Israel will not support a cease-fire; Palestinian ambassador accuses Israel of war crimes

At UN Security Council meeting on Gaza hostilities, Secretary General Ban calls Hamas “irresponsible,” calls for halt to rocket fire.

 Ron Prosor (photo credit: COURTESY ISRAELI EMBASSY TO US‏)
Ron Prosor
NEW YORK – In an impassioned plea to the UN Security Council, Israel’s Ambassador Ron Prosor took out his phone and played the sound of an air-raid siren.
“Fifteen seconds,” he told the diplomats. “That’s how much time you have to run for your life.”
“Our clear goal is to dismantle the infrastructure that Hamas has amassed,” said Prosor.
“[Hamas] has turned this whole place [Gaza] into a launching pad of terror.”
“Hamas dragged us into this conflict,” Prosor told the council, citing the abduction and murder of Eyal Yifrah, Gil-ad Shaer and Naftali Fraenkel. Prosor also accused Hamas of using civilians as human shields, an accusation the Palestinian envoy roundly rejected. The Israeli envoy then called – again – for the UN to denounce the Palestinian unity government.
“Since when does a terrorist organization get a seat and a voice at the UN?” he asked.
“Some in this chamber have criticized Israel for finally responding to these provocations. They have accused us of reacting disproportionately. Asking Israel to show restraint while our cities are under constant attack is like asking the fire brigade to battle an inferno with nothing more than buckets of water.”
Prosor told reporters that Israel would not support a cease-fire agreement, despite calls for one by both Ban and the Palestinian ambassador in speeches to the council.
“Our clear goal is to dismantle the infrastructure that Hamas has amassed,” said Prosor.
“[Hamas] has turned this whole place [Gaza] into a launching pad of terror.”
The UN Security Council session was marked by heated exchanges over the situation, as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stepped in to call for restraint on all sides to ease the suffering of civilians.
Amidst the back and forth between the Arab nations and Israel, Ban appealed for calm.
Appearing before reporters on Wednesday – a rare occurrence – specifically to address the Gaza situation, Ban said, “Gaza is on a knife-edge... This is a time for justice, not for revenge. It is a time for statesmanship and wisdom.”
Ban said he had been in intense discussions with world leaders, including US Secretary of State John Kerry, over how to handle the situation, and said the UN was stepping up its humanitarian activities in the area.
In his speech to the council, Ban said his paramount concern was for the civilians, who are “once again… caught between Hamas’s irresponsibility and Israel’s tough response.
We face the risk of an all-out escalation in Israel and Gaza, with the threat of a ground offensive still palpable, and preventable only if Hamas stops rocket firing.”
Addressing reporters after the meeting, the permanent representative of Saudi Arabia told reporters to “not let this piece of acting fool you.”
“There is no equality between the rocket attacks and the massacre that is taking place today and over the past few days in Gaza,” Ambassador Abdallah Y. Al-Mouallimi said, attributing “the root cause” of the problem to the settlements in the West Bank.
“If it takes 15 seconds to react to a rocket, how many seconds does it take to react to a raiding aircraft overhead?” asked Palestinian Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour. “I can assure you it doesn’t take more than one or two seconds. It is death for sure.”
In his speech on Thursday, Mansour accused Israel of war crimes and terrorism, reading off the lists of names of the children who had been killed in Israeli air strikes since Operation Protective Edge began on Tuesday.
“I speak on behalf of the suffering and grieving Palestinian people,” he said, “who are enduring yet another barrage of death, destruction, trauma and terror, which is being perpetrated willfully and maliciously against them by the Israeli occupying forces before the eyes of the world as it persists with its nearly five-decade long belligerent military occupation.
“The Security Council cannot remain paralyzed and marginalized as Israeli war crimes continue against the Palestinian civilian population,” he continued. “The council must bear its responsibilities; it must act to protect the civilian lives, de-escalate the current crisis, and salvage the prospects for peace and security in our troubled region. Failing to do so will further diminish its credibility and be complicit in allowing innocent children, women and men to die and the situation to further destabilize, with far-reaching consequences.”
Mansour, alongside representatives from Egypt, Jordan, Senegal, the Non-Aligned Movement, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, all met on Wednesday with the president of the Security Council, Rwanda’s Eugene-Richard Gasana, and asked him to call a meeting to “stop the Israeli aggression” and react to the “serious and grave situation in Gaza.”
Mansour also said they had met with the president of the General Assembly on the same subject.
When asked by reporters at a press conference after the meeting if the Palestinian Authority accepted responsibility for the rockets fired by Hamas at Gaza, Mansour responded: “The Palestinian people are one. The government is one. The president is President [Mahmoud] Abbas.
We are defending ourselves against this aggression toward our people.”
“The immediate thing that we want is for the Security Council to shoulder its responsibility and stop this aggression against our people,” Mansour said on Wednesday. He also repeatedly denounced what he called Israel’s attempts to “discredit” the unity government.
On Thursday, flanked by representatives from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, Mansour struck out directly at Prosor for Israel’s calls for the UN to denounce the new government.
“This is an exercise in futility,” Mansour said, calling the Israeli government racist. “I am proud that I represent the Palestinian people, who are respected in every corner of the globe,” Mansour said. “I am not a representative of a government that is totally isolated and disrespected in the international community.”
“We did not start this round of attacks. It is the Israeli government,” Mansour said.
“After the killing of the three settlers [Eyal, Gilad and Naftali, only one of whom lived in the West Bank], they started this attack against our people. The rockets came after that.”
Immediately after Mansour’s press conferences on both Wednesday and Thursday, Prosor stood behind the podium to reinforce the Israeli viewpoint: Israel is defending itself against terrorists, and the international community cannot continue to support the Palestinian unity government.
“It’s time for the international community to right the wrong of the embrace between Hamas and Fatah,” he said after his speech on Thursday. “Unity does not equal impunity.”
When asked on Wednesday if the deaths of more than 70 Palestinians was really “restraint,” Prosor said: “We are in a situation where Israel, in contrast to Hamas, is trying to target the military infrastructure of Hamas and the operators of Hamas. That is why you hear Israel phoning in and telling people to get out of places. Do people get hurt? Yes, but the intention here is very important. Hamas sends rockets indiscriminately.”