The Failure of U.N. Security Council on Israel-Gaza Conflict
By Nehginpao Kipgen
Since the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, a durable peace or tranquility is hardly seen in the region. There have been claims and counter claims to justify their actions by the conflicting parties – mostly between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
This tension rooted to Israel’s pre-independence era during the British rule in Palestine. The Jewish people were subjected to violence and massacres. History tells us that about 6 million Jews were killed under the Nazi regime in Germany during World War II.
Just one day after the declaration of the State of Israel’s independence, five Arab nations – Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, Lebanon and Iraq – invaded the Jewish state. The Arab armies had also jointly waged a full scale war on Isreal as many as four times in 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973.
Although numerically lesser in army strength, Israel successfully defended itself from the four aggressions and won the wars. But the bitter tension lingers between Israel and the Arab world despite the many attempts by the international community to find amicable solution.
Interestingly, the United States was the first country to recognize the new State of Israel on the night of the declaration on 14 May 2008, followed three days later by the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republic.
The United States of America being the closest ally of Israel is undeniable. Not only was the first country to recognize the creation of Israel, but the United States has also been standing alongside the Jewish state in both hard times and easy times.
There is no doubt that most of today’s international conflicts are the direct or indirect consequences of the Middle East crisis. Although no substantive progress has been made to date, world leaders have been putting enormous efforts for a peaceful settlement of the disputes.
The current Israel-Gaza conflict, which intensified on 27 December 2008, is also part of an ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel under its codenamed ‘Operation Cast Lead’ aims at neutralizing Hamas, whom they accuse of launching rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli civilian population.
On the other hand, the Israeli military assault is described as ‘Gaza Massacre’ by many especially in the Arab world. The increasing civilian death toll in Gaza is the primary concern for the international community. Many have also condemned Israel of using “inappropriate and excessive” force.
Among others, Israel sees the timing crucial to give a big blow to Hamas. With a new U.S. administration taking office, some in the Israel government appears to be uncertain or unconvincing enough on how committed and supportive president Obama, who during election campaign expressed his willingness to sit down unconditionally with some of Israel’s enemies, would be.
Whenever there is a major conflict in any part of the world, the United Nations Security Council is expected to do something. Whether it is a conflict within a country or involving two or more countries, there usually is a high hope on the Security Council to deliver amicable solution.
Largely due to the intervention of leaders from the Arab nations and the gravity of the situation, the U.N. Security Council, on 8 January 2009, approved Resolution 1860 calling for an immediate ceasefire and withdrawal of Israeli troops.
The resolution was supported by all fifteen Council members but the United States which abstained from voting. The United States from day one defended Israel by advocating that the Jewish state has the right to protect itself from Hamas’ rocket attacks. The U.S. considers Hamas as terrorists.
The failure of the Security Council was mainly on two grounds. First, it was not a binding resolution under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter. Second, both Hamas and Israel rejected the resolution. Any attempt to pass a binding resolution would have been, anyway, blocked by the United States.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called the resolution “unworkable” due to continued Hamas’ rocket attacks, while the Hamas spokesperson, Ayman Taha, accused the Security Council of “not taken into account the interests of our people.”
Moreover, the resolution was not respected by the conflicting parties partly due to the little leverage it has, if at all. Had the five permanent members of the Security Council reached a consensus agreement to approve a binding resolution, the fighting might have stopped earlier.
The 2008-2009 Israel-Gaza conflict is the type of conflict where the U.N. Security Council should intervene effectively. If the tension escalates, it could certainly threaten the peace and security of the world, which was the main purpose of forming the United Nations Organization in 1945.
The bottom line, however, is that unless the veto power system is amended or changed, it will not be easy to bring permanent powers to agree on a major issue such as the ongoing Israel-Gaza conflict. The ineffectiveness of the Security Council is due to inaction from the founding members themselves.
For instance, China and Russia have blocked an attempt to discuss a Security Council binding resolution on Burma’s problems in recent years. And so is the United States in the case of its closest ally Israel.
Nehginpao Kipgen is the General Secretary of US-based Kuki International Forum (www.kukiforum.com) and a researcher on the rise of political conflicts in modern Burma (1947-2004).