A US-sponsored draft resolution that for the first time would have condemned the Islamic terror group Hamas, which controls Gaza, has failed to win the required two-thirds majority in the UN General Assembly.
Before the vote on the resolution, the 193-member world body had narrowly voted to require a two-thirds majority for approval as sought by Arab nations for rather than the simple majority urged by the United States.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley told the assembly before the vote that it could make history and unconditionally speak out against Hamas, which she called “one of the most obvious and grotesque cases of terrorism in the world”.
“What the UN chooses to do today will speak volumes about each country’s seriousness when it comes to condemning anti-Semitism,” she said.
“Because there is nothing more anti-Semitic than saying terrorism is not terrorism when it’s used against the Jewish people and the Jewish state.”
But the vote on the resolution to condemn Hamas was 87 in favour against 57 opposed, with 33 abstentions – a plurality but below the two-thirds requirement to adopt it.
The vote to require a two-thirds majority was much closer, 75-72, with 26 abstentions and several countries changing their votes to “yes” at the last minute.
In an official statement, Hamas thanked UN member states “that stood by our people’s resistance and the justice of their cause” and attacked Ms Haley who it said “is known for her extremism and her positions that support the Zionist terrorism in Palestine”.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah party is locked in a bitter decade-long split with Hamas, also welcomed the resolution’s defeat saying: “The Palestinian presidency will not allow for the condemnation of the national Palestinian struggle.”
By contrast, Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the “large majority” – 87 countries – “that took a stance against Hamas” for the first time, calling it “an important achievement for the United States and Israel”.
The US attempt to condemn Hamas and demand that the terror group stop firing rockets into Israel, using “airborne incendiary devices” and putting civilians at risk sparked a Palestinian-backed amendment sponsored by Bolivia.
It outlined the basis for comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace and referred to a December 2016 Security Council resolution that condemned Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem as a “flagrant violation” of international law.
It also reaffirmed “unwavering support” for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – issues not included in the US draft.
But before the vote on the US draft resolution, Bolivian Ambassador Sasha Llorentty Soliz withdrew the amendment.
That was because the Palestinians and their supporters wanted a vote instead on a short rival resolution entitled “Comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East” sponsored by Ireland that included the exact language of the amendment – but no mention of Hamas.
After the US draft on Hamas failed to win adoption, the General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the Irish resolution by a vote of 156-6, with 12 abstentions.
It calls for “the achievement, without delay” of lasting Mideast peace on the basis of UN resolutions, singling out the December 2016 measure.
And it reaffirms “unwavering support… for the two-state solution of Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security within recognised borders, based on the pre-1967 borders.”