Former ministers attack Britain’s decision to abstain on UN Palestine vote

Aftermath of an Israeli airstrike in northern Gaza - JACK GUEZ/AFP

Robert Jenrick has warned that Britain must stand by Israel as he criticised the “disappointing” decision to abstain in a UN vote calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

The UK chose not to join the US in voting against a Security Council resolution, submitted by the United Arab Emirates, to halt fighting in Gaza.

On Saturday, Mr Jenrick, who quit his role as immigration minister last week, tweeted: “Disappointing that the UK abstained on this resolution at the UN last night.

”Allies matter. The fight against Hamas and terrorism matters. We should stand with Israel.”

Suella Braverman, the former home secretary, also criticised the decision and described the UN resolution as “hypocritical”.

She said: “Thank you USA for supporting Israel’s right to defend herself. The UK’s abstention was very disappointing.”

The UN Security Council voted on a ceasefire after Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, triggered the rarely-used Article 99 to bring the humanitarian situation in Gaza to the council’s attention.

The vote had been delayed by several hours to give Arab leaders more time to try to persuade the United States, which holds a veto, to abstain.

But Robert Wood, the US deputy ambassador to the UN, warned: “The undeniable reality is if Israel laid down its arms today, Hamas would continue to hold hostages.

“That is not a threat that any of our governments would continue to allow.”

On Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he appreciated the US’s veto.

“Other countries must also understand that it’s impossible to support the elimination of Hamas on one side, and on the other to call for the end of the war, which will prevent the elimination of Hamas,” Mr Netanyahu said.

“Therefore Israel will continue our just war to eliminate Hamas and achieve the war’s other objectives that we set.”

Hamas condemned the US decision to veto the motion, describing it as “unethical and inhumane”.

Ezzat El-Reshiq, a member of the group’s political bureau, said: “The US obstruction of the ceasefire resolution is a direct participation with the occupation in killing our people and committing more massacres and ethnic cleansing.,”

Robert Jenrick criticised decision to abstain on UN vote
Robert Jenrick criticised decision to abstain on UN vote - HENRY NICHOLLS/AFP

In a statement, the UK’s mission to the UN set out its objections to the resolution but failed to explain why it chose to abstain rather than vote against.

The statement said: “We are gravely concerned about the desperate situation in Gaza. The scale of civilian deaths and displacement in Gaza cannot continue.

“We welcomed the extended humanitarian pause last month and the release of hostages and humanitarian aid deliveries that took place during it. We call for further and longer pauses to get aid to Palestinians and allow space for further hostage releases.

“But we cannot vote in favour of a resolution which does not condemn the atrocities Hamas committed against innocent Israeli civilians on the 7th of October. Calling for a ceasefire ignores the fact that Hamas has committed acts of terror and is still holding civilians hostage.

“Israel needs to be able to address the threat posed by Hamas and it needs to do so in a manner that abides by international humanitarian law, so that such an attack can never be carried out again. And so that we can work meaningfully towards a two-state solution, which delivers statehood for the Palestinians, security for Israel, and peace for people on both sides.

“That’s why we abstained on this resolution.”

After the vote, the United Arab Emirates deputy ambassador Mohamed Abushahab claimed that the Security Council was growing isolated and “appears untethered” from its mandate to ensure international peace and security.