United States Lone Veto, Only Vote on Respective Texts
The Security Council today failed to adopt two competing draft resolutions on the recent spate of violence in the Middle East — put forward by the delegations of the United States and Kuwait on behalf of the Arab Group, respectively — capping a month of protests and escalating tension on the ground and within the 15‑member organ itself.
By the terms of the draft put forward by the delegation of Kuwait — which was rejected by a vote of 10 in favour to 1 against (United States), with 4 abstentions (Ethiopia, Netherlands, Poland, United Kingdom), owing to a veto by one permanent member — the Council would have deplored Israel’s use of “excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force” against Palestinian civilians. Condemning the use by Israel Defense Forces of live ammunition against civilian protesters, it would have affirmed the Council’s willingness to respond to situations of armed conflict where civilians were targeted or where humanitarian assistance was being deliberately obstructed, including by considering appropriate measures in accordance with the United Nations Charter.
Meanwhile, a separate draft resolution submitted by the United States was also rejected by a vote of 1 in favour (United States) to 3 against (Bolivia, Kuwait, Russian Federation) with 11 abstentions, owing to an insufficient number of affirmative votes. By the terms of that text — containing various amendments to Kuwait’s draft — the Council would have described Hamas, the organization currently in power in Gaza, as a terrorist group. It would also have condemned in the strongest terms the indiscriminate firing of rockets by Palestinian militants in Gaza towards Israel on 29 May; demanded that Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other militant groups cease all provocative actions; and condemned the diversion of resources by those groups to construct military infrastructure intended to infiltrate Israel and launch rockets.
Those amendments departed significantly from the original Kuwaiti draft, by whose terms the Council would have demanded that Israel, the occupying Power, fully abide by its legal obligations and responsibilities under the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Also calling for the consideration of ways to guarantee the safety and protection of the Palestinian civilian population in the Occupied Palestinian Territory — including in the Gaza Strip — it would have requested the Secretary‑General to submit a report in no more than 60 days on proposals to ensure the safety, protection and well‑being of Palestinian civilians living under Israeli occupation, including recommendations for an international protection mechanism.
In contrast, the amendments proposed by the United States would have asked the Secretary‑General to submit a report in no more than 60 days on the use, by such terrorist organizations as Hamas, of protesters for the purposes of incitement or to carry out violence in the past 90 days, with the goal of preventing such clashes in the future.
The representative of Kuwait, speaking after his delegation’s text was vetoed, expressed regret that today the Council had sent a message that the occupying Power could enjoy full immunity from international law as well as the Council’s own resolutions. The Council continued to proclaim that its responsibility was to protect civilians, but recent incidents had proven otherwise. In that regard, he called for an independent investigation into the recent events in Gaza and asked why Palestinians must continue to suffer while the world remained silent.
The representative of the United States said the Kuwaiti resolution represented a grossly one‑sided view of the situation on the ground. It was Hamas that bore the primary responsibility for the atrocious living conditions in Gaza, she said, noting that it had diverted humanitarian resources for military purpose and fired at least 70 rockets into Israel this week alone. Yet the Kuwaiti resolution sought to place all the blame on Israel and perpetuate the United Nations anti‑Israeli bias. Describing her delegation’s alternate text, she called on Council members to place blame on Hamas and recognize the reality that the group constituted a major obstacle to the peace process.
Bolivia’s representative declared: “Once again today, the Council has also become a kind of occupied territory” owing to the veto by one permanent member. Noting that the Kuwaiti draft resolution had been discussed broadly and at length — resulting in a balanced text — he said Israel’s continued occupation of the Palestinian territory was the root cause of the Palestinians’ current dreadful situation. The only long‑term solution would be a two‑State solution with a free, sovereign and independent Palestinian State, within pre‑1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital.
The Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine said today’s votes had sent the important message that his people were entitled to protection. Immediate steps must be taken to end the closure of Gaza to allow for the normal movement of persons and goods. “Your votes today refute the premise that the Palestinian people are the exception to the rules of principles of international law,” he said, adding: “You have rejected the might over right strategy.” The Council — which had a responsibility to uphold its duties and address the humanitarian crisis being endured by the Palestinian people — remained paralysed on the issue due to the use of the veto by one Council member. Further rebuffing any attempt to classify the Palestinian situation as one of terrorism, he said that, if anything, the Kuwaiti draft had not gone far enough to classify the situation in Gaza as existential.
Israel’s representative, meanwhile, recalled that the Council had opened its 15 May meeting by standing for a moment of respect for those who had been killed in violence the previous day in Gaza. “On that day, the members of the Security Council stood in solidarity with the terrorists of Hamas,” he said, noting that Hamas had openly bragged that most of those killed had not been civilians but terrorist martyrs. Today, the Council had been given a chance to place blame where it belonged — on Hamas — and to recognize that group’s role in the root of the conflict. While the resolution presented by Kuwait had mentioned Israel five times, it failed to mention Hamas even once. Thanking the United States for taking the right stand, he said Ambassador Haley had made clear that the “rules of the game are changing here in this Council” and the organ’s bias against Israel would no longer stand.
Also speaking were representatives of the United Kingdom, France, Kazakhstan, China, Poland, Russian Federation, Peru, Sweden, Netherlands and Ethiopia.
The meeting began at 3:56 p.m. and ended at 5:42 p.m.
Action on Draft Resolutions
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait), speaking prior to the vote, said his delegation had held two inclusive, transparent rounds of negotiations while drafting the resolution now before the Security Council. “We have listened to all amendments and proposals,” he said, noting that among other things the text called for the protection of civilians in the Gaza Strip and asked the Council to submit proposals on ways and means to ensure their protection. Noting that could include the establishment of an international protection mechanism, he encouraged all delegations to vote in favour of the text.
NIKKI R. HALEY (United States) said all edits had not been considered in the text’s drafting process. Some delegations remained concerned that the Hamas organization was not mentioned in it. The resolution represented a grossly one‑sided view, she said, urging all Council members to vote against it. The United States would oppose the resolution — by using its veto, if necessary — as it was Hamas that bore the primary responsibility for the atrocious living conditions in Gaza. Among other things, it diverted humanitarian resources for military purpose and had fired at least 70 rockets into Israel this week alone. It had deliberately used civilians as human shields at the Gaza border, called for the destruction of Israel and refused to unify in the pursuit of peace. Yet the Kuwaiti resolution before the Council placed all the blame on Israel, even blaming it for Hamas’ recent firing of rockets. It also perpetuated the United Nations anti‑Israeli bias and would harm efforts towards peace.
However, she said, there was an alternative. If delegations could rightly place blame where it belonged — on Hamas — her delegation had put forward an alternate draft resolution demanding that that group cease putting Palestinian civilians at risk at the Gaza border. “You can choose to condemn the terrorists” or delegations could cast their votes in other ways. Voicing support for political negotiations towards a lasting peace, she said the recognition of reality — that Hamas represented a major impediment — was a prerequisite. Another reality was that the United Nations was siding with terrorists over Israel, a Member State, which only made peace harder to achieve. She urged Council members to vote against Kuwait’s draft. “Each of you have a choice — you either support Hamas or you do not.”
The Council, by a vote of 10 in favour to 1 against (United States), with 4 abstentions (Ethiopia, Netherlands, Poland, United Kingdom), then failed to adopt the draft resolution submitted by the delegation of Kuwait (document S/2018/516) owing a negative vote by a permanent Council member.
Mr. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) said the draft text, which had not been adopted due to the use of a veto by the United States, had been submitted on behalf of the Arab Group and had also been supported by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) at its last summit in Istanbul. Palestinians needed protection in the face of massacres carried out by Israel, the occupying Power. As witnessed in recent protests, international human rights, humanitarian law and relevant Security Council resolutions had not been respected. The message from the Chamber today was that the occupying Power could enjoy full exception from international law and the Council’s resolutions. Israel was committing crimes. The Council continued to proclaim that its responsibility was to protect civilians but recent incidents had proven otherwise. He called for an independent investigation into the recent events in Gaza and asked why Palestinians must continue to suffer while the entire world remained silent.
KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom) said she was deeply concerned at the situation in Gaza, condemning the actions of Hamas and other terrorist organizations. Hamas’ military wing was recognized as a terrorist organization by the United Kingdom since 2001. She reiterated the urgent need to establish the facts of the past several weeks, and urged all parties to work towards peace. It was regrettable that today’s resolution failed to name terrorist actors. She condemned Hamas and expressed regret that the text tabled by the United States had not adequately raised Israel’s responsibilities. For such reasons, her delegation chose to abstain from the resolution.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) expressed regret that the Council had not been able to unite on a text. He asked: “If the Council today abdicates its responsibility, who will take on this responsibility?” The risk of escalation of conflict was at its highest since 2014. “This silence has been neither acceptable nor understandable,” he said, adding the need for multilateralism. France remained committed to overcoming difficulties and building consensus. That was at the heart of the Council’s responsibilities as mandated in the United Nations Charter. Kuwait’s text had been improved through negotiations, and while the final text was certainly not perfect, and France would have liked for it to refer to Hamas as a terrorist organization, it did call for protection measures to be taken. It also requested the Secretary‑General to report on the subject in two months. Kuwait’s final text had taken consideration of concerns raised by France. It condemned all violent acts against civilians, called on stakeholders to ensure that protests remained peaceful and called for an end to the Gaza blockade. For those reasons, his delegation had voted in favour of the text.
KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) said his delegation had voted in favour of the draft resolution tabled by Kuwait as it believed that all violence against civilians must be stopped. Noting that the document called on all parties to refrain from actions that could further escalate the conflict, he expressed support for a peaceful solution achieved through dialogue and negotiation. Calling on all parties — and the world community — to support conditions for such talks and efforts to establish a free, independent and sovereign Palestinian State living in peace side by side with Israel, he urged all sides to work to reach a common ground.
MA ZHAOXU (China), expressing his delegation’s staunch opposition to any acts of violence against civilians, called on Israel and Palestinians — and especially the Israeli side — to exercise restraint. Seven decades had passed, but the legitimate rights of Palestinians were still not realized. “Such historical injustice must be redressed” and the international community should take swift action to address the Palestinians’ humanitarian needs and facilitate the early resumption of peace talks towards a two‑State solution. Kuwait’s text would have helped to de‑escalate tensions on both sides, he said, noting that China had voted in favour of it. Supporting all such efforts which were intended to ease tensions, he said China would continue to adhere to President Xi Jinping’s four‑point proposal on the situation and work alongside others in the international community to promote peace in the Middle East.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland), expressing support for Kuwait’s transparent negotiations, said her delegation had unfortunately not been able to support its draft resolution because it lacked balance. It was Hamas’ responsibility to ensure the protection of civilians in the territory it controlled, she said, describing any attacks against civilians — by any party — as unacceptable. While Israel had the right to self‑defence, it must respect the Palestinians’ right to peaceful protest and the principle of proportionality. All parties must respect international humanitarian and human rights law, especially with regard to the deliberate targeting of civilians. Calling for an end to all actions that impeded the resumption of peace talks, she voiced support for such efforts in pursuit of a two‑State solution.
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) expressed regret that the text had not been adopted due to the use of a veto by one permanent Council member. That text had been discussed broadly and at length, he said, noting that the results of those talks had been a fair and balanced text. Reaffirming his delegation’s pacifist policy and reiterating its condemnation of all attacks against civilians — which were unjustifiable under any circumstances — he said the root cause of the Palestinians’ dreadful situation was Israel’s continued illegal occupation of Palestinian territory. “Once again today, the Council has also become a kind of occupied territory” owing to the veto by one permanent member, he said. Describing Israel’s restrictive activities, including its blockade of Gaza and its long‑standing prohibitions on the rights and freedoms of the Palestinian people, he said the only long‑term solution would be a two‑State solution with a free, sovereign and independent Palestinian State, within pre‑1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said his delegation voted in favour of the resolution. The international community must deal with important questions reflected in the document, including Gaza’s humanitarian situation and the need for Government unity. He underscored the important role of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). All stakeholders must now focus on resolving the conflict through a two‑State solution, he emphasized, adding that a solution through force was not a viable option. He condemned indiscriminate attacks on civilians and also the rocket launches into Israeli territories. He reiterated the Russian Federation’s proposal to help relaunch direct talks between Israel and Palestine, adding: “This is our proposal and it remains on the table.”
The Council, by a vote of 1 in favour (United States) to 3 against (Bolivia, Kuwait, Russian Federation) with 11 abstentions, then failed to adopt a separate draft resolution submitted by the United States (document S/2018/520) owing to an insufficient number of affirmative votes.
