U.S. Vetoes U.N. Condemnation of Israel

Two thirds of the UN Security Council voted to condemn Israel’s attack on Gaza as “disproportionate” but the United States exercised its veto power to kill the resolution.

The United States blocked an Arab-backed resolution Thursday that would have demanded Israel halt its military offensive in the
Gaza Strip, the first U.N. Security Council veto in nearly two years. The draft, sponsored by Qatar on behalf of other Arab nations, accused Israel of a “disproportionate use of force” that endangered Palestinian civilians, and demanded Israel withdraw its troops from Gaza. The United States was alone in voting against the resolution. Ten of the 15 Security Council nations voted in favor, while Britain, Denmark, Peru and Slovakia abstained.

The U.S. has periodically used its veto to block resolutions critical of Israel. The last council veto, in October 2004, was cast when the United States blocked a resolution condemning another Israeli operation in Gaza. The draft was reworked repeatedly to address concerns that it was too biased against Israel. Language was added calling for the release of an abducted soldier and urging the Palestinians to stop firing rockets at Israel.

Nonetheless, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said it was still unacceptable because it had been overtaken by events in the region — including the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah militants on Wednesday — and was “unbalanced.” “It placed demands on one side in the Middle East conflict but not the other,” Bolton said. “This draft resolution would have exacerbated tensions in the region.”

This is doubly ironic. First, because a UN condemnation would have had zero impact on the situation. Second, because the Israeli operation is rather obviously “disproportionate.” Countries typically do not launch full scale war because of a kidnapping.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. LJD says:

    We all know U.N. involvement does little to change things on the ground anywhere in the world. However, it does have an effect on the world’s perspective on the matter. Any resolution would have been a slap on the wrist of Israel, and would have sent the message that the U.S. does not stand with them. A multitude of dangerous situations could have evolved from that.

    I think the veto is justified, even if only to assert OUR WILL for a change, and demonstrate OUR power and support for our ally. How many times have we been shot down on legitimate problems, for relatively stupid reasons?

    I don’t think the kidnappings can be seperated from the other acts of war: the incursion, attacks, etc. When you’re surrounded by enemies, you have to act. Has the U.S. acted any differently on the kidnapping of U.S. soldiers in Iraq, surrounded by terrorists?

  2. Matt says:

    Countries typically do not launch full scale war because of a kidnapping.

    Well, no, but there is that whole Archduke Ferdinand thing. And since when has any war in the Middle East been undertaken for rational reasons.

  3. edgardo says:

    “because of a kidnapping”. Please read the news of the past several months.

  4. Fersboo says:

    I second Edgardo James. It seems a little naive to blame Israel’s reaction to ‘a kidnapping’.

  5. Yeah, that kidnapping was the only provocation. The Palestinian authority had been able to shut down all the suicide bombings and rocket attacks. The digging of a tunnel across an international border, sending armed men through the tunnel to attack the soldiers on the other side of the border.

    I mean just look at the ‘kidnapping’ in the north. A missile barrage from across the border, armed troops going across the border killing Israeli soldiers and kidnapping two others.

    It’s clear, just the kidnapping was the only causa belli that exists. Sorry James, I think you wrong on this.

    Did the Israelis send more men, use tanks and planes, etc to counter the attacks across their border? Yes. They are the stronger nation militarily. Does that mean that the attack was ‘disproportionate’? No.

    It would be like arguing that Hiroshima was disproportionate to the pearl harbor attack. It ignores all the other history going on.

  6. Randall says:

    Sometimes, all a guy can say (to the commenters) is, “Hear Hear.”

    The idea that this is some sort of overreaction to an isolated kidnapping event is lucicrous.

    OK, I guess a guy cans say more than, “Hear Hear.”

    A nation cannot – simply cannot – passively accept the “kidnapping” of its soldiers ON ITS TERRITORY, comibined with the constant shelling OF ITS TERRITORY by its neighbors.

  7. henry says:

    “It would be like arguing that Hiroshima was disproportionate to the pearl harbor attack. It ignores all the other history going on.”

    Your argument is a little specious, given the carnage Japan had exacted up to the Hiroshima bombing on CIVILIAN populations around Asia (millions). Israel on the other hand has always had the upper hand, thanks to US technical and monetary support. They have killed more Arabs than the other way around. This is a case of using a sledge hammer when a fly swatter would have been more appropriate.

  8. henry says:


    You can hadly equate the MURDER of a sitting leader with the KIDNAPPING of a foot-soldier. Israel’s attack is simply a way to take the heat off of American forces in regard to Iran. I am all for that, as it is THEIR war anyway. I just have a problem with the US bankrolling the Israeli military. We need to back away from them ASAP.

  9. henry says:

    Not to mention these are not kidnappings, but merely the taking of prisoners of war. I rarely see anyone refer to Israel’s incarceration of Palestinians as KIDNAPPING.

  10. Henry,

    What Hamas and Hezbolah did was an act of war (and not an act of terrorism). The armed intrusion into another country with the intent to kill and capture the soldiers of the other country is an act of war. The rockets being fired into Israel were also acts of war. To say that because Hamas only sent a few men across the border that Israel should also only send a few men or they are disproportionate is the thinking which keeps the left from being trusted with the White House post 9/11.

    Taking the starting military attack and then saying the response is disproportionate can apply to just about any war won by the side that didn’t strike first. The Israelis may have killed more Arabs but that is because the Israelis have been winning their wars. The Arabs got their equipment from Russia. History has shown that that’s not the store to buy from if you want to win.

    Saying that a nation that has endured cross border attacks, rocket attacks, suicide bombings, etc should some how not fight to win (aka should be proportionate in their response) is just not a reasonable position.

    The two H’s have played their card and Israel is trumping it.

  11. henry says:

    Well put John. I just don’t think we have any business supporting Israel with money, guns and know- how. Let them fight their own wars and not bring our formerly good name down with them.