Friday, January 09, 2009

US abstains as UN security council backs Israel-Gaza ceasefire resolution.

An apt reminder of how much a new US approach to the Israel/Palestine problem is desperately needed came yesterday when the UN passed a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in the region; and the US abstained.

This is so typical of the way the Bush administration approached this conflict, wary at all times of ever appearing even remotely critical of the Israelis, no matter how shocked the rest of the planet has been by any Israeli action.

The vote was passed by 14 votes to nil, though the US, represented by secretary of state Condolleeza Rice, abstained. It came after three days of intense Arab pressure at the UN's headquarters in New York and in the face of stiff Israeli opposition.

The resolution, largely drafted by the UK, "stresses and calls for an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza". The clause "calls for" was added to the original draft after Arab delegations demanded the wording to be strengthened.

David Miliband, foreign secretary, said consensus had been reached as a result of the "gravity of what has happened in the Middle East on the ground".

After the security council vote, he said: "We are all very conscious that peace is made on the ground while resolutions are written in the United Nations. Our job here is to support the efforts for peace on the ground and to help turn the good words on paper into changes on the ground that are desperately needed."

When discussions first began at the UN last Saturday, Washington blocked even a press statement, the weakest form of UN communique.

What stuns me is that this is being reported in the Guardian as the Bush administration wanting "to end on a positive note" and wanting to show that they were willing "to incur the displeasure of the Israeli government."

By abstaining? It really says a lot about how little the Bush administration were willing to deal fairly with this conflict that refusing to veto a resolution calling for a ceasefire - and deciding instead to abstain - is seen as something which might, "incur the displeasure of the Israeli government" and is, therefore, an act of bravery on their part which we are supposed to applaud.

The Obama camp are hinting that he is willing "to adopt a policy that is tougher, fairer and smarter than both of his predecessors." When one looks at what the Bush administration thinks of as them being "tough" with the Israelis, Obama's change of policy is long overdue.

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