MR. DELATTRE (France) said the draft had been put to a vote without any preliminary negotiations and did not reflect a balanced approach to the Palestinian conflict. The text did not make mention of the causes of the conflict nor did it present solutions for the tragic situation faced by Palestinians. He reiterated condemnation of rocket launches into Israel, adding that France stood ready to support that point in the text presented by the United States. It was the Council’s responsibility to respond to the crisis in Gaza, which the text had failed to do. While France remained committed to a constructive discussion, it chose to abstain from the vote today.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) said that despite the efforts of its facilitator and some members, the Council today failed to reach consensus. There were parts of the amendments that his country did agree with but it did not have a chance to discuss them. He reiterated the importance of reaffirming consistent recognition of Israel’s right to guarantee its security. Peru abstained from the vote of the resolution from the United States. Peru did participate with the Kuwaiti delegation on its text, he said, expressing that the final draft did address many of his nation’s concerns. It was urgent for all parties to resume negotiations leading to a two‑State solution and secure and internationally recognized borders.
OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) said he voted in favour of the draft text presented by Kuwait because it called for full respect of international human rights and international humanitarian law. It also condemned all acts of violence, including acts of terror, and called for immediate steps to end the closure of Gaza. Kuwait’s text also welcomed efforts of the Secretary‑General to take steps to break the cycle of violence. The matter of the Middle East was extremely sensitive, he continued, commending Kuwait for having worked in good faith towards a conclusion. Turning to the text proposed by the United States, he said it did not contain important language on international humanitarian law, which was of fundamental importance to people on the ground. The United States draft was not presented for negotiations and consultations. While sympathetic to many aspects of the text, Sweden had to abstain from its vote. The Council must come together to address the situation in Gaza, or else the territory would slide back into conflict.
KAREL J. G. VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands) said that the Security Council should unite to form a public response to the developments over the past several weeks. In that context, his delegation had constructively engaged in the negotiations on the draft resolution. There was a serious risk of the conflict escalating and violence spiralling out of control. Protection of civilians was of utmost importance, he said, stressing, “regrettably, the resolution that was put to a vote today did not fully reflect our concerns with regard to addressing the needs of all civilians and the negative role of Palestinian militant groups”, among other issues. He called on all parties to exercise restraint, avoid escalation and prevent incidents that put the lives of both Palestinians and Israelis at risk.
MR. UMAROV (Kazakhstan) said his delegation had abstained in the vote on the United States draft because it had wished to see more balanced language. In particular, references to “peaceful means” and “credible negotiations” had been omitted, he said, emphasizing the need to avoid language that could lead to even greater divisiveness.
TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia), addressing the two texts “that have both failed in different ways”, said his country was a friend to both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. In recent weeks, Ethiopia had repeatedly called on Israel to show maximum restraint while expressing its sorrow and sympathy over the loss of life. Ethiopia believed in Israel’s right to defend itself in line with the principle of proportionality. His delegation was equally concerned about the rockets recently fired into Israel from Gaza, which Hamas had the responsibility to prevent. Such attacks denied clarity to the legitimate, peaceful protests of the Palestinian people in support of their just cause, which Ethiopia supported. While his delegation had been engaged in Kuwait’s broad negotiation process, he nevertheless expressed regret that an explicit condemnation of Hamas’ recent actions had been omitted from it. The failure to include such language had led to the position the Council found itself in today, wherein two very different texts were being considered.
The United States text, on the other hand, had been circulated just yesterday, he said. It shifted the narrative completely, which was not appropriate. The Palestinian quest to assert their legitimate rights, and to pursue the establishment of an independent State, must not be allowed to be overshadowed by a narrative that focused on terrorism. “We hope the Council does not lose sight of this,” he stressed, adding that efforts to narrow differences between the two draft resolutions would have been a more productive strategy. It was now imperative to work towards de‑escalation of the dangerous situation on the ground, protect civilians and resume the peace process aimed at putting in place a two‑State solution.
Mr. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) stressed that his negative vote on the United States text did not mean that his delegation did not condemn all acts of violence against civilians by all parties. However, that text only justified the illegal Israeli policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and turned a blind eye to the massacres committed against civilians in recent weeks. The draft resolution would have further encouraged the occupying Power to continue violating United Nations resolutions, and it failed to call for the lifting of the Gaza blockade or to compel Israel to end its occupation or aggressions against civilians.
MR. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said his delegation voted against the text. While the Russian delegation would be ready to agree with some of the text’s aspects, the decision to vote against it was due to the fact that the draft presented by the United States attempted to revise the basis for a solution to the question in the Middle East. He emphasized the need for balance when dealing with such issues. He expressed concern that the United States had rejected wording referencing a long‑term solution as well as references to the Arab Peace Initiative, which were deemed by the Security Council as methods of mediation.
