UN Votes Not to Condemn Hamas Over Gaza Riots

Nickolay Mladenov United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal

The United Nations General Assembly voted Wednesday to blame Israel for violence in Gaza last month, rejecting a US amendment that would have condemned Hamas as well.

The assembly then voted on the original Palestinian-backed resolution which was approved by a vote of 120-8 with 45 abstentions.

Arab and Islamic nations then chose to seek a vote on virtually the identical resolution at Wednesday's emergency meeting of the General Assembly, where there are no vetoes.

"The global community needs to rip up the old playbook, where Israel conducts investigations that mainly whitewash the conduct of its troops and the U.S. blocks worldwide accountability with its Security Council veto, and instead impose real costs for such blatant disregard for Palestinian lives", said Sarah Leah Whitson, the NGO's Middle East director. General Assembly President Miroslav Lajcak declared that under United Nations rules a two-thirds vote was needed so the amendment failed.

Despite the maneuvers, the Arab-backed resolution is expected to be adopted, but it remains unclear whether a strong majority will support it in the face of strong U.S. opposition.

"I wish everyone supporting this one-sided resolution would put as much energy into encouraging President Abbas to the negotiating table", she said.

The votes reflected wide concern in the 193-member world body that the resolution sponsored by Arab and Islamic nations was one-sided and failed to even mention Hamas, which has fired over 100 rockets at Israel.

"Advancing peace is not the goal of this resolution". Israel accuses Hamas of trying to carry out attacks and damage the border fence under the guise of the protests.

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley appealed, citing another rule that says only a majority vote was required. Canada abstained on the final Arab-supported resolution.

A USA official also told Axios that the Trump administration wants to launch a peace plan when the circumstances are "right", and that Kushner and Greenblatt are interested in input from the parties involved.

The marchers in Gaza have pressed demands for a "right of return" for descendants of Palestinian refugees to ancestral homes in what is now Israel.

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The draft General Assembly resolution calls for "immediate steps towards ending the closure and the restrictions imposed by Israel on movement and access into and out of the Gaza Strip".

Haley expressed optimism, however, about the number of countries that supported the US amendment to condemn Hamas.

"Israel's use of lethal force when there was no imminent threat to life has taken a heavy toll in life and limb", said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

In December 128 countries defied President Donald Trump and voted in favor of a U.N. General Assembly resolution calling for the United States to drop its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Algerian Ambassador Sabri Boukadoum, representing Arab nations, first sought to block a vote on the US amendment, saying it wasn't relevant to the resolution.

Haley had warned at the time that Washington was "taking names" of countries that supported the resolution.

The U.S.' support for Israel during the recent uptick in violence on the Gaza-Israel border has been criticized by many human rights groups.

Brett Bruen, a former Obama administration official and president of Global Situation Room, told CBS News at the United Nations on Wednesday that USA actions in the Middle East are "costly for Israel, which has grown further isolated" as the US irritates allies and emboldens adversaries.

Australia, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, the Solomon Islands and Togo joined the United States and Israel in voting against the resolution.

The resolution calls on U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres to propose an "international protection mechanism" for the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

He warned ambassadors that by supporting the resolution "you are empowering Hamas".

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