The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) this week finally managed to pass a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, raising hopes momentarily of an end to the genocidal atrocities that people around the world have been witnessing for almost six months now. It came after five earlier draft resolutions were vetoed - four earlier ones by the United States, and one just before the one that passed that was vetoed by Russia and China.

During this time, the Security Council, which has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security as one of the UN's six principal organs, has come in for severe criticism as a dysfunctional body that is failing its mandate. To the point that many were of a mind to give up on them altogether. So it came as a surprise to many, when the news broke on Monday (Mar. 25) that the United States, instead of exercising its veto power, had abstained from voting on the sixth such resolution, which was proposed by the 10 non-permanent, elected members of the council. The four remaining permanent members (Russia, China, France and the UK) duly voted with them, as the resolution passed 14-0.

The resolution calls for an "immediate ceasefire for the month of Ramadan respected by all parties leading to a lasting, sustainable ceasefire". It additionally calls for the release of the Israeli captives taken by Hamas on October 7. It emphasises the need for more humanitarian aid flowing into Gaza and on adherence to international law.

Although the document says that the immediate ceasefire in Ramadan should then lead to a lasting and sustainable ceasefire, it emerged later that shortly before the vote on Monday, the word "permanent" was dropped from the resolution on the insistence of the US. Russia had tried to push for the use of the word "permanent," arguing that not using the word could allow Israel "to resume its military operation in the Gaza Strip at any moment" after Ramadan.

Nevertheless, the US abstention did raise eyebrows, and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reacted by cancelling a scheduled trip to the US by two of his top advisers. But despite everything, realistically speaking we are not actually likely to see the residents of Gaza get some much-needed relief, even for some portion of Ramadan. Israel has a long record of getting away with flouting UN resolutions, binding or otherwise. Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz was the first to make his country's intentions clear in this instance, saying on X that they would not abide by the resolution. Notably, Netanyahu's government still plans to push ahead with its planned military offensive in Gaza's southern city of Rafah.

And while the US abstention in this case was a positive development, we should not overlook the fact that Washington has not halted the supply of military aid to Israel and has insisted that its commitment to Israel's security remains firm. The Biden administration has been calling on Israel to explain how it will protect the 1.4 million Palestinians seeking refuge in Rafah ahead of the expected incursion there (the Israeli delegation's visit that got cancelled was meant to discuss this). The likelihood that President Biden may adopt a less attached position in the weeks ahead as that offensive unfolds, with an eye on his November election, cannot be counted out. But as far as the people of Gaza are concerned, this resolution is far from any guarantee that better days are ahead.

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