Allies raising pressure on Israel to halt Gaza bombardment

Calls for a ceasefire are growing after the UN passed a resolution and the US warned of deteriorating support.

Smoke rises from Gaza following an explosion
Israel continues to bombard Gaza despite growing calls for a ceasefire [File: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]

Pressure is building on Israel after the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) passed a resolution demanding a ceasefire in Gaza.

Following US President Joe Biden’s warning on Wednesday to Israel that it risks losing international support due to its “indiscriminate” bombing of the enclave, a host of Israel’s allies called for a ceasefire.

Australia, Canada, New Zealand and other allies issued a rare joint statement calling for an end to hostilities and expressing alarm “at the diminishing safe space for civilians in Gaza”.

The UNGA resolution demanding a ceasefire passed on Tuesday with the support of 153 members out of 193. The US, Israel and eight other states voted against the resolution.

Despite maintaining support, the US president offered his sharpest public criticism of Israel since the start of its war with Hamas.

“[Israel] has most of the world supporting it, but they’re starting to lose that support by the indiscriminate bombing that takes place,” Biden told supporters at a campaign fundraiser event.

Washington has been calling for weeks for Israel to take more care to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza, saying that too many Palestinians have been killed.


Biden also suggested that the US views the Israeli government as extreme, expressing concern that the “most conservative government in Israel’s history” is making progress in the resolution of the conflict “difficult”.

“He [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] has to change this government,” Biden said, naming Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.

The US president insisted that Israel “can’t say no” to a Palestinian state, naming Ben-Gvir as among hardline government members who have rejected a two-state solution.

Netanyahu said there was “disagreement” with Biden over how a post-conflict Gaza would be governed.

The Israeli government has flatly refused to consider a long-term ceasefire in Gaza until all captives taken by Hamas in the October 7 raids are freed. However, some administration members in Tel Aviv have admitted that the “window of legitimacy” for the operation may be closing, according to the AFP news agency.

The White House will send national security adviser Jake Sullivan to Israel this week on a trip that Biden said will again emphasise the commitment of the US to Israel but also the need to protect civilian lives in Gaza.

However, analysts suggest that Biden should be doing more to press the Israeli prime minister.

“Biden is more popular than Netanyahu within Israel. Netanyahu does not have the trust of most Israelis,” observed Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, Marwan Bishara.

According to Bishara, now is the time for Biden to pressure Netanyahu into changing course on Gaza, including implementing an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.

“Biden needs to pull the plug on Netanyahu” if he refuses to abide by the US stance, he said.

Mohammed Cherkaoui, a professor at George Mason University, noted that Biden may be planning to up the ante via US Defence Minister Lloyd Austin’s visit to the region next week.

“Biden is no longer in favour of the current Israeli government, specifically when Biden named Itamar Ben-Gvir, the Israeli national security minister, as someone who should not be in the government,” Cherkaoui told Al Jazeera.

The White House has “reached its limit”, he claimed, with Israel lacking a clear strategy to achieve its goal of eliminating Hamas and the death toll in Gaza, which has topped 18,000, continuing to rise.

“If Netanyahu was counting on at least another two months, December and January, to fulfil his military mission, I don’t think it will last that long, so probably we may see some US pressure to end the war before the end of 2023,” he suggested.

‘Continuous suffering’

Australia, Canada and New Zealand all voted in favour of the UNGA resolution calling for a ceasefire, despite close ties with Israel.

“The price of defeating Hamas cannot be the continuous suffering of all Palestinian civilians,” the leaders of the trio of states said in a joint statement.

Pope Francis, leader of the world’s 1.35 billion or so Catholics, renewed his call on Wednesday for an “immediate” ceasefire and pleaded for an end to suffering for both Israelis and Palestinians.

More than 18,000 people have been killed and nearly 50,000 others wounded in the Israeli assault on Gaza since October 7, according to Palestinian health officials. Many more dead are uncounted under the rubble or beyond the reach of ambulances.

Israel launched its onslaught in response to a raid by Hamas fighters from Gaza who killed about 1,100 people and took nearly 240 others captive in southern Israel, according to Israeli authorities.

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Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies