US ready to back diluted resolution on more aid to Gaza as UN vote delayed

UN Security Council vote is expected on Friday after four postponements, countries’ disagreements over language of text.

Palestinians line up for a free meal in Rafah, Gaza Strip.
Palestinians line up for a meal in Rafah, in southern Gaza, on December 21, 2023 [Fatima Shbair/ AP]

The United States has indicated it will back a watered-down United Nations Security Council resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian war to call for more humanitarian aid for Gaza, after a week of negotiations and four postponements, but some countries want a stronger text that would include the now-eliminated call for a truce.

The UNSC once again delayed a vote on the resolution on Thursday, after the revised draft was discussed behind closed doors for more than an hour by council members.

Some nations want a stronger text as the latest draft removes calls for the “urgent and sustainable cessation of hostilities”. Given the significant changes, many countries said they needed to consult their capitals before a vote, which is expected on Friday.

The latest draft, seen by journalists, calls for “urgent steps to immediately allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access, and also for creating the conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities”.

As the high-level diplomatic talks were under way on Thursday, UN agencies said that Gaza’s entire population of 2.3 million people is at “imminent risk of famine” as battles rage between Israeli forces and Palestinian fighters across most of the enclave.

On Friday, the Ministry of Health in Gaza said that 20,057 Palestinians have been killed and 53,320 wounded in Israeli attacks since October 7, when the current conflict broke out.

US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told reporters on Thursday that “if the resolution is put forward as is, then we can support it”.

She denied that the draft had been watered down, saying it was “very strong” and “fully supported by the Arab group”.

The UNSC vote on the United Arab Emirates-sponsored resolution was set to take place on Monday but has been delayed every day this week because of disagreements over language. The latest draft does not call for an end to the fighting, a change made to appease Washington, which has vetoed previous calls for a ceasefire.

Diplomatic sources say “the Russian and Palestinian ambassadors are not happy with these changes at all, and now we are back to the drawing board, essentially”,  Al Jazeera’s Gabriel Elizondo reported from UN headquarters in New York.

Although the changes suited the US, “clearly, there are other members that are saying these changes go too far for what they are willing to vote for”, he said.

US wants ‘continuation of the siege’

“Some of this language is slightly absurd,” International Crisis Group analyst Richard Gowan told the AFP news agency. “Other council members have to decide if they will swallow a weak text for the sake of a deal, or if this is just too thin to bother with.”

Middle East analyst Mouin Rabbani told Al Jazeera the dilemma is that “any resolution that could make a meaningful difference in terms of the situation on the ground in the Gaza Strip is certain to be vetoed by the United States”.

“And any resolution that the United States feels that it is able to support is going to be essentially meaningless for the besieged population,” he added.

Another key sticking point concerns aid deliveries. The resolution originally called for the UN to “exclusively” monitor all aid going into Gaza.

The latest version of the draft substitutes that with having “a senior humanitarian and reconstruction coordinator” overseeing whether relief deliveries that are not from parties to the conflict are humanitarian goods.

The language in the original text condemning the indiscriminate attacks against civilians in Gaza has also reportedly been removed from the latest draft.

“In effect, the US is voting for the continuation of the siege, for the continuation of the mass killings in the Gaza Strip. And most importantly, the idea of humanitarian assistance without a ceasefire is absolutely meaningless and illusory,” Rabbani told Al Jazeera.

Thomas-Greenfield said the US negotiated the new draft with the UAE and with Egypt, which borders Gaza.

This bypassed the 13 other UNSC members, several of whom objected to being left out, according to diplomats speaking to The Associated Press news agency on condition of anonymity because the consultations were private.

On December 8, Washington vetoed a UNSC resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. The 193-member UN General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a similar, though nonbinding, resolution on December 12.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies