U.N. Security Council Deeply Divided Over How To Stop Violence In Gaza

May 15, 2018
Originally published on May 16, 2018 12:24 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

There was a moment of silence today at the U.N. Security Council. It was for the approximately 60 Palestinians killed by Israeli troops in protests along the Gaza-Israel border. The U.N. Security Council remains deeply divided over how to tamp down this violence. Most nations there criticize Israel for using disproportionate force against the protesters. As NPR's Michele Kelemen reports, the U.S. says anger should be aimed at Hamas, the militant group that has controlled Gaza for the past decade.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley says she believes the council should spend more time talking about Iran's misbehavior in the region rather than singling out Israel, which she argues is acting with restraint.

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NIKKI HALEY: In recent days Hamas terrorists backed by Iran have incited attacks against Israeli security forces and infrastructure.

KELEMEN: She says Hamas has been encouraging Palestinians in Gaza to try to breach the border fence with Israel.

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HALEY: Who among us would accept this type of activity on your border? No one would. No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has. In fact, the records of several countries here today suggest they would be much less restrained.

KELEMEN: Haley seemed to be suggesting Russia and China, though she didn't spell that out. And most of her counterparts on the Security Council raised concerns about the Israeli response. British Ambassador Karen Pierce questioned why Israel used so much live fire, and she expressed shock at the high death toll.

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KAREN PIERCE: It is a familiar, depressingly familiar pattern that we have seen over recent weeks. And it includes the deaths of children. At a highly sensitive time in the region we call for calm, and we call for restraint.

KELEMEN: The U.N. special envoy Nikolay Mladenov says that means both sides. Hamas should not use protests as cover to try to place bombs at the border fence, he told the Security Council via video link. But Israel, too, has to calibrate its response.

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NIKOLAY MLADENOV: It must protect its borders, but it must do so proportionally and investigate every incident that has led to a loss of human life.

KELEMEN: The Trump administration blocked a U.N. statement that would have called for an independent investigation. The Palestinian ambassador Riyad Mansour accuses the U.S. of helping Israel act as if it's above the law.

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RIYAD MANSOUR: It is outrageous to have in one day 61 Palestinian civilians killed, including eight children, and yet the Security Council to continue to be paralyzed.

KELEMEN: There was also a lot of concern expressed in the council chambers about President Trump's decision to open the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, recognizing it as Israel's capital. Israel's ambassador, Danny Danon, says Palestinians are just using that as an excuse to riot.

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DANNY DANON: The excuse of the embassy is just the latest in the series of Palestinian excuses for violence against Israel.

KELEMEN: Ambassador Haley was also defending the move.

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HALEY: There is no plausible peace agreement under which Jerusalem would no longer remain the capital of Israel. Recognizing this reality makes peace more achievable, not less.

KELEMEN: Palestinians are seeking East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state. Haley says the boundaries of the city are still up for negotiation. But at the moment there are no peace talks. And European diplomats on the Security Council are worried about that, especially in the midst of what they call a sharp escalation of violence. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.