UNSC resolution on Gaza ceasefire

GS paper II

News Excerpt:

The UN Security Council has demanded an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, and the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, after the United States, which has repeatedly used its veto to shield its ally Israel, abstained from the vote.

Background of the resolution:

  • The UN Security Council has adopted a resolution tabled by its 10 non-permanent members (E-10) demanding a ceasefire in Gaza during Ramadan, by a vote of 14 in favour to none against, with one abstention (United States).
  • Resolution also calls for the immediate release of hostages and for ensuring humanitarian access to Gaza.

Israel Palestine conflict:

  • On October, 2023, the Hamas terrorist group launched a surprise attack of unprecedented scale on Israel from the Gaza Strip, killing over 700 people in one day. 
  • Israel immediately declared a war, and the decades-old conflict with the Palestinians took a turn for the worse.
  • Since October 2023, Israeli bombing has killed over 30,000 Palestinians so far. The international community, including India, has condemned the brutality and appealed for safety of civilians.
  • As per the United Nations, 1.3 million of the 2.3 million residents of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip have been displaced, and almost half of all homes in Gaza have been damaged or destroyed. 

Main Israeli-Palestinian Issues:

  • The Israeli-Palestinian conflict revolves around the following key issues such as: 
    • The two-state solution: It proposes creating a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza alongside Israel, but Hamas rejects it. 
    • Settlements: Settlements built on land occupied by Israel in 1967, are considered illegal by most countries, causing perpetual tension. 
    • Jerusalem: Jerusalem is a contentious point, with Palestinians wanting East Jerusalem as their capital, while Israel insists on its sovereignty over the entire city. 
    • The refugee issue: It involves millions of Palestinians, descendants of those who fled in 1948, 
      • Palestinians have long demanded that refugees should be allowed to return, along with millions of their descendants. Israel says any resettlement of Palestinian refugees must occur outside of its borders.

US-Israel relationship:

  • The U.S. had supported the idea of a Jewish homeland even before the state of Israel was declared within historical Palestine in 1948. 
  • Today, Israel is an exceptional ally of Washington. 
    • The U.S. offers practically unconditional financial, military and political support for Israel.
    • Israel is an undeclared nuclear power but has never faced any global scrutiny or pushback, thanks to the protection offered by the U.S
  • Israel is also the largest recipient of America’s aid — it has received $158 billion in aid from the U.S. since the end of the Second World War.
    • Currently, Israel gets $3.8 billion in military aid every year from the U.S., which accounts for about 16% of Israel’s total military budget. 

Change in US position on Israel-Hamas conflict:

  • Historically, there has been broad bipartisan support in the US for Israel. But the situation in Gaza has divided opinion — a significant section of Americans is now critical of both Israel’s action, and the full US backing for it.
  • The conflict is also important in the context of upcoming presidential elections in the USA where the ruling Democratic Party is looking for Arab-Muslim votes.
  • Also, many Arab countries, some which are important partners to the US, are growing increasingly concerned at Israel’s actions.
  • It is due to these reasons that the US felt it was politically prudent to not use its veto to block the call for an immediate ceasefire.
  • This is not the first time that the US has distanced itself from the Israeli position. In the final days of the Obama administration in 2016, the UNSC passed a resolution deeming Israel’s settlements in Palestine illegal and a violation of international law, after the US abstained.

Is the resolution binding on Israel?

  • In general, UN General Assembly resolutions are in the nature of recommendations, which explicate the UN membership’s position on a certain matter. UNSC resolutions are normally seen as somewhat more prescriptive. 
  • However, there is a difference between UNSC votes under Chapter 6 and Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, with the latter considered as binding.
  • Enforcement of UNSC resolutions:
    • Options for enforcing a UNSC resolution are limited if the country in question refuses to accept it, as Israel has already done. 
    • If the UNSC wants to enforce its decision, it can decide to authorise travel bans, sanctions, or Military action.
    • The vote is more of a political message, including in terms of the US administration’s current stance on the issue. 

United Nations Security Council (UNSC):

  • The United Nations Charter established six main organs of the United Nations, including the Security Council. 
  • It gives primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security to the Security Council, which may meet whenever peace is threatened.
  • It has 15 Members (5 permanent members with veto and 10 non-permanent members), and each Member has one vote. 
  • Under the Charter of the United Nations, all Member States are obligated to comply with Council decisions.
  • The Security Council takes the lead in determining the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression. 
  • It calls upon the parties to a dispute to settle it by peaceful means and recommends methods of adjustment or terms of settlement. 
  • In some cases, the Security Council can resort to imposing sanctions or even authorising the use of force to maintain or restore international peace and security.