Seismic shift in attitude to Gaza war by Israel’s allies

The UN Security Council passed a resolution of a ceasefire in Gaza. Picture: AFP

The UN Security Council passed a resolution of a ceasefire in Gaza. Picture: AFP

Published Mar 31, 2024



Vladimir Ilyich Lenin said: “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”

While not too optimistic about the recent UN Security Council resolution on a lasting ceasefire in Gaza, it is safe to suggest that in this past week decades happened.

UN Security Council Resolution 2728 calls for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas for the holy month of Ramadaan, the immediate release of hostages and for ensuring humanitarian access to Gaza.

While the council rejected the Russian amendment which called for a permanent ceasefire, the US ambassador to the UN indicated that her delegation “fully supports” the critical objectives of the draft.

Even though the Israeli ambassador to the UN described the resolution’s omission of a condemnation of Hamas as “a disgrace”, the ambassador of the observer State of Palestine stated “this must be a turning point”.

The resolution was the first to be adopted by the council after several permanent council members consistently blocked past resolutions that put pressure on Israel.

US abstention in the voting of this resolution was significant. Yet for those of us who have been following international developments on the conflict, especially from the global body’s perspective, it was good to see the resolution not being vetoed.

The decades happening in a week came in the shift in attitudes towards the conflict especially by the UK and the US.

On October 17, when debating the first draft resolution proposed by the Russian Federation in the UN Security Council since the escalation of violence, the UK ambassador to the UN, Barbara Woodward, said the UK “voted ‘no’ on the draft resolution put forward by the Russian delegation”.

She went on to explain that the UK “cannot support a resolution which fails to condemn Hamas’ terror attacks.”

Remembering the sentiments as expressed earlier by the Israeli ambassador to the UN, the UK this week did just that: supported a resolution which failed to condemn Hamas’ terror attacks.

When making a statement on Resolution 2728, Woodward would state that the UK regrets “this resolution has not condemned the terrorist attacks perpetrated by Hamas on October 7…”

Whereas in the past few weeks, other permanent members of the Security Council have been more keen to adopt resolutions, the US and the UK have been the most vociferous in their opposition to resolutions. Until this week.

In the end, UN Security Council resolution 2728 was adopted by 14 out of the 15 member states with the US abstaining.

Again, there should be little doubt that Israel will simply ignore this resolution, as it has ignored international law in the past and even the interim ruling by the International Court of Justice.

What is important for our purposes is the shift in policy by the UK and the US towards the conflict.

Whereas both of these would have been hawkish in their support of Israel and the Benjamin Netanyahu regime, today they are more nuanced and, it would seem, running out of patience with the apartheid state’s prime minister.

In the US, senior Democrat and Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer set the ball rolling two weeks ago when he called for fresh elections in Israel to replace Netanyahu.

In Schumer’s words, “a new election is the only way to allow for a healthy and open decision-making process about the future of Israel, at a time when so many Israelis have lost their confidence in the vision and direction of their government”.

The sentiment among Democrats grew in the past two weeks with the culmination of the Biden administration instructing its ambassador at the UN to abstain when the draft resolution was presented this week.

The ambassador to the UN, currently Linda Thomas-Greenfield, is a cabinet post in the US.

So infuriated was Netanyahu that he cancelled a delegation visit to Washington, which was supposed to brief the US president on the recent developments in the region.

Yet it is not only Democrats that have been losing patience with Israel and Netanyahu.

In an interview with the Israeli daily Israel Hayom, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, a long-time staunch ally of the apartheid state, was emphatic that Israel has “to finish up your war… You have to finish it up, you got to get it done”.

Echoing the sentiments of Schumer two weeks earlier who had said that “Israel cannot survive if it becomes a pariah”, Trump went on in the interview to say that “Israel has to be very careful, because you’re losing a lot of the world, you’re losing a lot of support”.

This is an election year in the US as well as in the UK. There should be no doubt that public sentiment in these two countries, long-time allies not only of Israel but of Netanyahu, is shifting.

The contestants in these elections in both these countries are all too aware of these shifting sentiments.

And while this shift in public sentiment may have spelled a decade happening this past week in the US and the UK in terms of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, it is for the rest of us to continue putting pressure on the peoples of these two countries to in turn put pressure on their governments.

*Seale has a PhD in international relations

**The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of Independent Media or IOL