The Security Council “is correct in its call to make sure that the U.N. is required to streamline the transfer of humanitarian aid and make sure that it reaches its destination and not to Hamas,” says Israel’s foreign minister.
By Mike Waggenheim
December 22, 2023
(JNS) — After five days, nine delays and seemingly endless negotiations, the United Nations Security Council finally agreed on a resolution to speed and scale up humanitarian aid into Gaza.
The United States pushed for and ensured changes in the final document, including replacing a demand for urgent steps toward a cessation of hostilities—essentially, a ceasefire—with a call “to create the conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities.”
Washington and Russia both abstained from the final vote, which was 13-0.
The change suggests less urgency for and responsibility on Israel to wind down its military operation. Russia had threatened to veto the resolution over what it considered watered-down language, before offering a separate amendment calling for a ceasefire. Washington vetoed the latter.
The passed resolution calls for the expedited delivery of humanitarian aid through land, air and sea. A final Washington-pushed edit called for that delivery to be made through all “available” avenues, freeing Jerusalem, in theory, to declare certain avenues off limits should it need to conduct operations at a given time and place.
It demands as well the immediate release of all hostages being held in Gaza.
Most notably, the resolution calls for António Guterres, the U.N. secretary-general, to appoint a special coordinator to oversee the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza, including security clearances. The coordinator would then create a U.N. mechanism for delivery of that aid.
This takes ultimate oversight of aid delivery out of Israel’s hands, but it overcomes a Washington objection of placing said oversight directly in the hands of U.N. agencies, many of which work with Hamas or are known to have ties with the terror group through certain employees and staff.
“It took many days, and many, many long nights, of negotiating to get this right, but today this council provided a glimmer of hope amongst a sea of unimaginable suffering,” said Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
“Today, this council called for urgent steps to immediately allow safe, unhindered and expanded humanitarian access and to create the conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities,” she added.
Israel noted via private channels its lack of trust in the United Nations to keep humanitarian aid from being siphoned off by Gaza. Several U.N. officials speaking to journalists on the condition of anonymity also noted an unease within the organization about being tasked with such a monumental task, especially given the safety risks involved in operating in a tight combat area.
The language of the resolution still gives Israel the authority to inspect aid entering Gaza, something for which Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan said he was thankful to the United States.
“It must not be ignored that the Security Council as a body has not yet condemned the Oct. 7 massacre. This is a disgrace that reveals the irrelevance of the U.N. in relation to the war in Gaza,” Erdan stated.
“The U.N.’s focus only on the aid mechanisms for Gaza is unnecessary and disconnected from reality,” he added. “Israel, in any case, allows the entry of aid on any necessary scale.”
Erdan lamented that the resolution focuses on the humanitarian crisis and not the Israeli hostages being held in Gaza.
“The failures of the U.N. in the last 17 years have allowed Hamas to dig terror tunnels and produce missiles and rockets,” he wrote on social media. “It is clear that the U.N. cannot be trusted to monitor the incoming aid.”
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen was a bit less combative in his reaction. “Israel will continue the war until the release of all the abductees and the elimination of Hamas in the Gaza Strip,” he wrote on social media. “Israel will continue to act according to international law, but will review all humanitarian aid to Gaza for security reasons.”
“The Security Council’s decision emphasizes the need to ensure that the U.N. becomes more efficient in transferring the humanitarian aid and to make sure that the aid reaches its destination and does not end up in the hands of Hamas terrorists,” he added.
In another social media post in Hebrew, Cohen wrote that “Israel will continue the war until the release of all the abductees and the elimination of Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Israel will continue to act according to international law, but will review all humanitarian aid to Gaza for security reasons.”
“The U.N. Security Council’s decision is correct in its call to make sure that the U.N. is required to streamline the transfer of humanitarian aid and make sure that it reaches its destination and not to Hamas,” he added.
Guterres blasted Israel in comments to the media following the vote. He said that it is a mistake to measure the flow of aid by the number of trucks entering and being unloaded in Gaza. An effective aid operation in Gaza “requires security, staff who can work in safety, logistical capacity and the resumption of commercial activity,” he said.
“The real problem is that the way Israel is conducting this offensive is creating massive obstacles to the distribution of humanitarian aid inside Gaza,” added Guterres, who has engaged in a months-long diplomatic narrative war with Israeli officials.
The council resolution also calls for Gaza to again be governed by the Palestinian Authority ahead of a two-state solution. The PA controlled the strip before Hamas’s violent 2007 takeover.
Lana Nusseibeh, the U.N. ambassador for the United Arab Emirates and the resolution author, made clear on Friday morning that after one final debate on the text, there would be no further changes and it would need to be put up for a vote.