Israel ridiculing and ignoring US over Gaza, Palestinian ambassador tells UN

Riyad Mansour tells the UN General Assembly that Israel is choosing to ignore its greatest benefactor

Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour holds up a ceasefire sign at the UN on Tuesday. Reuters
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Israel is ridiculing the US by ignoring American calls to reduce the violence in Gaza and increase humanitarian aid, the Palestinian envoy to the UN said on Tuesday.

Speaking to the UN General Assembly as it debated last month's US veto of a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, Riyad Mansour said Israel “does not care” about jeopardising regional and international peace or vital US interests.

“This extremist Israeli government has attacked not only the UN but also states around the world criticising its actions,” Mr Mansour said.

He said Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “has spared no effort to ridicule its closest ally [the US], the one it calls on for military, political and financial support and ignores when it does not like what it is asking for”, warning that no one should accept to play by his playbook.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Israel on Tuesday, where he was expected to pressure officials to de-escalate tensions in Gaza and southern Lebanon, as fears mount that the Middle East is on the brink of a wider regional war.

The US has repeatedly called for Israel to do more to avoid civilian casualties and get more aid into Gaza, but critics say actions on the ground show that Israel is ignoring Washington. President Joe Biden said in December that Israel is losing international support due to its “indiscriminate bombing” of Gaza, even though the US continues to flow munitions to its ally.

Since the October 7 Hamas attacks that killed about 1,200 people in Israel and led Israel to declare war against the militant group, Israel has killed more than 23,000 people in the Gaza Strip.

The US representative, deputy ambassador Robert Wood, told the General Assembly that as Israel moves towards a lower intensity phase of its military operation in the north, Washington believes the UN must play a crucial role to play in ensuring displaced Palestinians can return home and in delivering and distributing lifesaving assistance to people in Gaza.

"To that end, we welcome the Secretary-General’s prompt appointment of Sigrid Kaag to the important role of UN Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator...and we expect that every country in the region will support her efforts to streamline and accelerate the delivery of assistance," he added.

Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, stressed his country's opposition to a ceasefire and instead focused on returning the remaining hostages being held in Gaza for nearly 100 days.

He also demanded that the UN recognise the acts of rape and sexual violence committed by Hamas.

On Monday, two UN experts demanded accountability for sexual violence against Israeli civilians during the October 7 Hamas attacks, saying that mounting evidence of rapes and genital mutilation point to possible crimes against humanity.

Israeli authorities have opened an investigation into possible sexual crimes.

“The growing body of evidence about reported sexual violence is particularly harrowing,” the experts said.

Mr Erdan also spoke about the proceedings that will take place this week at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague.

The ICJ, also called the World Court, is the highest UN legal body, and was established in 1945 to deal with disputes between states.

“The UN has become the epitome of dystopian reality. And South Africa's baseless and libellous cases at the ICJ prove this exactly,” he said.

“How can it be remembered that the Convention on the Prevention of genocide adopted following the Holocaust – the genocide of the Jewish people – is now being weaponised against the Jewish state?”

Both South Africa and Israel are signatories to the 1948 Genocide Convention which gives the ICJ the jurisdiction to rule on disputes over the treaty.

The treaty defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.

As a sign of the growing division among Jews over the war, during the morning session at the General Assembly, dozens of rabbis and rabbinical students from US organisations occupied the balcony inside the UN Security Council Chambers to demand Washington stops vetoing UN actions on Gaza and call for an immediate ceasefire.

The protesters carried banners that read "Biden: the world says ceasefire" and "Biden: Stop vetoing peace."

“We are calling for a ceasefire resolution that includes lifting of Israel’s siege to ensure immediate and unimpeded access to sufficient food, water, medicine, and fuel for the 2.3 million Palestinians in the occupied and besieged Gaza Strip; and a full hostage exchange,” said Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari.

Updated: January 10, 2024, 9:33 AM