Secretary of State Antony Blinken defended the U.S. government’s decision to, for the second time, veto the United Nations Security Council’s resolution demanding an immediate cease-fire in Gaza, as Israel continues to kill and displace tens of thousands of Palestinians.
The 15-member council introduced the cease-fire resolution during an emergency meeting on Friday, which was convened days after Secretary-General Antonio Guterres invoked an article that allows him to raise what he believes are threats to international peace and security.
It was the second time the council brought a cease-fire resolution to the floor since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, which killed about 1,200 people and resulted in hundreds taken hostage, more than 100 of whom were released during a weeklong pause in the violence last month.
Since then, Israeli forces have killed more than 17,700 people in Gaza ― 70% of whom are women and children ― wounded more than 46,000 and trapped thousands more under rubble. The violence has also resulted in about 1.9 million Palestinians displaced, and forced surviving families to flee to southern Gaza.
But despite global support for a cease-fire and an end to what human rights groups have described as the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, the U.S. vetoed the resolution. The United Kingdom abstained, while the remaining council members voted in favor of the cease-fire.
“It is unconscionable that the Biden administration would stand alone in voting to continue the ethnic cleansing, starvation and genocide being carried out by Israel’s far-right government in Gaza,” CAIR National Executive Direct Nihad Awad said on Friday after the veto. “It is not clear what level of suffering by the Palestinian people would prompt our nation’s leaders to act in their defense.”
In addition to a cease-fire, the draft resolution called for all parties to comply with international humanitarian law, protect Israeli and Palestinian civilians, and release all hostages. Despite the demands in the resolution aligning with what the White House has publicly called for, the U.S. government still vetoed the resolution.
The decision by the U.S., who serves as Israel’s strongest ally, drew widespread backlash from those who warn that the move will lead to more civilian deaths. But on Sunday ― the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ― Blinken defended the decision, saying that the U.S. supports temporary “humanitarian pauses” but that a cease-fire would only benefit Hamas.
“We have been a strong proponent of humanitarian pauses. In fact, because of our advocacy, because of the work we did, we got pauses. We got pauses on a daily basis to make sure that people could get out of the way, that humanitarian supplies could get in. We helped negotiate the longer pause that results on the release of more than 110 hostages, and it also allowed doubling of the humanitarian assistance that was getting into Gaza,” he told ABC’s “This Week.”
“But when it comes to a cease-fire in this moment, with Hamas still alive, still intact, and again, with the stated intent of repeating Oct. 7 again and again, that would simply perpetuate the problem,” he continued. “And so our focus is on trying to make sure that civilians are protected to the maximum extent possible [and] that humanitarian assistance gets in to the maximum extent possible.”
On Friday, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters that fewer than 100 trucks carrying humanitarian aid had entered Gaza over 24 hours.
Despite Blinken’s statements claiming the U.S. cares about the protection of Palestinian civilians, the country’s veto on the cease-fire resolution has and will only result in more Palestinian deaths. On Friday, Guterres described the status of aid access in Gaza as a “spiraling humanitarian nightmare.”
“There is no effective protection of civilians,” the secretary-general told the council. “The people of Gaza are being told to move like human pinballs ― ricocheting between ever-smaller slivers of the south, without any of the basics for survival. But nowhere in Gaza is safe.”
Aid groups and journalists in Gaza ― whose numbers are dwindling due to Israel’s deadly attacks on the press ― have reported civilians facing starvation and thirst; patients with severe injuries undergoing treatment without anesthesia due to the lack of medicine; men digging children out of rubble with their bare hands; and soldiers rounding up, blindfolding and stripping hundreds of Palestinian men.
Blinken’s claim that the U.S. is trying to reduce Palestinian civilian casualties in Gaza also directly contradicts the State Department’s controversial move this weekend to bypass Congress and approve the emergency sale of nearly 14,000 rounds of tank ammunition worth more than $106 million to Israel. Previously, some Democratic lawmakers had proposed making $14.3 billion in American assistance to Israel contingent on concrete steps by Netanyahu’s government to reduce civilian casualties in Gaza.