Following the historic American abstention from the UN Security Council resolution calling for an Israel–Hamas ceasefire in Gaza for the duration of Ramadan, the West is waiting to see how the situation develops on the ground. But with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu signaling that a full-scale invasion of Rafah to take out Hamas’s final stronghold will indeed commence, it’s worth examining what makes the United States’s abstention so significant and how it will affect Israel’s war effort, if at all.

The resolution was nonbinding, but the Biden administration’s choice not to veto it signals a pivot in its strategic approach. Previously, the administration had protected Israel from being unfairly targeted in the UN, which has effectively devoted itself to maligning the Jewish state. Since Israel will continue to reject any ceasefires not conditioned on the release of hostages, the only function that the resolution serves is to allow other countries to portray Israel as a rogue actor.

The most damning proof that Biden’s abstention was a colossal moral blunder is that Hamas rushed to praise it. It was also politically foolish and unrealistic: a newly released Harvard-Harris poll found that only 37 percent of Americans favor a ceasefire that would leave Hamas in place and the hostages in its clutches; 63 percent think that a ceasefire should happen only after the release of all hostages and Hamas’s removal from power. In Israel, 82 percent of the public supports an invasion of Rafah, leaving the government with virtually no other option.

The resolution’s passage prompted Netanyahu to cancel a planned delegation to Washington, D.C., that would have discussed the forthcoming Rafah offensive and potential U.S.-proposed alternatives. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller called the cancelation “surprising and unfortunate.” It’s doubtful, though, that the U.S. has concocted any realistic alternatives for Israel. The lack of viable ideas was clearly on display during a press briefing following the Security Council vote, during which Miller stated that the U.S. is advising Israel on ways it can “defeat the remaining Hamas battalions that are operating in Rafah, but without a full-scale invasion.” These are mutually exclusive propositions: as recent developments in Northern Gaza have shown, no alternatives exist to a full-scale military assault that would defeat Hamas.

For over a week, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have been engaging in heated battle with Palestinian terrorists in Gaza’s Shifa Hospital and the areas surrounding it. The terrorists have used the hospital as a base to reorganize, mere months after Israel weeded the terror group out of the compound and left the area unmonitored. The IDF has killed more than 170 terrorists in and around Shifa since the raid began, as well as apprehending 500 additional members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad and seizing weapons, ammunition, and funds earmarked for terrorist activities. According to Israeli security expert Seth Frantzman, “This makes [it] the largest number of terrorists found in one spot since the war began.”

The ongoing Shifa episode is a preview of what would befall all of Gaza if Israel does not carry out its Rafah invasion: Hamas’s remaining battalions would not be destroyed, and no consortium of IDF and international forces would be able to keep terrorism at bay. In the absence of a consistent monitoring presence, Hamas forces would slowly infiltrate the entirety of Gaza and amass more weapons and manpower in the areas abandoned by the IDF. Eventually, Israel would find itself in the same predicament it faced on October 7: confronted with a genocidal terrorist organization at its doorstep, poised to kill as many Israelis as possible.

Israel cannot allow that to happen, no matter what the Security Council decrees.

Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images


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