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June 6, 2018 4:54 pm

‘Vote to Condemn Hamas’: US Official Outlines New Tactic in Support of Israel at UN Security Council

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The UN Security Council discussing competing resolutions on Israel on June 1. Photo: Reuters / Shannon Stapleton.

On June 1, the UN Security Council found itself in the unprecedented position of having to vote on competing resolutions concerning the latest round of violence on the Israel-Gaza border.

Unprecedented, because for the first time, the council — the UN’s supreme body — was asked to vote on a draft, submitted by the United States, that condemned Hamas for orchestrating the confrontations around the “March of Return.”

At the same time, the council was also asked to vote on a draft submitted by Kuwait, one of its nine non-permanent members, that placed all the blame for the violence on Israel. In the end, both drafts were defeated, the Kuwaiti text by the US exercising its veto, and with four countries — The Netherlands, Poland, Ethiopia and the UK — abstaining. The American-supported text was opposed outright only by Bolivia, Kuwait and Russia, with the remaining eleven members of the Council deciding to abstain.

Commenting on last week’s vote, an official at the US mission to the UN stated that it was “telling that 11 countries chose to abstain, and only three chose to embrace the Hamas position.”

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“There was a great deal of discomfort among those 11 nations about having to abstain on whether they consider Hamas activity to be terrorism,” the official observed, as part of a wider discussion with The Algemeiner on Tuesday examining the more proactive strategy in support of Israel that US Ambassador Nikki Haley is rolling out at the UN.

At the heart of that strategy, the official explained, is the willingness to submit resolutions to the UN Security Council that underline Israel’s right to defend itself, or that spotlight American and Israeli adversaries, such as Iran, its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah, and Hamas.

Historically, the US has “typically” wielded its veto in defense of Israel at the Security Council, the official said — though even then, over 200 resolutions concerning Israel, the majority of them openly critical of the Jewish state’s actions, have been approved by the body since 1948.

“When this Kuwaiti resolution was being discussed last week, we had the option of doing what the US has usually done, which is to veto a one-sided, biased, anti-Israel resolution, and then just call it a day,” the American official said.

But, the official continued, “what happens when you take that position is the countries taking an anti-Israel stance, they essentially get a free pass.”

“We decided to put forward our own resolution,” the official said. “We took almost exactly the same language that was in the Kuwaiti draft, but instead of their condemnations of Israel, we just substituted Hamas instead. So we criticized Hamas with language like ‘excessive use of force’ and ‘destabilizing activities,’ and also for specified offenses, like the rocket attacks against Israel.”

As a result, the official said, the Security Council was “forced to vote on language that was not of its choosing, language that condemned the terrorists.”

“We had no expectation of any kind that we could get the votes on our side,” the official said. “So it was telling that 11 countries chose to abstain and only three chose to embrace the Hamas position. There was a great deal of discomfort among those 11 nations about having to abstain on whether they consider Hamas activity to be terrorism.”

The official added that the US was engaged in “a conscious effort to bring a greater degree of balance to the Security Council’s treatment of this subject.”

Submitting resolutions in defense of Israel to the council won’t be an automatic tactic, the official stressed, “but it’s certainly an approach that we are very willing to use again in the future.”

“The other countries on the Security Council will have to take that into consideration when they put forward one-sided resolutions condemning Israel,” the official said. “They will have to consider the possibility that the US will put forward a resolution condemning Hamas, or in the broader region, Iran or Hezbollah.”

Asked about the purpose of submitting a resolution that faces almost certain defeat, the official responded that the June 1 effort “wasn’t really about the number of votes on our side.”

Proactively submitting resolutions is ultimately “about avoiding a free pass for those who want to attack Israel,” the official concluded.

“Of course we’d like to have our resolutions approved, we think it’s appropriate for the Security Council to denounce Hamas terrorism,” the official said. “But even if the council fails to do that, the fact of putting its members on record as to their views on Hamas and its indefensible activities leaves them, should they decide to castigate Israel, in a much less comfortable position than in the past.”

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