The region between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea has been devastated by the attacks of Hamas, which killed about 1,200 people and took 240 captive. Israel responded with deadly bombardment and artillery assaults, killing more than 16,000 people, at least 7,000 of them children. Attacks by Israeli soldiers and settlers in the occupied West Bank have killed more than 200 other Palestinians and forced entire villages to decamp. Hospitals, schools and refugee camps have been targeted, with United Nations personnel and facilities also attacked by Israel at unprecedented rates.
Diplomatic clashes have also deepened. UN votes, public comments and major diplomatic steps over the past two months have underscored just how divisive the war has been for the world.
Language has been a constant bone of contention between countries while talking about the war. The world has not agreed on whether to use the word “ceasefire” or “humanitarian pause” to describe the ending of violence and hostilities. While many countries advocate for a ceasefire, Israel’s allies call for a pause. According to the UN, a ceasefire is a “cessation of all acts of violence against the civilian population” while a humanitarian pause is a “temporary cessation of hostilities purely for humanitarian purposes”. A pause or truce is a temporary halt to fighting for a decided time frame.
Al Jazeera analysed speeches from world leaders at the UN and found that 55 percent of countries called for a “ceasefire” in Gaza. Some of these include Argentina, Belgium, China, Guayana, Turkey and Venezuela, among others. Another 23 percent of countries called for a “humanitarian pause”. These include Australia, Canada, Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom, among others. Other countries used terms alternative to pause such as “cessation”, “halt” or “respite”. The remaining 22 nations did not speak on this issue at the UN.
Countries have also been indecisive on whether or not to call Israel an occupier, and on whether to talk about Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip and settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Of the countries analysed, 46 percent used the term “occupier” in reference to Israel or called the Palestinian territory “occupied”, whereas 54 percent did not. Only 23 percent of nations have referred to Israel’s blockade of Gaza, using terms like “siege” or “open-air prison” and only 30 percent have talked about Israeli settlements.
The UN Security Council has voted on five resolutions throughout the war and failed to pass four due to the nations’ indecision and disagreement. Out of the 15 members, four voted against (France, Japan, the UK and the US) the first Russia-led draft on October 16. The main criticism it faced was that the draft did not name or condemn Hamas. This draft called for an immediate ceasefire. Brazil led the second draft on October 18. While it condemned Hamas and called for humanitarian pauses, garnering overwhelming votes in favour, the US vetoed the resolution. Russia proposed another draft on October 25, calling for a humanitarian ceasefire and the release of captives held by Hamas. However, the resolution did not condemn Hamas. Only four members voted in favour. The UK said it wants the UNSC to work towards a “balanced text” and that the Russian draft failed to support Israel’s right to self-defence. The US also led a draft resolution on October 25, calling for a humanitarian pause instead of a ceasefire. Ten members voted in favour but permanent members Russia and China vetoed the resolution. The UNSC finally adopted a Malta-led resolution calling for humanitarian pauses and aid delivery to Gaza on November 15. The US, UK and Russia abstained, with 12 nations voting in favour. Jordan led a non-binding resolution at the UN General Assembly on October 27, calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza alongside unhindered access to humanitarian aid in the besieged enclave, as well as for Israel to revoke its call for northern Gaza’s evacuation. As many as 120 countries, including France, voted in favour. Only 14 nations, including the US and Israel, voted against it, while 45 countries abstained. This resolution passed.
The nations are not so divided on the two-state solution as the means to attain peace in the region. A total of 95 percent of the countries have called for a two-state solution or an independent Palestinian state parallel to Israel. Only six countries have not called for it.
During the war, several countries have completely cut ties with Israel. Belize, Bolivia and South Africa have suspended relations with Israel. Meanwhile, Bahrain, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Honduras, Jordan, and Turkey have withdrawn their ambassadors. Some cities, such as Barcelona in Spain, have also suspended ties with Israel.
The US has maintained its strong traditional support for Israel. Besides the US President Joe Biden’s firm diplomatic backing of Israel, the US also provides Israel with annual military support worth $3.8bn. The US House of Representatives passed a Republican plan providing $14.5bn in military aid for Israel on November 3. A congressional resolution on December 6 effectively dubbed anti-Zionism the same as anti-Semitism. Leaders of France, Germany, Italy and the UK have also joined the US in backing Israel.
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