Friday, 9 January 2009

Gaza: UN Calls Halt While America Procrastinates

The UN Security Council has passed a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza.

The resolution is also looking for unimpeded humanitarian access and intense diplomatic efforts for peace. The UN Aid agency Unwra has already had to withdraw its aid to the Palestinians during the 13 day conflict because although the Israeli army know of the locations of their operations and co-ordinates with their movements Unwra installations have been hit. One of their workers was killed yesterday and two injured yesterday when their fork lift truck was fired on by an Israeli tank at the Erez border crossing in the north of the Gaza strip. The International Red Cross is also accusing Israel of not assisting wounded civilians affected by their attacks and incursions.

With 770 Palestinians dead (independent observers saying upwards of 300 being women and children) to 14 Israelis the UN has recognised Israel as the aggressor in breaking the 3rd ceasefire since the turn of the millennium Egypt is trying to broker a long term and permanent ceasefire.

America were the lone abstention on the vote in the Security Council with Condoleezza Rice saying they wanted to see the outcome of those Egyptian efforts. So why the reluctance to call for a ceasefire, withdrawal and sitting on the fence? It isn't so much a positive abstention as a continuation of America's cowardly hand in this situation. America want to be the world's peacemakers, peacekeepers, but when it is one of their allies that breaks the peace they do not want to appear to be coming down too hard. The Bush Administration history in the region is liable to end with this chapter, this abstention. With the humanitarian crisis plain to all to see it was cowardly of the US not to back this end to hostilities.

Why is it important to wait and see the outcome of mediation efforts in the words of Rice when innocent civilians and even aid workers are suffering. The diplomatic terms she used to explain her do not hide the fact that the US were prepared to do nothing, just yet. Didn't feel an urgency to call a halt.

The resolution does say there is a need to look at the smuggling of weapons into Palestine, the border crossings controls of Israel into Gaza and humanitarian aid. There was acknowledgement that both sides need to make efforts. It wasn't a one sided totally anti-Israel as some have said but realised the immediate goal and necessity whilst setting out the longer term goals.

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