Israel cancels White House visit after UN Security Council passes resolution on Gaza ceasefire

25 March 2024, 19:08 | Updated: 25 March 2024, 21:07

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu labelled the move a "major shift" in US policy
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu labelled the move a "major shift" in US policy. Picture: Getty/Alamy
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Israel has cancelled a visit to the White House after the US did not stop the UN Security Council from passing a resolution which calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

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The US previously vetoed motions calling for the measure, which also calls for the release of Israeli hostages.

The White House has said the move does not mark a shift in US policy, though the Israeli government has still cancelled a visit to the States this week.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today the move marked a a "clear retreat" from the previous US position.

Meanwhile, the US has said it is "very disappointed" by the cancelled visit but added that a separate visit by Israel's defence minister will go ahead.

Meanwhile, the UK also backed the call for a ceasefire in Gaza during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, United States Ambassador and Representative to the United Nations, speaks after a vote to abstain as the United Nations Security Council passed a cease-fire resolution in Gaza
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, United States Ambassador and Representative to the United Nations, speaks after a vote to abstain as the United Nations Security Council passed a cease-fire resolution in Gaza. Picture: Alamy

Downing Street said the UNSC resolution sent a clear message that the hostages held by Hamas should be released and aid should allowed in to Gaza.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said Israel had a right to defend itself but too many Palestinian lives were being lost, with a "clear and present risk" of a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.

It is hoped a pause in the fighting could lead to a sustainable ceasefire, with the UK saying a lasting peace would mean Hamas being ousted from power in Gaza and not being in a position to launch attacks against Israel.

The Prime Minister's spokesman told reporters: "We have long called for an immediate humanitarian pause or temporary ceasefire leading to a sustainable ceasefire, which is what this resolution calls for.

"And that is why the UK voted in favour of it.

"We of course recognise that Israel continues to deal with the aftermath of the brutal attacks on October 7 and innocent hostages continue to be held by Hamas.

"Israel has a right to defend itself and ensure that such an attack can never happen again."

Husam Zomlot asked if Hamas will ever 'not exist as an institution'

But "far too many" Palestinians had been killed "and a humanitarian catastrophe is a clear and present risk".

"This resolution sends a clear message for the need for all hostages to be released and for aid to be scaled up," the spokesman added.

Asked what message the Government would send to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the official said: "We would obviously urge both sides to listen to that and to follow this resolution."

Challenged over whether the UN vote would make any difference, the spokesman said: "We've obviously seen a number of talks in recent weeks and we believe and have previously said that we hope negotiators can reach an agreement on a temporary ceasefire as soon as possible."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Picture: Alamy

Lord Cameron, the Foreign Secretary, said the vote "advanced (the) goal" of reaching a "sustainable ceasefire" and getting hostages out of Gaza and aid into the territory.

In a statement posted on X, he said: "We continue to support Israel in light of the brutal horror of the October 7 attacks and the fact that innocent hostages continue to be held by Hamas in Gaza.

"The humanitarian crisis in Gaza remains severe. We've seen a welcome increase in humanitarian trucks getting in, but more is needed. We will continue to do all we can by air and sea, but the land access remains crucial."

Read More: UN chief calls for Gaza to be 'flooded with aid', calling mass starvation of citizens a 'moral outrage'

Read More: UK 'could cut off arms to Israel in a week', Tory foreign affairs committee chief says, amid fears for civilians

The Foreign Secretary held a wide-ranging foreign policy briefing with Conservative MPs at a meeting of the backbench 1922 Committee following the vote at the UN, which is understood to have largely focused on the conflict in Gaza.

One MP present said Lord Cameron dismissed claims over the weekend that he was considering imposing an arms embargo on Israel if the flow of aid into Gaza did not increase.

But they added that the Foreign Secretary was working as a "close friend" of Israel and, as such, did not want to see the country "in a situation where they are being prosecuted for not letting the aid in".

Mr Netanyahu's immediate response to the UN resolution was to cancel a planned visit to Washington by a high-level delegation in protest.

President Joe Biden
President Joe Biden. Picture: Getty

He accused the US of "retreating" from what he said had been a "principled position" by allowing the vote to pass without linking the ceasefire to the release of the hostages held by Hamas.

Labour said the Government must apply diplomatic pressure to ensure both sides follow the resolution.

Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said: "The UN Security Council's call for an immediate ceasefire, the immediate release of all hostages and full humanitarian access in Gaza could not be more necessary.

"The resolution must now be implemented in full, and the UK Government must play its part in applying diplomatic pressure to make it happen.

"Israel's threatened Israeli ground offensive in Rafah must not go ahead, Hamas must release all the hostages and there must be an immediate ceasefire that is observed by all sides, so aid can reach those in desperate need and avert a famine.

"A ceasefire must create the space for an intense diplomatic process toward a two-state solution to begin, with a safe and secure Israel alongside a viable and independent Palestine, where all can enjoy security, dignity and statehood.

"International efforts to implement this resolution must not fail."

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