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U.N. Security Council adopts resolution on permanent Gaza cease-fire

The United Nations Security Council approved, 14-0, a U.S.-sponsored resolution Monday to support the American-backed cease-fire plan for Gaza. Russia abstained.

The vote was a rare diplomatic victory on Gaza for the Biden administration in the international body, where even its closest friends have criticized Israel and U.S. support for its actions in Gaza.

“Over the past eight months, this council has often faced divisions and the world has taken notice, with understandable frustration,” U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said after the vote. “But there’s another side to this story.”

The resolution throws council support behind the three-phase proposal announced by President Biden on May 31. The plan would begin with a complete cease-fire for six weeks, during which Israeli forces would withdraw from populated areas, Hamas would release all women, children, elderly and wounded hostages, Palestinians would be allowed to return to their homes throughout Gaza and the enclave would be flooded with humanitarian aid.

The temporary cease-fire would continue as long as the two sides negotiated in good faith over Phase 2: a permanent cessation of violence, full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the return of the remaining hostages. It also bans any reduction in the territory of Gaza — including the security buffer zone inside Gaza’s border that Israel has begun building — and details a third phase that would allow for reconstruction and steps toward a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Hamas issued a statement welcoming the council vote, saying it was ready “to enter into indirect negotiations on the implementation of these principles.”

The Biden administration has put the onus on Hamas to unequivocally agree to the plan, which the administration has said is virtually identical to what the militants demanded in a previous round of failed negotiations.

Although Israel has “authorized” it, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other members of his government have publicly objected to certain elements of the plan, including the staging of a withdrawal of forces and of hostage releases, a future in which Israel has no security control over Gaza, and a two-state solution. Netanyahu has publicly indicated that he intends to continue military operations until all elements of Hamas are destroyed.

The adopted resolution was expanded beyond a bare-bones version the administration circulated early last week to incorporate suggestions from other members, including a demand for details. Rather than just urging Hamas to accept the cease-fire terms, the final measure included language pushing “both parties” to implement it “without delay and without condition.”

It added specific references to the permanent provisions of Phases 2 and 3 and rejected “any attempt at demographic or territorial change in the Gaza Strip, including any actions that reduce the territory of” Gaza, such as a buffer zone inside its borders that Israeli forces have been constructing.

Both versions stressed the council’s “unwavering commitment to the vision of the two-State solution where two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders” in accordance with international law and previous U.N. resolutions that would require Israeli abandonment of West Bank settlements.

Israel, which is not a council member but attended the meeting, noted that in recent months “this council has adopted three resolutions calling for the release of hostages. And each time Hamas has utterly ignored your request. Hamas does not care what the council has to say because they have never been held responsible for the crimes by the council.”

Israeli representative Reut Shapir Ben-Naftaly cited Saturday’s military raid in central Gaza that freed four of about 100 remaining hostages as a “perfect example” of how Israel can bring its citizens home. She expressed regret over “any harm to civilians,” more than 270 of whom were killed in the operation, according to local health authorities. But the fact that the hostages were found in civilian-occupied apartments under Hamas guard meant that “these so-called innocent civilians” were “not uninvolved,” Ben-Naftaly said.

“Israel will not engage in meaningless and endless negotiations, which can be exploited by Hamas as a means to stall for time,” Ben-Naftaly said.

In explaining Russia’s abstention, its ambassador, Vasily Nebenzya, said that the resolution, and U.S. statements about it, offered only “vague parameters” of the proposed deal and was “without guarantees.” Citing contradictory statements, he asked: “What, specifically, has Israel agreed to?”

Nebenzya said Russia decided not to block the resolution with a veto because it was “supported by the Arab world. However, all the questions that we have remain and require a response.”

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