U.S. finally lets ceasefire resolution pass but will not allow enforcement
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, holds to abstain her vote as the Security Council passed a substantive ceasefire resolution for the first time in five months. Although it allowed the measure to pass, the U.S. also signaled that it has no intention of allowing the U.N. to enforce its decision. | Craig Ruttle / AP

NEW YORK—For months, the world has been telling the United States, “Help us, or get out of the way.” On Monday, the U.S. finally got out of the way. After vetoing every previous attempt to pass a meaningful Gaza ceasefire resolution at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the U.S. delegation abstained. Every other member of the body voted yes.

Despite allowing the resolution to pass, however, the U.S. immediately went to work undermining the measure’s effectiveness and made clear that it would never allow it to be enforced, even as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues Israel’s genocidal war against the Palestinian people.

On Monday afternoon, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield did some diplomatic double-speak. She said Washington fully supported “some of the critical objectives” of the ceasefire resolution but declared it was “non-binding,” meaning that Israel doesn’t really have to comply. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller reinforced the message, telling the press, “It is a non-binding resolution.”

If a UNSC resolution is not followed by a member state, the council has the power to take follow-up votes authorizing punitive action, including sanctions or even the creation of an armed international force. By calling the resolution non-binding, the Biden administration used diplomatic language to declare that it has no intention of making Israel actually follow the UNSC’s orders.

Palestinian U.N. Ambassador Riyad Mansour called the resolution a ‘belated vote for humanity to prevail.’ | Craig Ruttle / AP

China, Russia, and other countries were quick to call out Thomas-Greenfield and Miller on the lie that the decision is non-binding. Under Article 25 of the U.N. Charter, they pointed out, UNSC resolutions have the force of international law and are legally binding on Israel.

Pedro Comissario, ambassador from Mozambique, who introduced the resolution, told the U.S. directly: “All United Nations Security Council resolutions are binding and mandatory.” Israel, however, has a history of flouting UNSC resolutions, including a December 2016 vote that ordered it to halt illegal settlements in the West Bank.

Still a win for the global ceasefire movement

Monday’s ceasefire resolution demands “an immediate ceasefire for the month of Ramadan leading to a lasting sustainable ceasefire.” It also demands the release of hostages by Hamas. The 14 to 0 vote breaks a five-month deadlock that has seen the U.S. torpedo prior efforts for a meaningful ceasefire.

“Today, the nonstop organizing of our movement forced the U.S. government to finally stop blocking a ceasefire,” announced Ahmad Abuznaid, director of the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights. “We’ve reached a tipping point, in which the U.S. can no longer deny the calls for a ceasefire from the American public.” Abuznaid also noted that “Israel has already defied the binding resolution and vowed to continue its genocidal attacks.”

The U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations issued a statement hailing the resolution’s passage, as well, and urged the the U.N. “to ensure the ceasefire’s immediate implementation.”

Riyad Mansour, Palestine’s U.N. ambassador, said the passage was a “belated vote for humanity to prevail.” He reminded the world that over 32,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have been killed by Israel already and nearly 75,000 left wounded.

“This must be a turning point. This must lead to saving lives on the ground,” Mansour told the Council. “Apologies to those whom the world has failed, to those that could have been saved but were not.”

China’s U.N. ambassador, Zhang Jun said, “For the lives that have already perished, the Council resolution today comes too late,” but for those still alive and struggling to survive in Gaza, the resolution represents “long awaited hope.”

Hamas, whose Oct. 7th attack on Israel and taking of hostages precipitated this latest deadly round of Israel’s long war against Palestine, issued a statement saying it welcomed the resolution and was standing by for an immediate exchange of prisoners with Israel.

The resolution’s passage came just two days after a previous supposed “ceasefire” resolution was introduced in the UNSC by the U.S. and shot down by China, Russia, and Algeria, the only Arab country on the Council.

The proposal put forward by the U.S. on Friday would have said the UNSC “determined the imperative of an immediate and sustained ceasefire.”

