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U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley is calling on the General Assembly to condemn Hamas. (AP)
UNITED NATIONS – U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley was set for a showdown Thursday over a historic U.S.-led bid to have the world body formally condemn Hamas for its terrorist activities against Israel — a fight that, if successful, would go down as a signature achievement for the departing ambassador.
The U.S. has been prodding the United Nations to name and condemn Hamas for months, even as the U.N. passes resolution after resolution criticizing and condemning alleged crimes and international law breaches by Israel. Hamas has been in control of Gaza, where roughly 2 million Palestinians live, since 2007 and has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel in recent months.
A draft of the non-binding resolution, seen by Fox News, condemns Hamas for “repeatedly firing rockets into Israel and for inciting violence, thereby putting civilians at risk.” It would also demand that Hamas “and other militant actors, including Palestinian Islamic Jihad,” cease all provocative and violent actions; and condemn Hamas efforts to construct tunnels to infiltrate Israel and launch rockets into civilian areas.
It would be the first condemnation of Hamas by the General Assembly, and Haley is expected to speak at the debate before the vote — which could ultimately be decided by a fight over process and procedure.
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A U.S. official told Fox News Friday they were hopeful the resolution would pass. Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon has also expressed hope that it would pass and told a small group of reporters last week that the Americans had been negotiating the language with European countries in order to pick up their vital support.
But the vote, to be held in the General Assembly Thursday afternoon, could easily fail, particularly as Palestinians and their allies seek to scupper the push at the final turn. Kuwait’s ambassador told reporters Thursday that the Arab Group, of which he is this month’s chairman, will ask for a requirement that two-thirds of members vote in favor for the resolution to pass (it would normally require a simple majority). Such a high bar could doom the resolution.
A U.N. diplomat said that a second pro-Palestinian amendment sponsored by Ireland could be brought to the chamber as part of an attempt by the European Union to reach an overall solution to provide “balance” and ensure countries can vote for both resolutions. That resolution would call for a “just and lasting peace in the Middle East” and include a call for “an end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967…”
The struggle to muster the votes itself fuels the U.S. and Israel’s argument that the body is uniquely anti-Israel as it struggles to condemn a terrorist group by name, while regularly passing resolutions that criticize Israel. The U.S. has made the argument that the U.N. is biased against Israel for years, but has intensified that argument during the Trump administration.
Should the resolution pass, it would mark a final major achievement for Haley, who departs from her role as U.N. ambassador in January and has made calling out anti-Israel bias one of the central features of her time at the U.N. President Trump is yet to name a successor for Haley.
Haley was the central player in rallying support for the measure, with a U.S. official saying that the U.S. Mission had coordinated closely with the National Security Council, the White House and State Department.
Haley wrote to ambassadors this week urging them to vote for the resolution, noting that every year the General Assembly adopts more than a dozen resolutions on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, but “not one of these resolutions ever mentions Hamas or other militant groups in Gaza.”
In the letter, seen by Fox News, she warned of potential attempts to disrupt the resolution with amendments by other countries, and urges members to vote against any amendments “or other efforts to undermine adoption of the text.”
Danon agreed with Haley’s emphasis on the importance of the resolution, and noted efforts by Hamas to convince member states to vote against the U.S. measure. Hamas had written to the president of the General Assembly, calling on the countries to “stand by international legitimacy in support for the right of peoples to defend themselves and thwart these aggressive American endeavors.”
“How dare Hamas, a terrorist organization, send a letter to the U.N.?” Danon told reporters Tuesday. “It’s a terrorist organization, it should be condemned on Thursday and I believe we will receive a majority of member states supporting this moral resolution.”
The U.S. has been aggressive in its push to change the status quo at the U.N. It has yanked its $360 million-a-year funding to the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA), has defended its decision to declare Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel and has also pulled out of the U.N. Human Rights Council — in part due to the anti-Israel bias the U.S. says is present at the body.
In turn, pro-Palestinian countries have amped up their push to promote the Palestinian cause. The G77 — a bloc of 134 developing countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Cuba, China and Venezuela — have elevated “Palestine” to its leadership, raising the possibility that Palestinians may soon push to be recognized as an independent member state, something that would almost certainly be vetoed by the U.S.
Last month, the General Assembly — as part of a raft of anti-Israel resolutions — condemned the alleged “occupation” of the Golan Heights. The U.S. voted against the move, a change from its decision to abstain in 2017.
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