The United States allowed the Gaza ceasefire resolution to be passed at the United Nations. What does this mean for war?


After several failed attempts over five months of Israel's devastating war on Gaza, the United Nations Security Council on Monday finally passed a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire. The United States, which was the only remaining obstacle to such a call, decided not to cancel the resolution.

The vote came as a shock to Israel, which saw its decades-long American ally abstain rather than veto the move, as it has done consistently over the years in its diplomatic support for the Jewish state. Israeli officials criticized the decision, saying they had no intention of a ceasefire.

More than 32,000 people were killed in Gaza in operations launched by Israel after Hamas-led militants attacked the country on October 7, killing 1,200 people and taking 250 hostage.

Israel criticized the language of the resolution, saying it did not strongly link the ceasefire to the release of hostages held in Gaza. The text demands “an immediate ceasefire… and also demands the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.” Failed decision Proposed by the United States Last week, it demanded a ceasefire directly linked to the release of the hostages.

While the United States says the latest resolution is non-binding, experts disagree on whether this is the case or not. They say that the key is in the language of the document.

Here's what we know:

Israel responded angrily to the resolution, saying it had no intention of abiding by it. Israeli attacks on Gaza continued on Tuesday.

Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan criticized the Security Council for passing a measure calling for a ceasefire “without conditioning it on the release of the hostages.”

“It undermines efforts to secure their release,” he said at the United Nations.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Israel Katz said on the X website that his country would not abide by the decision.

“The State of Israel will not stop firing,” Katz said. We will destroy Hamas and will continue fighting until the last hostages return home.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the US abstention by canceling a trip that two of his senior advisors were scheduled to take to the United States. Israeli National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi and Defense Cabinet member Ron Dermer were scheduled to travel to Washington on Monday evening to discuss alternatives to the planned Israeli attack on the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. The meeting was at the request of US President Joe Biden.

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“On the ground now… I think there is no immediate impact,” said Gabriella Shalev, Israel's former ambassador to the United Nations and professor emeritus at Hebrew University's law school. “But of course it has a moral and public impact.”

After the resolution was approved, American officials made great efforts to argue that the resolution was non-binding. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller He said over and over again During a press conference, he said that the decision was non-binding, before acknowledging that its technical details were determined by international lawyers.

Likewise, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby and US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield separately insisted that the resolution was non-binding.

Chinese Ambassador to the United Nations Zhang Jun replied Such decisions are already binding. UN Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq said that Security Council resolutions are international law, “and are therefore as binding as international law.”

Experts say whether the decision is binding depends on the language used, as ambiguous language leaves room for interpretation. In this case, opinions differed as to whether the resolution fell under Chapter VI of the UN Charter (considered non-binding) or Chapter VII (binding). This resolution “demands” a ceasefire.

“The United States – which belongs to a legal tradition that takes a narrower interpretation – says that without using the word 'determines' or invoking Chapter VII in the text, the resolution is non-binding,” said Maya Ungar, a watchdog analyst. UN Security Council developments at the International Crisis Group (ICG), a Brussels-based think tank. “Other Member States and international legal scholars argue that there is legal precedence to the idea that the request is implicitly a Council decision.”

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She added: “The crux of the issue is the language of the resolution and the way member states interpret the Charter differently.”

“The United States is trying to walk a fine line between criticizing and supporting Israel,” Ungar said. “By saying the resolution is non-binding, the United States appears to have calculated that it can make a public statement by not using its veto without facing severe Israeli reactions.”

Even if legal experts decide the resolution is binding, the question remains about how it will be implemented and by whom, said Yossi Mekelberg, an associate fellow in the Middle East and North Africa program at think tank Chatham House in London.

“The answer is no one,” Mekelberg told CNN, especially since the only country capable of implementing the resolution – the United States – was quick to declare it non-binding.

Israel's Western allies, especially the United States, have long shielded it from criticism at the United Nations. Their support was on full display shortly after the Hamas-led massacre on October 7, when many countries sided with Israel in the Security Council and the UN General Assembly. But as the war in Gaza continues and the death toll there mounts, that support has begun to wane, even from some of Israel's most committed allies, leaving the United States as its only supporter at the United Nations for the past few months. Until the vote on Monday.

“They are not completely isolating Israel — and their arguments about the non-binding nature make that clear,” said Ungar of the International Crisis Group. “But this is as far from the Israeli policy as the United States has been willing to go so far at the United Nations.”

Shalev, the former Israeli ambassador, said that by abstaining from the vote, the United States took a “middle path,” but it shows how “deeply concerned” the White House is about what is happening.

Biden administration officials have come to believe that Israel risks becoming an international pariah if the humanitarian crisis in Gaza worsens or continues for an extended period of time.

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Smoke rises during an Israeli raid on Al-Shifa Hospital and the surrounding area in Gaza City on March 21, 2024.

Israel has faced severe criticism at the international level, with calls from American politicians and European officials to reconsider its arms sales in the face of the huge number of civilian deaths in Gaza.

Relations with the Biden administration are deteriorating as Israel pledges to pursue a possible invasion of Rafah, where 1.4 million Palestinians live. The United States warned against such a move, even as officials insisted on Washington's commitment to Israel's security.

Vice President Kamala Harris said last weekend that an invasion would be a “mistake” and refused to rule out consequences for Israel if it goes ahead.

Netanyahu's decision to cancel official meetings in Washington to protest the US abstention has left US officials confused. Kirby said the United States was “very disappointed that they won't come” but insisted that the abstention did not represent a shift in US policy toward Israel.

“He is waging a battle with Washington, at the worst time any Israeli prime minister could be waging a battle with Washington,” Mekelberg said.

Despite Israeli disdain elsewhere, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant flew to Washington on Tuesday to present US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin with a wish list of US weapons and equipment that Israel would like to purchase and deliver in a rapid manner.

Shalev said that Israel faces “a very low point in our relations with the United States,” noting that although there is tension at the governmental level, most of the people of Israel want to improve relations.

She added that in the past, the United States did not even allow votes on such decisions. “(This time) the United States wanted to emphasize its point of view regarding the humanitarian aspects of Israel’s actions on the ground in Gaza, as well as regarding the unconditional release of all hostages.”

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