UN Ha­mas vote: US, Is­rael still have work to do

Even coun­tries that have spo­ken against ter­ror­ist group and ex­trem­ism didn’t vote for UN res­o­lu­tion

The Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - ANAL­Y­SIS • By SETH J. FRANTZMAN

The fail­ure of a United Na­tions res­o­lu­tion con­demn­ing Ha­mas for in­dis­crim­i­nately fir­ing rock­ets at Is­rael showed the lim­its of Is­raeli and Amer­i­can diplo­macy.

While UN Am­bas­sador Danny Danon praised the coun­tries that had voted to con­demn the ter­ror­ist Group, and US Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo lam­basted coun­tries that re­fused to vote for the res­o­lu­tion, call­ing it a “dis­grace­ful act of bias” against Is­rael, the vot­ing pat­tern was it­self sig­nif­i­cant.

The 87 coun­tries who voted for the res­o­lu­tion were mostly con­cen­trated in Europe, the Amer­i­cas and the Pa­cific. The US and Is­rael failed to gain votes in the Mid­dle East and among most Mus­lim coun­tries, de­spite the fact that many of these coun­tries con­demn the kind of ter­ror­ism Ha­mas rep­re­sents.

In re­cent months Is­rael has made in­roads in the re­gion and in Africa with a high-pro­file visit to Oman by Prime Minister Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu and a trip by Chad’s pres­i­dent to Is­rael. Chad and Oman both voted against con­demn­ing Ha­mas. A map of the coun­tries that voted against the res­o­lu­tion shows that in Africa, the Mid­dle East and parts of Asia there is an un­will­ing­ness to vote against Ha­mas. US Am­bas­sador to the UN Nikki Ha­ley said “we can’t talk about peace in the Mid­dle East until we can agree on a ba­sic con­dem­na­tion of Ha­mas and its ter­ror­ism.” The UN had an op­por­tu­nity to do that, and it failed, she tweeted.

The un­will­ing­ness of coun­tries to con­front Ha­mas stemmed from the Pales­tinian Lib­er­a­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tion’s sup­port for a re­quire­ment that two-thirds of the Gen­eral As­sem­bly vote for the res­o­lu­tion for it to pass. The PLO and the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity both praised the res­o­lu­tion’s fail­ure, ac­cord­ing to CNN. This is de­spite the fact that the PA has op­posed Ha­mas and has even sought to block pay­ments by Qatar to the Ha­mas-run Gaza Strip. A $15 mil­lion pay­ment from Qatar was trans­ferred to Gaza in the first week of De­cem­ber, the sec­ond in­stall­ment of a $90m. do­na­tion from the emi­rate.

For many decades there was an au­to­matic block at the UN in fa­vor of con­demn­ing Is­rael and sup­port­ing the Pales­tini­ans. How­ever cleav­ages have grown in that wall over the years, first with Is­rael’s peace treaties with Egypt and Jor­dan and then with its warm­ing re­la­tions with some coun­tries in the re­gion in the 1990s.

In re­cent years there has also been a grow­ing break be­tween many Sunni Arab states, led by Saudi Ara­bia, and Iran on the one hand and also Qatar and Tur­key on the other. In June 2017, Saudi Ara­bia and its al­lies in Egypt, the United Arab Emi­rates and Bahrain broke re­la­tions with Qatar. Riyadh ac­cused Qatar of sup­port­ing the Mus­lim Brother­hood and ex­trem­ism, in­clud­ing Ha­mas and Hezbol­lah. Saudi news­pa­per Al-Riyadh even called Ha­mas a ter­ror­ist group in Au­gust 2017.

Many coun­tries in the Mid­dle East and Africa have in­creas­ingly played an im­por­tant role in the fight against ex­trem­ism in re­cent years. This in­cludes fight­ing groups that use the kind of ter­ror­ism that Ha­mas has used. In ad­di­tion states like Egypt have cracked down on the Mus­lim Brother­hood, which has ties to Ha­mas. Yet when it comes to con­demn­ing Ha­mas at the UN, these states, with back­ing from the Arab League and PLO, see con­demn­ing Ha­mas as a con­dem­na­tion of Pales­tini­ans. A de­feat for the Pales­tini­ans at the UN would be a ma­jor his­toric event.

The US res­o­lu­tion de­bated on Thurs­day went be­yond con­demn­ing Ha­mas, it also called on “other mil­i­tant ac­tors in­clud­ing Pales­tinian Is­lamic Ji­had [to] cease all provoca­tive ac­tions and vi­o­lent ac­tiv­ity, in­clud­ing by us­ing air­borne in­cen­di­ary de­vices.” Yet the US was un­able to con­vince re­gional al­lies, such as Riyadh, to sup­port the res­o­lu­tion. Washington had also failed in June dur­ing an at­tempt to add an amend­ment to a res­o­lu­tion con­demn­ing Is­rael. The US wanted to con­demn Ha­mas as well. The amend­ment got a slight ma­jor­ity of 62-58 with 41 ab­sten­tions but, like the De­cem­ber 6 vote, did not pass.

The time is not right in the re­gion for states to be­gin break­ing with each other on the Pales­tinian is­sue at the UN. The UAE’s The Na­tional noted that the US res­o­lu­tion “is likely to add to ten­sion over the cur­rent lack of progress to­ward peace be­tween Is­rael and Pales­tini­ans.” How­ever the US did make progress from its June fail­ure with 87 in fa­vor, 57 against and 33 ab­sten­tions.

In Africa the con­dem­na­tion of Ha­mas didn’t make much in­roads. Most coun­tries ei­ther voted against or ab­stained. Cape Verde, Uganda, Liberia, South Su­dan, Eritrea, Rwanda and Malawi sup­ported the res­o­lu­tion. In Asia, Azer­bai­jan, which has had high-level vis­its to and from Is­rael this year, voted against. In­dia, which Ne­tanyahu vis­ited in Jan­uary, ab­stained. China and Rus­sia both voted against the res­o­lu­tion. Afghanistan, a key US ally, ab­stained.

The over­all anal­y­sis of the vote shows that while the US was able to gain sup­port for the res­o­lu­tion that it can­not make the nec­es­sary in­roads in the Mid­dle East or among the Arab League and other im­por­tant blocks, such as those that make up the non­aligned move­ment in Africa and Asia. Even US al­lies such as Saudi Ara­bia that are os­ten­si­bly out­spo­ken against Ha­mas and ex­trem­ism, have not changed their stance on UN vot­ing. Un­will­ing­ness to ap­pear to side with Is­rael is still an is­sue that unites coun­tries that dis­agree on much else.

(Ibra­heem Abu Mustafa/Reuters)

HA­MAS TER­ROR­ISTS at­tend a drill in March in the south­ern Gaza Strip.

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