Egypt’s ambassador to the United Nations criticized Israel during a Monday speech to the UN Security Council hours after Jerusalem praised Cairo for mediating a ceasefire with Palestinian Islamic Jihad that ended a three-day escalation in the Gaza Strip.
While Egypt and other Arab countries with ties to the Jewish state still traditionally hold positions critical of Israel at the UN, the rhetoric employed by Ambassador Osama Abdel Khalek seemed to go far beyond what is used publicly by Egyptian officials, particularly in the last years. as ties between Israel and Egypt have heated up even more.
The criticism also came after Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, thanked Egypt and its president, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, “who were essential in restoring calm and stability in our region.” Prime Minister Yair Lapid delivered a similar message to the Egyptian leader when the two spoke on the phone at around the same time the Security Council session was held on Monday.
Abdel Khalek began his speech to an emergency session of the Security Council on the weekend of violence between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad by lamenting the “43 martyrs” killed, making no distinction between PIJ fighters and innocent civilians. He too used an incorrect figure for the death toll, which stood at 46 on Monday afternoon, according to the UN special coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wenessland, speaking to the Egyptian ambassador.
The IDF estimated that 11 of those casualties were innocent civilians caught in the line of fire during its airstrikes against PIJ fighters. Sixteen Palestinians were killed by missed PIJ rocket launches that landed inside Gaza, according to the Israeli military.
Abdel Khalek did not mention PIJ during his speech.
He lambasted Israel for allowing “settlers under the protection of the Israeli police to invade the courtyards of the Haram al-Sharif. [Temple Mount].” Indeed, Israel allowed a record number of more than 2,000 Jews to visit the Temple Mount on Sunday for the Tisha B’Av fast day, but sees such conduct as in line with its commitment to preserving the status quo in the holy place in Jerusalem where Muslims can visit and pray, while non-Muslims can only visit. The police also enforced the policy, detaining several Jewish visitors who violated those terms.
But several of Israel’s Arab neighbors saw things differently, with the UAE representative to the UN also condemning the “incursion of various extremists into the Al-Aqsa Mosque courtyards” during his subsequent speech at the Security Council.
Despite Egypt’s efforts to mediate between Israel and warring parties in Gaza, along with its commitment to help rehabilitate the Gaza Strip, Abdel Khalek insisted that Israel was “fully responsible” for the “occupied” coastal enclave. Israel maintains that it unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and that Hamas is now responsible for the territory.
Since Hamas seized Gaza in a violent coup in 2007, Israel has maintained a blockade on the territory, which it says is necessary to prevent the smuggling of weapons and dual-use materials that Hamas and other terror groups can use in future wars. . Egypt has also maintained a blockade on the territory, but this was not mentioned by Abdel Khalek, who focused on calling on Israel to end the blockade on the Strip.
He also criticized Israel for mass arrests of Palestinians, settlement expansion, home demolitions and the use of live fire against Palestinian protesters.
“Egypt will never abandon its historical responsibilities towards the brotherly Palestinian people and our efforts [to build] a better future that we all hope for when peace, security and stability prevail in the Middle East,” added Abdel Khalek.
The Israeli Mission to the UN refused to respond to the claims of the Egyptian ambassador
Monday’s emergency session was held at the request of China, France, Ireland, Norway and the United Arab Emirates. It was originally scheduled to take place behind closed doors when it was announced on Saturday amid the fighting. Following pressure from the Palestinian UN Mission, China, which currently chairs the body, decided to open Monday’s session to the public.
Focusing more on the latest round of violence in Gaza, US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas Greenfield appeared to deliver the most pro-Israeli speech of any council member.
He expressed his sadness for the lives of civilians lost in the conflict and called for each of them to be investigated. But he clarified that the parties “should refrain from jumping to conclusions until we can determine the facts. As just one example, Israel was originally blamed for a attack which caused civilian casualties in the Jabaliya refugee camp. It now appears to have been caused by a Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket. So let’s make sure we follow the facts and see where they take us.”
Thomas-Greenfield endorsed Israel’s right to respond to PIJ threats and rocket fire while promoting a favorite Biden administration talking point that “Israelis and Palestinians alike deserve to live in safety and security.” .
He highlighted that PIJ was a US-designated terrorist group as well as an Iranian proxy that has long targeted civilians. “It is telling that the leaders of Palestinian Islamic Jihad have been in Tehran in recent days while the people they claim to protect have been left in danger,” the US envoy said.
Thomas-Greenfield also revealed that PIJ stopped the ceasefire agreement by “cruelly prolonging these hostilities” while Lapid’s “leadership…ultimately averted further casualties and suffering.”
The US ambassador closed by calling for the release of the two Israeli civilians and the two fallen IDF soldiers whose remains have been held by Hamas in Gaza for approximately eight years.
Like Thomas-Greenfield, Wenessland also condemned PIJ’s “incendiary rhetoric” and “indiscriminate” rocket fire at Israel in his speech to the UN. However, she appeared to criticize the IDF response, which contributed to the civilian death count.
“While I fully acknowledge Israel’s legitimate security concerns, I reiterate that under international law, any use of force must be proportionate and take all possible steps to avoid civilian casualties. Children, in particular, should never be subjected to violence or put in harm’s way,” Wennesland said.
In a statement on Friday, the UN envoy expressed deep concern over Israel’s assassination of senior PIJ commander Tayseer Jabari in what kicked off the 66-hour round of violence.
This drew immediate condemnation from Erdan, who again expressed his frustration at Monday’s Security Council session.
The Israeli envoy sought to compare the IDF’s killing of Jabari to the US killing of Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri last month.
“When al-Zawahiri was eliminated, this institution, as well as most of the world, gave its full support… However, when Israel neutralizes such terrorists to prevent an imminent attack on our civilians, UN officials suddenly expressed his “deep concern”. ‘ It is difficult to explain such double standards,” Erdan said furiously.
In a media watch before the Security Council session, Erdan said the IDF aborted an airstrike kill senior PIJ commander Khaled Mansour three times at the last minute upon noticing children in the area.
“Israel carried out this operation with astonishing accuracy and extreme precision, taking precautions rarely seen in conflict areas around the world,” he said.
The statement was flatly rejected by the Palestinian ambassador to the UN, Riyad Mansour. “Israel claims for itself a right to security that would seemingly justify murdering, imprisoning and oppressing an entire nation,” he began.
“How many more times will Israel justify the bombing of our people in Gaza until someone says enough is enough?
Is that enough?” Mansour pleaded.
He called Israel’s decision to launch Operation Dawn “an unprovoked and unjustified aggression” and claimed that the real reason behind it was “the upcoming Israeli elections and the desperation to appeal and appease the extremists.”
Israel maintains that it struck the first blow to prevent the actualization of the specific threats PIJ fighters posed to Israeli civilians near the Gaza border during a four-day period after the IDF stopped the group’s leader in the West Bank, Bassem Al-Saadi, in Jenin last week.
Mansour urged Security Council members to intervene to protect the Palestinians. “The ones who really need your support for their security are these defenseless Palestinian families, not nuclear power,” he said.
The Palestinian ambassador insisted that despite Ramallah’s frustrations with Israel, his hand is still outstretched in peace. He lamented that the same could not be said for Israel, but argued that the Security Council should still “drag the two sides into the peace process today.”