The US is blocking* what seems to be a simple statement asking both parties to stop violence:

The United States has today blocked - for the third time in a week - the adoption of a joint UN Security Council statement calling for a halt to Israeli-Palestinian violence and the protection of civilians, diplomats said.

According to the same article the US position is this:

At a news conference in Copenhagen today, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Israel and Palestinians to "protect civilians, especially children" - and defended Washington's move to block a UN Security Council statement calling for an end to the hostilities. "We're not standing in the way of diplomacy," Mr Blinken stressed.

The article adds:

The US refusal to endorse a joint Security Council statement has been met with disbelief by its allies. "We are just asking the US to support a statement by the Security Council that would pretty much say similar things which are being saying bilaterally from Washington," one diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.

While this kind of statement is mostly symbolic, it's hard to imagine any downside to doing it. How would calling for an end to violence cause a problem to any diplomatic attempt?

* [Edit two days later] The content of the linked article from RTE (including the title) appears to have been heavily modified since this question was posted. Some of the quotes mentioned in the question cannot be found anymore.

  • 2
    @Noah True, but President Biden did call for a ceasefire – so I'm curious what's different about the UN statement from the statement the US released itself.
    – divibisan
    Commented May 17, 2021 at 23:34
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    @divibisan: There's a difference between a ceasefire and an end to violence. Historically, all the ceasefires have done is to stop the shooting for a time, allowing Hamas (or other groups) to re-arm and resume shooting later.
    – jamesqf
    Commented May 18, 2021 at 16:38
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    @jamesqf That’s kind of the whole point of a ceasefire after all. They are by definition just meant to be a temporary end of fighting, until either it starts again or a more formal agreement/treaty is made to actually end the fighting (outside of rare exceptions, like the fact a ceasefire ended the Korean War without any sort of agreement, or further fighting so far). Commented May 19, 2021 at 18:32
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    @suchiuomizu: Sure, but when there's no realistic prospect of a negotiated end to the fighting, what's the point? Especially as it appears that Israel's near-term goal here is mostly to deprive Hamas of the military resources - the underground tunnel complexes - that it uses to pursue its violent aims. That is, a complete destruction would be a considerable setback to Hamas, thus reducing the violence much more than a short-term cease fire would.
    – jamesqf
    Commented May 20, 2021 at 18:59
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    It should be noted in context that that UN, in all major conflicts involving Israel, moved to call a ceasefire only once Israel began gaining the upper hand. For the first few days of fighting - or months in 1973 - the UN refrained from serious efforts to call a ceasefire until only after Israel began recovering from the initial losses and began inflicting loss on the attacking side.
    – dotancohen
    Commented May 27, 2021 at 11:29

3 Answers 3


Why does the US block a UN statement calling for violence to stop in the Palestine-Israel conflict?

— because the statement was not only for calling the violence to stop, but about condemning Israel's military response for missile attacks.

Here's how Al-Jazeera puts it:

The meeting on Sunday came after the US reportedly twice blocked over the last week resolutions that would have condemned Israel’s military response and called for a ceasefire.

The Biden administration has stated its support for Israel's self-defense:

President Biden said that he had spoken with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel “for a while” on Wednesday amid escalating fighting between Israelis and Palestinians, and asserted his “unwavering support” for Israel’s “right to defend itself.”

While it is not known whether the US would support another resolution that would have, indeed, called for a ceasefire, protecting the civilians, and/or a diplomatic solution, but apparently it would not support a resolution that condemns Israel.

  • 12
    There's a more recent statement from the Biden Administration, though it pretty much says the same thing, with the addition of an explicit call for a ceasefire
    – divibisan
    Commented May 18, 2021 at 0:43
  • 5
    One would wonder if the US would support a resolution condemning both sides and not just another anti-Israel resolution.
    – WernerCD
    Commented May 18, 2021 at 23:51
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    @WernerCD if that was all that was holding the US back, could they not just edit it into the draft statement?
    – Jontia
    Commented May 19, 2021 at 8:13
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    @Jontia Assuming all other parties involved are amenable to condemning Hamas, yes. Commented May 20, 2021 at 7:06

American diplomats have not explained why they don't want the UN Security Council (SC) to adopt a statement by passing a resolution. The Times of Israel writes:

A Security Council diplomat told ToI that the wording of the joint statement from the top UN body was not what led to the US mission’s decision to block the measure.

“They told us they could not support an expression from the council at this time,” the diplomat said.

UN General Assembly to meet on Gaza as US blocks 3rd Security Council resolution

Emphasis mine. It must be understood that SC resolutions are not "take it or leave it" deals. Instead, member states introduce drafts that are passed around and every other member state can suggest improvements and wording changes. This process can take days or weeks. This means that the US is not blocking any specific phrasing - it is blocking any resolution from being passed at this time.

Since American diplomats are mum, the most obvious answer is that Israel doesn't want the SC to issue a statement. Israel has rebuffed attempts to reach a ceasefire between it and Hamas:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday ruled out the prospect of an immediate cease-fire with the Palestinians in the deadly flare-up of Middle Eastern violence, defying growing international demands for de-escalation and concerted mediation efforts by regional and world powers. ...

Mr. Netanyahu said Sunday that the Israel Defense Forces are seeking to degrade Hamas and its missile capabilities, and that operations wouldn’t be called off until that had been accomplished.

Israel Rules Out an Immediate Cease-Fire With the Palestinians

Israel apparently believes that bombing Gaza serves some not yet fully achieved strategic goal. An SC resolution could make a cease-fire inevitable.

But why does the US care about what Israel wants? You can write tomes on this topic - I'll just sketch out some main themes:

The US sees Israel as one of its dearest allies. Historically, it has blocked almost every SC resolution opposed by Israel. The US can do so because it has veto powers in the SC.

The last SC resolution that Israel didn't like and the US didn't block was the 2016 SC Resolution 2334. It declared that "Israel's establishment of settlements in Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, had no legal validity, constituting a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the vision of two States living side-by-side in peace and security". The decision not to block the resolution was seen as a major deviation from established policy and enraged Israel's supporters. For example, an editorial in the Wall Street Journal called it "Obama's Anti-Israel Tantrum" and implied that the decision may have been influenced by anti-Semitism. It also argued that:

No longer needing Jewish votes, Mr. Obama was free, finally, to punish the Jewish state in a way no previous President has done.

Obama's Anti-Israel Tantrum

The corollary is of course that a president who do need Jewish votes is not free "to punish the Jewish state". This is not a new and the idea of winning the Jewish vote, the African-American vote, the Latino vote, etc, has been a mainstay of American politics for decades. For example, this article from 1984 details how Walter Mondale and Gary Hart fought over Jewish voters:

Walter Mondale and Gary Hart are slugging it out right now on one key issue: who can do the most for Israel. Each promises to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem if elected. Though both have been admirably faithful in their support for Israel over the years, each accuses the other of perfidy.

You might think the Jewish community would be pleased at such intense expressions of concern for Israel. There are a great many Jewish voters in New York, which holds its Presidential primary next week, and the candidates are obviously out for their approval.

Abroad at Home: Pandering for Votes

Whether an American politician's stance on Israel can cost or win him or her an election is, to the best of my knowledge, unknown. But, clearly, many American politicians and pundits operate under the assumption that the risk is real.

It's beyond the scope of this answer, but it should be noted that in the US electoral system, some states' votes are much more important than others and many Jews happen to live in those states. Furthermore, while there are many staunch non-Jewish Israel supporters in the US too, most of them are Republicans that won't switch sides. To pander to them would be futile for the Democratics.

Thus, one would expect an American Democratic president's Israel support to be at its highest in the first year his or her first term because there are many elections ahead and at its lowest in the last year of his or her second term.

However, pandering may not be the full answer; president Joe Biden's personal opinions on Israel likely influences his administration's decisions and Biden has been a life-long Zionist. The Washington Post recently called him "a longtime pro-Israel hawk". In 1986, he famously asserted that if Israel wouldn't have existed, the US would have to invent it:

"There's no apology to be made. It is the best $3 billion investment we make. If there weren't an Israel, the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her interests in the region."

If Israel wasn't there, the US would have to invent it to protect its interests

He has probably not changed his views; in 2007 he said: "I am a Zionist. You don't have to be a Jew to be a Zionist" and in 2020: "My name is Joe Biden, and everybody knows I love Israel".

In other words, you have at least three plausible explanations as to why the US decided to block the resolution:

  • Tradition US administrations generally don't go against Israeli interests. This is called the "diplomatic umbrella" with which the US shields Israel from criticism at the highest level.
  • Personal Biden is a devout Zionist and has been Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's friend for decades.
  • Pandering Biden, the administration, the Democratic party, or all three believes that securing the Jewish vote is important for the upcoming 2022 mid-term elections.
  • 26
    This seems rather one-sided. Why doesn't the UN issue a statement condemming Hamas' repeated attacks on Israel? After all, it's not as though Israel does this for fun.
    – jamesqf
    Commented May 18, 2021 at 4:18
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    @jamesqf is the full text of any of the drafts available?
    – Jontia
    Commented May 18, 2021 at 4:58
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    @Jontia I suspect there is quite a large disparity in how much Israel and Hamas would suffer for being condemmed by the UN. Commented May 18, 2021 at 10:58
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    @Jontia: I am not a US diplomat, so I can't say for sure why the US does or does not do things. My guess is that it's because any such statement would in turn be blocked by other members, making it an exercise in futility, but who knows for sure?
    – jamesqf
    Commented May 18, 2021 at 16:33
  • 1
    @jamesqf it would hardly be futile to move some of the negative news cycle onto others whilst demonstrating a wish to see each side in the conflict behave reasonably. Unless a U.N. diplomat turns up to say for sure why Hamas' actions are not included in the intital drafts.
    – Jontia
    Commented May 18, 2021 at 17:02

From what I understand, the United States did not vote in the affirmative for this resolution because it failed to mention Hamas and it's role in the eruption of violence that has taken place. The Israelis were upset that the text did not condemn Hamas because Israel only launched their attacks in response to Hamas's indiscriminate rocket fire into Israel.

To clarify: I am not signaling my support of any particular side of this. I am simply presenting what I understand to have been the reasoning for the resolution being blocked by the United States.

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