While the call for a cease-fire has wider support among U.N. member states, building consensus for it among the five permanent members of the Security Council has been difficult if not impossible.

“The threat of a U.S. veto will make it impossible for China to get anything out of the UNSC that’s critical of Israel, but if the fighting continues and Washington concludes that this is damaging its position, China may be able to get a resolution for a cease-fire that takes a neutral stance and does not single out Israel,” Stephen Walt, a professor of international affairs at Harvard Kennedy School, told VOA.

Traditionally, every time Israel is involved in a war, the U.S. has shielded it at the U.N. and other international bodies even at the cost of appearing isolated and partial, experts say.


Did the U.S. ever decide to not protect Israel at the U.N. or other international bodies? The quote suggests it often did so, but not every time, so I am wondering what would be those instances where the U.S. didn't do anything to protect Israel.

  • 3
    What do you mean by "protect", which is rather vague? Are you looking for an occasion the US voted against Israel or abstained on a vote regarding Israel, in the Security Council or General Assembly?
    – Stuart F
    Nov 8, 2023 at 15:09
  • Not all US cover for Israel at the UN is the same. If the US vetoes a condemnation of illegal settlements in the West Bank that is one thing. For example, them not doing so in the Obama example given in Fizz's answer means not gratuitously backing Israel in every bit of excess. For matters of actual Israeli security, like now, a ceasefire (not humanitarian pauses or a blockade lift), while popular would essentially leave Hamas in power and allow them to redo this all over again. A much worthier reason for US veto - tho on a very deadly subject - than most of their instinctive cover for I. Nov 8, 2023 at 16:58

3 Answers 3


The first instance to spring to mind is during the Suez Crisis, when the US intervened against the French-British-Israeli coalition, and even authored UNGA Resolution 997, which called for an immediate ceasefire, a withdrawal of all forces, and for the parties to desist from raids across armistice lines.

The resolution passed 64-5 (the other two votes against, in addition to France, Britain and Israel, were Australia and New Zealand). The US also supported other UN resolutions during the crisis, in opposition to the position of Israel, and President Eisenhower exerted pressure along with the Soviet Union which led to a withdrawal from Egypt.

  • 5
    Thats the first one I thought of. But, geez, nearly 70 years ago? And that is before the strong US alignment with Israel, which dates back to the 1973 war, so is not, in essence, comparable to the US as it currently operates wrt Israel. Nov 8, 2023 at 16:51
  • Do we know why Australia and New Zealand voted against?
    – Qwokker
    Nov 8, 2023 at 17:27
  • 5
    @Qwokker I suspect that it was their alignment with the UK, which was somewhat stronger then than now. Nov 9, 2023 at 0:24
  • 1
    Interesting that none of the CFA countries supported France.
    – tgdavies
    Nov 10, 2023 at 3:50

Also Obama (who though his tenure didn't exactly get along with Netanyahu) allowed UNSC 2334 resolution to pass as a parting shot, at the end of his mandate.

High pressures were exerted to avoid the vote. On 22 December, United States President-elect Donald Trump called on Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to withdraw the proposal, and Egypt withdrew the nomination after what its ambassador called an "intense pressure". Then on 23 December, the draft was taken up and proposed again by Malaysia, New Zealand, Senegal and Venezuela. Israel unsuccessfully pressured New Zealand to withdraw its support, with Netanyahu telling Foreign Minister Murray McCully that support for the proposal would be considered by Israel as a "declaration of war". Britain encouraged New Zealand to keep pushing for a vote. Following a telephone conversation between Netanyahu and Vladimir Putin, the Russian ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin requested that the vote be postponed until after Christmas. His proposal failed to gain any support.

The resolution was passed 14 to 0; all members voted for the resolution except for the United States, which abstained. The United States ambassador, Samantha Power, explained the abstention by saying that on one hand the United Nations often unfairly targets Israel, that there are important issues unaddressed by the resolution, and that the US did not agree with every word in the text; while on the other hand the resolution reflects facts on the ground, that it reaffirms the consensus that the settlement activity is not legal, and that the settlement activity has gotten "so much worse" as to endanger the viability of the two-state solution.

Media and observers contrasted the US decision to abstain with its long-standing tradition of vetoing resolutions targeting Israel over the issues of settlements.

Something more weird happened in Carter's time. A similar resolution passed, but the US then said it voted "incorrectly".

March 4, 1980

President Carter said last night that, because of a foulup, the United States incorrectly voted Saturday for a United Nations resolution calling on Israel to dismantle its settlements in occupied Arab territories.

The error, he said, centered not on the resolution's main thrust regarding the settlements but on its references to the status of Jerusalem.

In a statement issued last night by the White House, the president said the United States should have abstained during the U.N. Security Council vote, but did not because of a mistake in transmitting his instructions clearly to U.N. Ambassador Donald F. McHenry.

OTOH back then, the overall US position in terms on UN actions was a bit different

The United States abstained on two similar votes in the Security Council last year.

The United States has long opposed the establishment of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza. But it has taken a much more ambivalent position toward East Jerusalem, asserting that the city should be considered indivisible.


Israel is the US ally in the Middle East, and its support for Israel mostly has to do with promoting US interests, rather than upholding this or that moral position vis-à-vis Israel and Palestinians (although political moves are always presented as moral ones to the public, and it has been so since the birth of humanity.)

It is necessary to note that the US has not always been the Israeli ally. Indeed, although the US was among the countries that readily recognized Israel's declaration of independence in 1948, so did the USSR. It is likely that both super-powers expected Israel to become their client state, and both were quickly disappointed, imposing embargoes on arms supplies. Thus, up till the 1960s Israel's main backers were Britain and France. The Suez Crisis (1956) mentioned in the answer by @CDJB occurred in this period.

Only when it became clear that Israel was likely to survive in the long run, did the US adopt pro-Israeli stance - this resulted in cooling of the relationships between Israel and its previous backers, while the USSR threw its full support behind the Arab states opposed to Israel (notably Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq - although the former two would later switch to the American side.)

Still, during the Six-Day War (1967) the relationships were still not so warm - the poor communication between the US and Israeli Navy is cited as one of the causes of the USS Liberty Incident.

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