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The UN dithers, while Israel stands alone

Cease-fire resolution effectively lends support to Hamas, not the people of Gaza

United Nations Security Council meets on March 25 after passing a Gaza ceasefire resolution. Associated Press/Photo Craig Ruttle

The UN dithers, while Israel stands alone
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The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has passed a resolution urging a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza. The resolution passed unanimously by 14 of the UNSC members, with the United States abstaining.

Which prompts the question: should anyone care? Does the United Nations matter anymore? In many ways, very little. The UN does not control an armed force, or a substantial budget, or any of the other traditional elements of projecting power in the world. Moreover, the UN has long been beset by double standards and moral compromises, welcoming brutal dictatorships such as China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, and Eritrea to its Human Rights Council while grotesquely singling out democratic Israel for disproportionate censure.

Nor has the UN shown an ability or willingness to police its own agencies. Examples abound, most recently by the fact that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), ostensibly dedicated to supporting Palestinian civilian refugees, employed Hamas terrorists and provided shelter to Hamas military command posts.

Revealingly, while the UNSC resolution at least urged the release of Israel’s many hostages held by Hamas, it did not link the cease-fire to a demand that Hamas release the remaining 134 Israeli hostages it holds. Nor did the resolution condemn Hamas’s aggression against Israel or Hamas’s repellent abuse of Palestinian civilians as human shields. The Hamas leadership cares not at all about the welfare of Palestinian civilians. Its bloodlust may be focused on killing Jews, yet it treats the deaths of Palestinians as a trifle.

Given those manifest liabilities, why did this latest UN resolution command worldwide headlines? Because as flawed as it is, the UN still serves as a proxy for the opinions of many nations—and unfortunately many nations are turning against Israel. Moreover, the abstention by the United States indicates the growing rift between the Biden White House and Israel.

The Biden administration decided to abstain—rather than veto the resolution, as it had done for three previous UNSC cease-fire measures—as a way of signaling to Israel the White House’s unhappiness with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israel’s conduct of the war. As long as Jerusalem enjoys American support, Israel has a potent buffer against international criticism. Without American support, Israel’s ability to protect itself and wage the war will be hindered.

The quickest way to liberate the remaining Israeli hostages, and relieve the suffering of Palestinian civilians, is for Israel to end Hamas’s tyranny of Gaza.

Thus the real issue here is the growing rift between the Biden administration and Israel, not the UNSC resolution itself. The White House’s frictions with Israel in turn stem in part from pressure from its progressive political base and the left’s antipathy to the Jewish state. Netanyahu, rightly irked at the White House’s refusal to veto the resolution, canceled a planned visit to Washington, D.C., by senior Israeli officials.

As Israel prepares for a new offensive against Hamas garrisons in the Gaza city of Rafah, the Biden administration has been pressuring the Netanyahu government to suspend the operation, agree to a cease-fire in exchange for more hostage releases, and allow more humanitarian aid to reach Palestinian civilians in Gaza. Hamas, shrewdly and cynically attuned to international opinion, has been dragging out the hostage negotiations in an effort to mount more international pressure on Israel while buying more time for Hamas to regroup from the Israeli military’s assault.

The issues are not simple. Netanyahu is widely unpopular with the Israeli public and bears significant responsibility for the security lapses that allowed the Oct. 7 assault to take place. He is a flawed leader. In Gaza, Palestinian civilians are in desperate need of humanitarian aid. The Biden administration based its UNSC abstention in part on those concerns.

But the White House still erred in not vetoing the resolution. Israel’s security and survival depends on eradicating Hamas. And the quickest way to liberate the remaining Israeli hostages, and relieve the suffering of Palestinian civilians, is for Israel to end Hamas’s tyranny of Gaza.

Meanwhile, the 15 nations of the UN Security Council, rather than issuing vacuous resolutions that unfairly disadvantage Israel, would do better to support Israel’s right to defend itself and to condemn the genocidal campaign of Hamas.

William Inboden

William Inboden is professor and director of the Hamilton Center for Classical and Civic Education at the University of Florida. He previously served as executive director and William Powers Jr. chair at the William P. Clements Jr. Center for National Security at the University of Texas at Austin. He has also served as senior director for strategic planning on the National Security Council at the White House, and at the Department of State as a member of the Policy Planning Staff and a special adviser in the Office of International Religious Freedom.

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