The United States UN Ambassador Nikki Haley reprimanded members of the General Assembly on Wednesday as the body convened to vote on a resolution condemning Israel for violence that has gripped the Gaza border in recent week.
“This resolution blames everything on Israel,” Haley said in her remarks, adding that “it does not even mention Hamas.”
Kuwait tried to pass earlier this month a similar resolution at the UN Security Council, which condemned Israel for using "excessive force" against the Palestinians and called for a UN protection force to defend Gazans. However, it was vetoed by the United States.
Washington then presented its own resolution calling on the council to condemn Hamas. The resolution failed to pass, but focused the discussion on Hamas's activities.
Haley scorned the members of the General Assembly for attempting to score political points back home by ganging up on Israel, but accused them of only furthering the prospect of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
“Gaza is an important international matter. But what makes it different and more urgent than conflicts in Nicaragua, Iran, Yemen, Burma or many other desperate places? Because we haven’t gathered here to discuss any of these urgent issues. The United States would welcome that,” she said.
“What makes Gaza different for some is that attacking Israel is their favorite political sport. That’s why we’re here today.”
“It is totally one-sided. It makes not one mention of Hamas who routinely initiates violence in Gaza. Such one-sided resolutions at the UN do nothing to advance peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Everyone recognizes that,” she continued, accusing the members of engaging in “pure politics.”
Addressing the General Assembly, Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon also slammed accused the body of “empowering Hamas” if it supported the resolution.
“I am here today to stand up for a basic right, the right afforded to every country in the world. The right to defend its citizens,” Danon began in his speech,
The resolution, he charged, was “the international community’s attempt to take away our basic right to defend itself.”
“By supporting this resolution, you are colluding with a terrorist organization. By supporting this resolution, you are empowering Hamas,” he said.
Urging countries to read the resolution, which makes no mention of Hamas, Danon asked: “Do you support terrorism? Do you support suicide bombers?”
Algerian Ambassador Sabri Boukadoum, representing Arab nations, first sought to block a vote on a US amendment to condemn Hamas, saying it wasn't relevant to the resolution. He said it also undermined reconciliation efforts between rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah as well as the "remote prospects" of reviving peace negotiations with Israel.
His motion to take "no action" on the amendment was defeated by a vote of 59-78 with 26 abstentions, allowing the US amendment to be put to a vote.
The US amendment was approved by a 62-58 vote, with 42 abstentions. But General Assembly President Miroslav Lajcak declared that under an assembly rule, a two-thirds majority was needed so the amendment failed.
Haley appealed, citing another rule that says only a majority vote was required. After a short break, Lajcak put the US appeal to a vote. The US narrowly lost that vote 66-73 with 26 abstentions.
Finally, the assembly voted on the original Palestinian-backed resolution, approving it 120-8 with 45 abstentions.
Haley said in a statement afterward that "in the face of Hamas terrorists routinely inciting violence ... today the UN made the morally bankrupt judgment that the recent Gaza violence is all Israel's fault."
"But the common practice of turning a blind eye to the UN's anti-Israel bias is changing," she said. "Today, a plurality of 62 countries voted in favor of the US-led effort to address Hamas' responsibility for the disastrous conditions in Gaza."
Israel's ambassador accused "anti-Israel elements" of blocking condemnation of Hamas.
"This was a badge of shame for the UN," Danon said. But "thanks to the combined efforts with our American friends and our allies from around the world, we proved today that the automatic majority against Israel in the UN is not destiny and can be changed."
Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour urged the assembly before the vote to address the escalating violence in Gaza and "the crisis" of protecting civilians. He called the US amendment a "bad-faith attempt" to shift the focus away from "the core objective of protecting civilians and upholding international law."
"We need action. We need protection for our civilian population. ... Is that a crime to ask for?" he said.
"We cannot remain silent in the face of the most violent crimes and human rights violations being systematically perpetrated against our people," Mansour said.
The resolution deplores "any excessive use of force" by Israeli forces, particularly in Gaza, and demands that Israel "refrain from such actions." It "deplores the firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip against Israeli civilian areas," but doesn't say who is doing the firing.
After the vote, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement thanking US President Donald Trump's support for Israel in the UN.
"Israel appreciates the Trump administration’s steadfast support for Israel at the United Nations and Ambassador Haley’s strong statement today exposing the hypocrisy of the UN’s bias against Israel," a statement from the Prime Minster's Office said.
"The UN’s incessant focus on Israel not only brings shame to the organization. It also draws attention away from so many other pressing issues that demand the attention of the international community," it continued.
"As for Gaza, Hamas is responsible for the terrible situation there and for the loss of life and suffering that has occurred as a result of the violent riots it has instigated over the last few weeks."
Rather than improve the lives of the people of Gaza, it added, "Hamas is using the civilian Palestinian population as human shields in its unremitting terror war against Israel."
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was also blamed by Netanyahu for making matters in Gaza worse. He "has only made the humanitarian situation in Gaza worse by reducing payments of salaries to Gaza and by refusing to pay for electricity provided to Gaza," the statement charged.
"While Israel will continue to defend itself and protect the security of its citizens, Israel will continue to seek ways to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza. The people of Gaza are not our enemy. Hamas is."