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U.S. Vetoes U.N. Gaza Ceasefire Again as Biden Veers Far from Global Consensus, Death Toll Tops 18,000

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To discuss the shocking United States veto of a U.N. Security Council resolution requesting a Gaza ceasefire, we’re joined by Shibley Telhami, who says President Biden’s refusal to engage with popular calls for ceasefire is a shocking “personal decision” that will have negative consequences for U.S. foreign policy and “American standing” around the world. Members of the Israeli government clearly want “more than self-defense,” adds Telhami, and have created human rights needs in Gaza “so massive that you need a ceasefire to deal with that.” Telhami is professor of peace and development at the University of Maryland.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we turn now to look at how the Biden administration is facing widespread condemnation around the world for vetoing a U.N. Security Council resolution Friday calling for a Gaza ceasefire. The Palestinian U.N. envoy, Riyad Mansour, criticized the U.S. veto.

RIYAD MANSOUR: It is disastrous that the Security Council was again prevented from rising to this moment to uphold its clear responsibilities in the face of this grave crisis threatening human lives and threatening regional and international peace and security.

AMY GOODMAN: The U.S. Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Robert Wood defended the U.S. decision to veto the ceasefire resolution.

ROBERT WOOD: The United States engaged in good faith on this text. We proposed language with an eye toward a constructive resolution that would have reinforced the life-saving diplomacy we have undertaken since October 7, increased opportunities for humanitarian aid to enter Gaza, encouraged the release of hostages and the resumption of humanitarian pauses, and laid a foundation for a durable peace. Unfortunately, nearly all of our recommendations were ignored. And the result of this rush process was an imbalanced resolution that was divorced from reality, that would not move the needle forward on the ground in any concrete way. And so we regretfully could not support it.

AMY GOODMAN: The United Nations General Assembly will hold an emergency session on a Gaza ceasefire Tuesday.

To talk more about the U.S. veto of the U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, we’re joined by Shibley Telhami, professor of peace and development, University of Maryland, also senior fellow at the Center for Middle East Policy. He’s co-editor of the book The One State Reality: What Is Israel/Palestine?

Professor Telhami, thanks for rejoining us. Talk about the significance and the reaction to the U.S. veto of the Gaza ceasefire resolution.

SHIBLEY TELHAMI: Well, it’s an extraordinary act. I mean, think about it this way. Whatever the representative of the U.S. says, there were 13 members, including pro-U.S. members, like France, who voted for the resolution. Only one other country did not vote for it. It abstained. That’s the U.K., sticking with U.S. So, think about that. This is the U.S. trying to take a leadership role globally on many issues, including Ukraine, and it goes against a global consensus on an issue that is humanitarian.

This resolution didn’t call for an end to the fighting and a ceasefire that ends the fighting. It called for a humanitarian ceasefire. Every internatonial human rights organization and aid organization — I talked to two heads of aid organizations just last week. They said it’s impossible to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza without a ceasefire. You can’t just trickle it in. The needs are so massive that you need a ceasefire to deal with that.

If you look at it also from the point of view, even American, of public opinion, you have a majority of Americans, according to polls, who support a ceasefire. You have, from the president’s point of view, two-thirds of Democrats who do not approve of the Israeli military action in Gaza. And it’s not just Democrats. You have, essentially, two-thirds of people of color, as Gallup polls them, including African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans. You have a majority, two-thirds, of young people of all types, not just Democrats, who disapprove the operations. You have a majority of women. Essentially, every major constituency of the Democratic Party, the president’s Democratic Party, who wants this. And the president goes against it in the international community. Think about what that does to America’s standing in the world, let alone, obviously, to continuation of the death and destruction in Gaza.

And I want to say here that it is the puzzle for me, as somebody who has known the president before he became president, as somebody who’s been watching — and I’m a realist in terms of how politics take place — I’m still shocked by the degree to which this decision that has been taken vis-à-vis this particular crisis after October 7 has been a personal decision by the president of United States. It was really acting on his preferences, his beliefs, rather, it seems to me, than the consequences for American foreign policy and for America’s national interest, which have been huge from the beginning.

It could have been anticipated that his massive support and even the backing of this vague idea of destroying Hamas was going to lead inevitably to mass destruction in Gaza, and it was going to, therefore, also bring possible blowback on the U.S., because the U.S. now is seen as a sponsor of this war, as a party to this war. There’s a danger of blowback that would be unfortunate, devastating across much of the Arab and Muslim world that we see now. There’s also, of course, the chance of escalation that we see in Lebanon, and perhaps even bringing Iran in, in a way that would be hugely detrimental to American interests and draw the U.S. in.

And the idea that you give — you know, you support Israel’s right to self-defense, of course. Israel has a right to defend itself. Every country does. But to give that government to define what is right of self-defense, when you know there are members of this government who want a lot more than self-defense, including things that are at odds with American interests, that are at odds with American values, and to give them license to do so, including the possibility of drawing the U.S. into war with Iran, that’s the thing that seems to be shocking to me as an analyst viewing this episode in American foreign policy.

AMY GOODMAN: Shibley Telhami, we want to thank you so much for spending this time with us, professor of peace and development at the University of Maryland, senior fellow at the Center for Middle East Policy.

Next up, we speak to a doctor in Gaza. Stay with us.

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