue state.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.