RIYAD H. MANSOUR, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine, said today’s vote sent important messages that must be recognized. First, there was a severe protection crisis facing the Palestinian people. Israel continued to kill and injure Palestinian civilians. “The Palestinian people are entitled to protection,” he stressed. Immediate steps must be taken to end the closure of Gaza to allow the normal movement of persons and goods. “Your votes today refute the premise that the Palestinian people are the exception to the rules of principles of international law,” he said. “You have rejected the might over right strategy,” he continued, adding that while the final outcome of the vote was extremely disappointing, it was not surprising. He underscored that the Security Council had a responsibility to uphold its duties under the United Nations Charter and address the humanitarian crisis being endured by the Palestinian people.
The Council continued to remain paralyzed on the issue due to the use of the veto by one Council member, he said, stressing that Israel should not be shielded from its responsibilities and duties. He rejected attempts to delay action on today’s initiative, further rebuffing any attempt to classify the Palestinian situation as one of terrorism. “It is not,” he stressed. The draft presented by Kuwait and negotiated for two weeks addressed the characteristics on the ground, he said. If anything, the draft did not go far enough to classify the situation in Gaza as existential. The United States Administration continued to refuse to “get it” and take appropriate action. He said that the State of Palestine would pursue all legal means to hold Israel accountable. “We will not relent in pressing for justice,” he added. The State of Palestine would not stop urging the Council to fulfil its duty to address gross violations.
DANNY DANON (Israel) recalled that, on 15 May, the Council had opened its meeting by standing for a moment of respect for those who had been killed in violence the previous day in Gaza. “On that day, the members of the Security Council stood in solidarity with the terrorists of Hamas,” he said, noting that Hamas had openly bragged that most of those killed had not been civilians but terrorist martyrs. Recalling that Bolivia’s representative had, during those meetings, read out the names of some of those deceased “civilians”, he said the Geneva‑based Human Rights Council had then passed a resolution on the situation in Gaza which had failed to even mention Hamas, turning a blind eye to that group’s incitement and its use of innocent women and children as human shields. Today, the Council had once again been given a chance to place blame where it belonged — on Hamas — and to recognize that group’s role in the root of the conflict. Thanking the United States for taking the right stand, he said Ambassador Haley had made clear that the “rules of the game are changing here in this Council” and the body’s bias against Israel would no longer stand.
Turning to the Kuwaiti resolution presented today, he said the text had attempted to absolve Hamas from all responsibility, mentioning Israel five times but failing to mention Hamas even once. Such a resolution would have given that terrorist group the Council’s stamp of approval, even as Hamas deprived the people of Gaza of their most basic rights and continued to kidnap and kill Israelis. “It is true — the people of Gaza need protection […] from Hamas,” he stressed. When Paris was attacked by terrorists in 2015, the international community had stood beside it. When Israel was attacked, however, it was only blamed. The only resolution the Council should pass was one condemning Hamas and designating it as a terrorist organization. While the international community — which claimed to stand in solidarity with the Palestinians — never failed to blame Israel, it was always silent when Palestinian refugees faced violence in Syria or abuse in Lebanon and Kuwait. Thankfully, the biased text introduced by Kuwait today — which would only have further empowered Hamas and granted it full immunity — had failed to be adopted. The only way to truly protect the Palestinians was to hold Hamas fully accountable.
MR. LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia), taking the floor a second time in response to Israel’s statement, stressed that Bolivia fully condemned all terrorism no matter who carried it out. That included State terrorism, such as the terrorism perpetrated by the Israeli Government. Six million Palestinian refugees remained displaced from their homes because of Israeli policies, he stressed, emphasizing that his delegation had not invented that fact — it came directly from international law itself. Commending the Human Rights Council’s decision to establish an independent inquiry mechanism to investigate the situation in Gaza, he hoped Israel would permit that mission to come to the Occupied Palestinian Territory to carry out its work. Bolivia did not trust the occupying Power, he said, noting that it would only do so when only its illegal policies ended and its walls were torn down.
Mr. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) said he would have preferred not to respond to remarks made by Israel. When Israel became a member of the United Nations, it pledged to abide by its commitments and obligations as outlined in the Charter. So why then did Israel continue to violate international law, the Geneva Conventions and other relevant conventions, he asked. Israel’s claims and comments against Kuwait were unfounded and had nothing to do with today’s discussions.
Mr. DANON (Israel) asked Bolivia to fact‑check the names it mentioned in the Council as some of those mentioned were linked to Hamas. “We ask you to condemn Hamas here today,” he said.