The resolution passed by Council members calls for an immediate, durable and fully respected cease-fire leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza. The U.S. did not vote against, which would have had the effect of a veto.
The abstention was the surprise of the evening, as the U.S. had negotiated tirelessly with Great Britain and France for a resolution that would support Israel's security interests and bring a negotiated cease-fire to Gaza. But it was apparent from Rice's comments that the U.S. did not want to have to commit to an immediate cease-fire, unless Hamas agreed to it as well.
The U.N. passing a resolution calling for a cease-fire does not guarantee that either Hamas or Israel will respect it, but the vote does mean Arab League countries and the U.K. and France — which negotiated the deal — have agreed on the design for a truce.
For the Bush administration, the U.N. vote was a legacy issue. Rice brokered the Middle East deal four years ago and the administration had an interest in leaving President-elect Barack Obama with a possible resolution to the crisis in Gaza.
Rice said the U.S. abstained – knowing the resolution would pass – because Washington wanted to see the results of on-going Egyptian mediation efforts, presumably meaning that Washington wants to wait and see if Hamas can be brought onboard a cease-fire agreement. Earlier in the day, Hamas officials rejected the current Cairo proposal.
In addition to the cease-fire, the Security Council resolution calls for the unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, the re-opening of border crossings, and a crackdown on arms smuggling to Hamas.
On the political front, the resolution applauds the Egyptian initiative to bring Israel, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to negotiations, encourages the reconciliation of Palestinian factions, and supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – an addition important to the Arab League.
The resolution passed, however, on the same day that the U.N. halted all deliveries of aid to Gaza after gunfire from an Israeli tank killed a relief worker.