New Delhi: Though UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions are supposed to be binding, the latest resolution calling for a humanitarian pause in the Israel-Hamas war will be ineffective primarily for two reasons.
One is that Israel has rejected it outright. The second is the absence of any readiness on the part of the Hamas to release all hostages as called for by the resolution. The UNSC passed Resolution 2712 on Wednesday calling for the immediate release of all hostages held by Hamas and for urgent and extended humanitarian corridors throughout the enclave to save and protect civilian lives.
The affirmative vote came after four unsuccessful efforts to take action last month in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war since October 7 that has claimed over 12,500 lives on both sides so far. While 12 members of the UNSC voted in favour of the resolution, no one voted against it. Among the five permanent members, Russia, the UK and the US abstained from voting, while France and China voted in favour. There was no veto.
The resolution calls for “urgent and extended humanitarian pauses and corridors” in Gaza for “a sufficient number of days” to allow full, rapid, safe and unhindered access for UN agencies and partners.
It “calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages held by Hamas and other groups, especially children, as well as ensuring immediate humanitarian access The Council, by additional provisions in the text, calls on all parties to refrain from depriving the civilian population in Gaza of basic services and aid indispensable to their survival, consistent with international humanitarian law.
The resolution, however, does not condemn the Hamas attacks in Israel on October 7 which began the current wave of violence and battle for control of Gaza, the narrow strip of land on the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea that forms one part of the Palestinian territories, the other being the West Bank. The US and UK abstained from voting on the resolution because of this.
On the other hand, Russia abstained because of its failure to demand a humanitarian ceasefire, which Israel and the US oppose. Instead, the resolution calls for “humanitarian pauses”. A humanitarian pause gives the countries the liberty to continue the war at their own convenience. It is an ad hoc arrangement just to supply relief material to civilians. The countries or parties concerned can start the war at any time. On the other hand, a humanitarian ceasefire is a more long-term arrangement. It calls for the ceasing of hostilities from all parties concerned.
As expected, Israel rejected the resolution outright saying that it is “detached from the reality on the ground” and “falls on deaf ears when it comes to Hamas and other terrorist organisations”.
“The resolution focuses solely on the humanitarian situation in Gaza. It makes no mention of what led up to this moment,” Israel’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Brett Jonathan Miller said. “The resolution makes it seem as if what we are witnessing in Gaza happened of its own accord."
He added that Israel’s top priority is to bring the hostages home, “and seeing as Security Council resolutions hold no sway with terrorists, Israel will continue to do whatever it takes to accomplish this goal”.
Of the around 240 people it is holding captive after the October 7 attacks, Hamas is reportedly willing to release 70 and that too in exchange for Palestinian prisoners lodged in Israeli jails. Negotiations are going on but it is a complex process.
“The UNSC resolution is infructuous because of Israel’s outright rejection of it and the absence of readiness on the part of Hamas to release all the hostages,” R Dayakar, former Indian Ambassador to Iraq and Jordan who also served in the West Asia desk of the Ministry of External Affairs, told ETV Bharat. “At best, it can only put moral pressure on Israel to ease the humanitarian situation.”
Though UNSC resolutions are supposed to be legally binding in nature, there is another reason why this particular resolution will be rendered ineffective. The authority for the binding nature of these resolutions is derived from the UN Charter, specifically Chapter VII. This chapter empowers the UNSC to determine the existence of any threat to international peace and security and to take action to address such threats. It prohibits a UN member nation from attacking other UN member states.
Past instances of Chapter VII being invoked include UNSC Resolutions 678 and 1510. Resolution 678, adopted on November 29, 1990, during the First Gulf War, gave Iraq time till January 15, 1991, to withdraw from Kuwait and empowered states to use “all necessary means” to force Iraq out of Kuwait after the deadline. Resolution 1510, adopted on October 13, 2003, extended the authorisation of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) for a period of one year and expanded its operations outside Afghanistan’s capital Kabul to other areas in the war against terror. The adoption of Resolution 1510 was welcomed by the Afghan government, which had long demanded that ISAF be expanded to reassert government control over the country.
However, in the case of the Israel-Hamas war, Chapter VII is not applicable. That is because, while Israel is a member nation of the UN, Palestine is not. This is why Resolution 2712 adopted on Wednesday is a dead letter.