Global critics said the U.S. measure lacked substance and only stated the obvious fact that a ceasefire would be a good thing. It did not actually call for a ceasefire, though, and actually left the door open for Israel to continue on with its destruction of Gaza.

Zhang, the Chinese ambassador, said the U.S. draft “dodged the most central issue, that of a ceasefire” through its use of “ambiguous” language. “Nor does it even provide an answer to the question of realizing a ceasefire in the short term.”

The Russian ambassador, Vasily Nebenzia, was even more dismissive, calling the U.S. proposal a “hypocritical spectacle.” He said that “after Gaza has been virtually wiped off the face of the Earth,” the U.S. leadership was mostly interested in placating its domestic audience.

Nebenzia said the draft was intended to “play to voters and throw them a bone in the form of some kind of mention of a ceasefire in Gaza” while still ensuring “the impunity of Israel, whose crimes are not even assessed.”

Both China and Russia chose to veto the U.S. proposal because they knew the stronger and more substantive resolution by Mozambique was coming for a vote on Monday.

Ceasefire movement’s leverage

Although the U.S. said it will block enforcement of this latest measure, the fact that the White House allowed it to pass is a sign of the political pressure Biden is feeling at home and the U.S.’ increasing isolation on the world stage.

The combination of a surprisingly influential “uncommitted” protest vote movement in the Democratic primaries and slipping U.S. public support for Israel are among the factors making the president take notice of the threat to his re-election campaign, especially in key swing states like Michigan.

Abuznaid, of the U.S. Committee for Palestinian Rights, took stock of the ceasefire movement’s achievements on Monday. “For the last five months, pressure from globally conscious people around the world have shown electeds that we hold the power,” he said. “Our calls will only grow louder as the masses keep rising up together for a free Palestine.”

As for Netanyahu, he still saw the U.S. abstention on Monday as a betrayal, even though Washington continues to funnel weapons his way. He said the U.S. “abandoned its policy in the U.N.” and gave hope to Hamas. He cancelled the planned visit by two Israeli ministers to Washington to discuss the impending assault on Rafah.

An excerpt of the report released by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Palestine on Tuesday. | via U.N.

Netanyahu also claimed he still has no choice but to send his bombers and tanks to the city in southern Gaza, where over a million Palestinians have sought refuge. “I hope we would do this with U.S. support, but if necessary, we will do it alone.”

Netanyahu’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, is proceeding with a trip to the U.S., though, suggesting the gap between the allies is not as wide as the Israeli prime minister portrays it. Biden’s national security spokesperson John Kirby said Monday that Israeli leaders were “choosing to create a perception of daylight here when they don’t need to do that.”

It is no secret that Biden would prefer someone other than Netanyahu was in charge in Tel Aviv and wants to avoid the humanitarian disaster of an attack on Rafah. The U.S.-Israel alliance, however, remains a pillar of U.S. imperialist policy in the Middle East, and the administration continues to push Congress to approve its $95 billion Ukraine-Israel arms supplemental request.

But there are moves underway at the U.N. to counter the flow of U.S. weapons. On Tuesday, Francesca Albanese, the U.N.’s official observer of the human rights situation in Palestine, issued a report declaring that Israel was committing genocide and called for an immediate international arms embargo on the country.

Her report concluded that Israel is “deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction” of the Palestinian population. She said the current war is “an escalatory stage of a longstanding settler-colonial process of erasure” stretching back seven decades.

Albanese’s report will now become evidence in the hands of the ceasefire movement in the U.S. as it continues its campaign to pressure the Biden administration to change course.

We hope you appreciated this article. At People’s World, we believe news and information should be free and accessible to all, but we need your help. Our journalism is free of corporate influence and paywalls because we are totally reader-supported. Only you, our readers and supporters, make this possible. If you enjoy reading People’s World and the stories we bring you, please support our work by donating or becoming a monthly sustainer today. Thank you!


C.J. Atkins
C.J. Atkins

C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People's World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left. In addition to his work at People's World, C.J. currently serves as the Deputy Executive Director of ProudPolitics.