Ban Ki-Moon 248.88.
(photo credit: AP)
The Security Council held an emergency meeting on New Year's Eve on an Arab request for a legally binding and enforceable UN resolution that would condemn Israel and halt its military attacks on Gaza.
But the draft resolution circulated by Libya on behalf of the 22-member Arab League Wednesday night was immediately rejected by the United States as "unbalanced" and "one-sided" because it makes no mention of halting the Hamas rocketing of southern Israel which led to the Israeli offensive.
US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said the United States was working very hard to achieve an immediate cease-fire implemented by both sides, but he said Washington had not seen "any evidence" yet that Hamas was willing to end its rocket attacks.
The best way to move forward, he said, would be to get an agreement among the parties for a cease-fire and humanitarian access to Gaza through diplomacy, "and for that agreement to be enshrined in a Security Council resolution if necessary."
Britain's UN Ambassador John Sawers also called the resolution "one-sided" but he told reporters a balanced resolution would have "a good chance of support" in the council.
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian UN observer, said Arab nations would be working "day and night" to get council approval of a binding resolution "that would condemn the crimes committed by Israel and stop the military aggression, and provide protection for the Palestinians and lift the siege."
"We face a very dangerous crossroads in the Middle East as a direct consequence of this Israeli aggression ... (which) is threatening the life and prosperity of 1.5 million Palestinian and also threatens to undermine the peace efforts," he said.
The Security Council issued a press statement early Sunday - about 15 hours after the IDF's Operation Cast Lead commenced - expressing serious concern at the escalating situation in Gaza and calling on Israel and the Palestinians to immediately halt all violence.
It made no specific reference to either the IAF strikes or the rocket attacks by Hamas terrorists, and there was no condemnation of either party.
Unlike Security Council resolutions, council press statements are not legally binding - and the IAF operation has continued, along with Hamas rocket and mortar shell attacks into southern Israel.
At the start of Wednesday night's council meeting, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon again condemned "the indiscriminate rocket attacks by Hamas terrorists and the disproportionality of the continuing Israeli military operation."
He said he was "profoundly troubled" that the council's call for an end to the violence had gone unheeded and demanded that the parties "step back from the brink" and observe an immediate cease-fire.
While welcoming efforts to end the conflict, including by Arab and European leaders, Ban reiterated that "not enough has been done and more is urgently required." He called on all members of the international community, especially those in the region, "to exert what influence they have on the parties to end this violence now."
Many speakers at the open council meeting echoed Ban, criticizing Israel's excessive bombing and its refusal to stop the attacks.
Israel's UN Ambassador Gabriela Shalev defended Israel's decision to attack in response to more than 300 rockets and mortars launched at southern Israel by "Hamas terrorists."
"Israel cannot, and will not, allow its citizens to be sitting ducks for terrorist attacks," she said. "Israel will continue to take all necessary measures to protect its citizens and stop terrorism."
Shalev said any resolution must be balanced, and "Hamas must not only stop the fire but must give guarantees that this is the end of the barrage of rockets and mortars over Israel."
Egypt's UN Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz, on behalf of Arab Group of nations at the UN, asked for the emergency council meeting on instructions from Arab League foreign ministers who met in Cairo earlier Wednesday.
He said in a letter that the Arabs want the council "to adopt an enforceable and binding resolution that would ensure immediate cease-fire, cessation of the Israeli military aggression, lifting of the blockade..."
In addition to strongly condemning Israel and calling for an immediate end to civilian attacks in Gaza, the Libyan draft resolution stresses "the need for restoration of calm" and calls for immediate protection for Palestinian civilians in Gaza and the opening of border crossings for humanitarian aid.
Sudan's UN Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamed said he did not foresee adoption of a resolution before Monday because a delegation of Arab foreign ministers is flying to New York "to give a boost to the diplomatic activity here."
He said the ministers - from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Qatar, Lebanon, Libya, Egypt and Morocco - would arrive Sunday or Monday. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa has also asked Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas "to lead the diplomatic campaign in New York," he said.