On 22 December, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2720 (2023), addressing the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza. This marks a significant development amid the ongoing conflict and the atrocities faced by Palestinians.
While not directly calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, the resolution — favored by 13 members with abstentions from the United States and the Russian Federation — reaffirmed the conflict parties’ obligations under international humanitarian law. These include the protection of civilians and civilian objects, the safety of humanitarian personnel, and the provision of humanitarian assistance.
The Council demanded that the parties ‘allow, facilitate, and enable’ immediate, safe, and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance at scale directly to the Palestinian civilian population throughout the Gaza Strip.
Furthermore, it requested that the UN Secretary-General appoint a Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator responsible for ‘facilitating, coordinating, monitoring, and verifying,’ as appropriate, the humanitarian nature of all relief consignments to the enclave, provided through States not party to the conflict.
The resolution also called for the ‘expeditious’ establishment of a UN mechanism to accelerate aid consignments to Gaza through non-conflict States to expedite and streamline assistance, ensuring aid reaches its civilian destination.
Significantly, this resolution follows the United States’ 8 December veto against a proposed Security Council demand for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, a decision influenced by prior US lobbying to soften ceasefire language and prevent a similar veto.
Mr Vasily Alekseyevich Nebenzya, Russian Federation’s representative, sharply criticized the United States for its earlier veto and overall behaviour, indicating broader geopolitical maneuvering and dissatisfaction with the Council’s actions.
He expressed categorical disagreement with parts of the newly adopted resolution, stressing, “We will not put our names to this,” and lamenting what he viewed as a tragic moment for the Council rather than a triumph.
In contrast, Ms Thomas-Greenfield, the United States’ representative, while abstaining from the vote, recognized the resolution as a step forward but vehemently denied the Russian accusation of sabotaging the Council’s efforts.
She asserted the U.S.’s commitment to alleviating the humanitarian crisis and its active role in pushing for the protection of civilians and humanitarian workers. She emphasized the broad applicability of international humanitarian law to all parties involved, including Israel and Hamas, which she described as a terror group instigating the conflict.
Mr Riyad H. Mansour, the Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine, provided a harrowing account of the conflict’s toll on the Palestinian people, stating, “20,000 Palestinians — almost half of them children — have been killed in Gaza, with another 2 million people forcibly displaced.” He condemned the Israeli military actions and called for an immediate ceasefire to halt what he termed war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.
Mr Brett Jonathan Miller, Israel’s representative, underscored the atrocities committed by Hamas against Israeli civilians and criticized the Council for not condemning Hamas. He emphasized Israel’s ongoing aid efforts to Gaza but insisted on the necessity of security inspections to prevent the regrouping and rearming of Hamas.
Other Council members expressed a range of views, reflecting the complexity of the situation and varying perspectives on addressing it. Egypt’s representative, for example, welcomed the resolution as a positive development but emphasized that it should be followed by further actions, including a comprehensive ceasefire.
The United Kingdom, which voted in support of the resolution, stated its support for a two-state solution that guarantees true security and stability for both Israelis and Palestinians, a view shared by many countries in the United Nations, including the United States.
However, Israel’s ambassador to the UK told Sky News in an interview on 14 December that Israel would not accept a two-state solution when the war in Gaza ends.
A few days later, on 16 December, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated he was “proud” to have prevented the establishment of a Palestinian state, crediting himself for “putting the brakes” on the Oslo peace process during a press conference in Tel Aviv.
He also reiterated his opposition to the Palestinian Authority taking control of Gaza after the war with Hamas ends, adding that “among friends, it’s important not to foster illusions,” alluding to Washington’s desire for a “revamped” Palestinian Authority to take control of the coastal enclave.
Mr Netanyahu asserted, “I’m proud that I prevented the establishment of a Palestinian state because today everybody understands what that Palestinian state could have been, now that we’ve seen the little Palestinian state in Gaza. Everyone understands what would have happened if we had capitulated to international pressures and enabled a state like that in Judea and Samaria, surrounding Jerusalem and on the outskirts of Tel Aviv.”
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