12 June 2024

3 min read

Hamas accepts US-drafted UN Security Council resolution on a ceasefire in Gaza

Geopolitical analysis
Flags on UN headquarter building

On 10 June, the UN Security Council (UNSC) endorsed a US-drafted resolution aimed at reaching a comprehensive ceasefire agreement between Hamas and Israel. According to US President Joe Biden, Israel has already verbally accepted the terms of the proposal, first announced by the US on 31 May; and on 11 June, Hamas, too, accepted the resolution, raising hopes that an end to the Israel-Palestine conflict may finally be in sight.

The proposal

The resolution proposes a three-phase ceasefire. The first phase mandates a complete halt to fighting; the exchange of Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners; the withdrawal of Israeli troops from populated areas of the Gaza Strip; and the effective and safe distribution of humanitarian aid throughout the territory. This first phase, initially planned to last six weeks, would be extended as talks towards a lasting peace continue. The second and third phases, then, consist of negotiations for a permanent end to hostilities, with the UNSC calling for the unification of the Gaza Strip and West Bank under the governance of the Palestinian Authority, followed by the reconstruction of Gaza.

Israel’s position unchanged

A UNSC resolution is binding for all UN member states, which includes Israel. Nevertheless, in the hours after the UNSC announced its resolution, and Hamas accepted it, Israeli military operations continued in central and southern Gaza, with dozens more people killed.

While the US seems confident of Israel’s support for the deal, it is striking that it has consistently been the US announcing developments in ceasefire negotiations, rather than Israel itself, suggesting that Israel has not fully bought into the plan. For Israel, its position on the war in Gaza remains unchanged. In response to the UN resolution, Israeli representative Reut Shapir Ben Naftaly could not have been clearer when she stated: “We will continue until all of the hostages are returned and until Hamas’ military and governing capabilities are dismantled … Israel will not engage in meaningless and endless negotiations which can be exploited by Hamas as a means to stall for time.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself has repeatedly rejected any prospect of an end to the war while Hamas exists, and his far-right coalition allies, Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir have threatened to resign – and destabilise Israel’s government – should Netanyahu seriously consider such an agreement.

Potential for success

The question, then, is whether the UNSC – and by extension, the US – has enough leverage (and political will) to pressure Israel into participating earnestly in long-term negotiations and agreeing not only to a six-week halt in fighting, but working towards a lasting solution that both Israel and Gaza can live with for years to come. The US, as Israel’s primary weapons’ supplier and security partner, clearly has the leverage; however, support for Israel is strong on both sides of the aisle in US domestic politics, leaving Biden in a difficult situation – only months out from a presidential election that promises to be tightly contested – should Israel choose to ignore the UN resolution and resume combat. In previous instances where the international community (including the US) attempted to apply pressure – from the International Court of Justice to the US threatening to halt weapons amid Israel’s planned assault on Rafah – Israel has reacted with defiance, and largely gone ahead as planned.

With the weight of US support, this resolution has the best chance of success compared to those that came before and may well result in a pause in fighting over the coming weeks. However, whether it meets the rather lofty ambitions of a lasting peace, a united Palestine, and a rebuilt Gaza, remains highly unlikely while Israel persists in its goal of destroying Hamas.

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