The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has voted overwhelmingly to call for a “humanitarian truce” as the Israel-Hamas war grinds onwards, leading to the deaths of more than 1,400 Israelis and 7,000 Palestinians.
The non-binding resolution, passed on October 27, follows multiple failed attempts to pass similar language in the UN Security Council (UNSC), a body charged with issues of global peace.
The General Assembly – a larger branch of the UN that includes representatives from every member state – sent a strong signal with its landslide vote, with 120 countries voting in favour and 45 abstentions. Only 14 countries, including the US and Israel, opposed the resolution.
But efforts continue in the UNSC to craft language that can pass the 15-seat council, composed of five permanent members and 10 elected ones. Malta’s Ambassador Vanessa Frazier has said the council’s elected members plan to put together a new draft over the next few days.
The UNSC, one of the UN’s most powerful organs, can only adopt a resolution if at least nine of the 15 members vote in favour of it and no veto is used by one of the five permanent members. A shortage of favourable votes and a veto from the United States has kept UNSC resolutions from manifesting so far.
Here’s what to know about the draft resolutions that have been presented to the UN on the continuing war:
Successful Jordan-led resolution at the UN General Assembly on October 27
- Main points: The non-binding resolution calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and full and unhindered access to humanitarian aid in the Gaza Strip, as well as for Israel to revoke its call for northern Gaza’s evacuation. It also calls on parties to abide by international law and for “the immediate release of all civilians”.
- Voting: A total of 120 countries, including France, voted in favour. Another 14 – including the US and Israel – voted against. Forty-five countries abstained, including staunch Israel supporters like the UK and Germany, as well as Canada, which led to a failed amendment to the text.
- Canada’s proposed amendment was for the resolution to explicitly condemn Hamas and its “taking of hostages”. Members first voted on the addition, but with 88 votes in favour, 55 against and 23 abstentions, the amendment did not pass.
- As an internet blackout swept Gaza, UN member states then proceeded to vote on the original resolution led by Jordan.
- In response to the resolution passing, Israeli envoy Gilad Erdan said, “Today is a day that will go down in infamy.”
- France said it voted in favour because “nothing justifies the killing of civilians” and Gaza’s “catastrophic” situation calls for a humanitarian truce.
- Jordan presented the resolution backed by other Arab states to an emergency session of the General Assembly. Although the resolution is not binding, its passage is still considered symbolic.
US-led draft resolution at UNSC on October 25
- Main points: It called for a “humanitarian pause”, not a ceasefire, that would allow aid into Gaza. The text supported the “inherent right of all states” to self-defence, called for compliance with international law, and pushed for Hamas to release all its captives.
- Voting: Ten members voted in favour, but two permanent members – Russia and China – vetoed the resolution. The UAE also voted against the resolution, while Brazil and Mozambique abstained.
- Earlier, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US draft “incorporates substantive feedback”.
- US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the supply of aid to Gaza shows that diplomacy has worked over the past few days. She claimed that Russia’s counter-resolution, voted on later the same day, was based on “zero consultations” and expressed disappointment over vetoes against the US text.
- China said the US draft was “evasive” on whether it would end the fighting and that their veto stemmed from “conscience” and “justice”.
“China is no way denying Israel’s security concerns …what we oppose is that the draft attempts to establish a new narrative on the Palestinian-Israeli issue, ignoring the fact that the Palestinian Territory has been occupied for a long time” – Ambassador Zhang Jun pic.twitter.com/l2tSan7Mxs
— UN News (@UN_News_Centre) October 25, 2023
Russia’s draft resolution at UNSC on October 25
- Main points: It called for Israel to immediately cancel their evacuation order for northern Gaza and did not mention Israel’s “inherent right to self-defence”.
- Voting: Only four members (China, Gabon, Russia and UAE) voted in favour. The UK and US, meanwhile, voted against, and nine members abstained.
- Both the US and Russian drafts condemned Hamas’s attacks on Israeli civilians and called for the urgent provision of humanitarian aid to Gaza.
- The UK said it wants the Council to work towards a “balanced text” and that the Russian draft failed to support Israel’s right to self-defence.
- China said that, because the US text did not address the root cause of the crisis in Gaza or Israel’s blockade and evacuation order, it would be voting for the Russian draft.
Russian draft #UNSC resolution on #Gaza and #Israel is quite cunningly designed to look like a compromise text (adapting paras from Brazil and U.S. drafts) while including one word "ceasefire" that the U.S. has explicitly rejected.
May get more votes than Russia's first effort. https://t.co/5i8RLEZN62
— Richard Gowan (@RichardGowan1) October 24, 2023
Brazil-led draft resolution at UNSC on October 18
- Main points: It called for “humanitarian pauses” to allow full and unhindered aid into Gaza, the condemnation of violence against all civilians, and the rescission of Israel’s evacuation order.
- Voting: Twelve countries voted in favour, and two – Russia and the UK – abstained, while the US submitted the only opposing vote.
- Vetoing on behalf of the US, Thomas-Greenfield said the resolution did not mention Israel’s right of self-defence. In light of President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel at the time, she added that diplomacy on the ground needed to “play out”.
- The UK also said the text needed to mention Israel’s right of self-defence and that the council would continue to work on alleviating the humanitarian crisis.
- Brazilian Ambassador Sergio Franca Danese said urgent measures were necessary and regretted the council’s inaction.
Russian-led draft resolution at UNSC on October 16
- Main points: The draft pushed for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, the release of all people taken into captivity since October 7, access to aid and safe evacuation of civilians.
- Voting: Five voted in favour, including China, Russia, and the UAE. Four voted against (France, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the US), and six abstained, including Brazil, Ecuador, and Switzerland.
- Main criticism by those opposed: The resolution did not name or condemn Hamas.
- Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, said the West’s opposition crushed “global hopes” for the UNSC to end violence and stemmed from “selfish and political” interests.
- Thomas-Greenfield said the resolution was “dishonouring” victims and unfairly shifting blame for the conflict from Hamas to Israel.
- Riyad Mansour, permanent observer for Palestine at the UN, urged the council not to suggest “that Palestinian lives do not matter” and said Israel’s actions in Gaza are a “massacre”, not a military operation.
- Erdan said the Council stood at a “pivotal moment” in history. He added that Israel had the right to defend itself and that all captives with Hamas should be released unconditionally.