Middle East Crisis : U.S. Prepares U.N. Resolution Supporting Temporary Cease-Fire, With Conditions

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Palestinian emergency service workers looking for survivors after an Israeli strike on a residential building in Rafah, in southern Gaza, on Monday.Credit…Hatem Ali/Associated Press

The United States is negotiating a U.N. Security Council resolution that proposes a temporary cease-fire “as soon as practicable” and warns Israel against invading an area of southern Gaza that many people have fled to, according to a copy of the draft obtained by The New York Times.

The draft resolution will be competing with one that Algeria is expected to present to the Security Council on Tuesday that calls for an immediate cease-fire.

Until now, the United States alone has publicly and consistently rejected demands for an outright cease-fire in U.N. resolutions on the war in Gaza, siding with Israel in its war against Hamas. This week, the United States said it would veto Algeria’s draft resolution.

Though it comes with several caveats, the word “cease-fire” does appear in the U.S. draft resolution, reflecting President Biden’s shift toward criticism of Israel’s prosecution of the war and of its planned offensive into the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

Israel asserts that Rafah is one of the remaining strongholds of Hamas’s military arm. The draft resolution says that an invasion of Rafah “would have serious implications for regional peace and security” and should not take place “under current circumstances.” More than half of Gaza’s civilian population has been forced to move to the city because of the war, and most are crowded into temporary shelters and tent camps.

The draft says that a major ground offensive into Rafah would not only harm civilians, but could also displace them into neighboring countries. Egypt, which borders Rafah, has refused to let Palestinians flee into its territory, fearing that an influx of refugees would pose a security risk.

In the draft resolution, the United States’ support for a temporary cease-fire comes with conditions, including successful negotiations to release all hostages and the lifting of all barriers to the distribution of humanitarian assistance in Gaza.

On Sunday, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said that the United States would veto Algeria’s draft resolution, arguing that it would jeopardize continuing negotiations on a deal to return Israeli hostages held in Gaza in exchange for a pause in the fighting.

Talks for such a deal in Cairo last week among officials from several countries including Israel and the United States failed to reach a breakthrough. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel withdrew his negotiators and blamed Hamas for refusing to budge on what he called “ludicrous” demands.

On Tuesday, Hamas said that the group’s political leader, Ismail Haniyeh, was leading a delegation in Cairo for discussions with Egyptian officials about efforts to end the war.

The draft is the United States’ vision for what the Security Council could do to improve the situation on the ground in Gaza, said one U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss negotiations.

The official said that the new draft resolution’s use of the term “cease-fire” was a first for the United States, and that it was in line with the current efforts by the Biden administration to negotiate a deal.

The United States is the only member of the Security Council to have twice voted against resolutions calling for a cease-fire. Such resolutions are legally binding on members of the United Nations, though countries sometimes ignore them. The Council has no enforcement mechanism but can penalize violators with sanctions.

The United States abstained on a resolution that passed in late December, which called for “extended humanitarian pauses” but not for a permanent cessation of hostilities.

The Security Council was scheduled to vote on the Algerian resolution on Tuesday morning, but the timing could be delayed by further negotiations. The U.S. official said U.S. proposal was still in the early stages of negotiations with other Council members.

Rawan Sheikh Ahmad and Cassandra Vinograd contributed reporting.

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The Brazilian ambassador to Israel, Frederico Meyer, foreground right, with Israel’s foreign minister, Israel Katz, at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, on Monday.Credit…Ahmad Gharabli/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil recalled his ambassador to Israel on Monday, as tensions escalated between the countries over the Brazilian leader’s sharp remarks against Israel’s war on Hamas.

Mr. Lula summoned the ambassador, Frederico Meyer, back to Brazil “for consultations,” according to a statement from the country’s foreign ministry.

Israel’s foreign minister, Israel Katz, reprimanded Mr. Meyer on Monday about comments in which Mr. Lula compared Israel’s actions in the war to the Holocaust.

“What is happening in the Gaza Strip with the Palestinian people has no parallel in other historical moments,” Mr. Lula told reporters during the 37th African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, on Sunday. But, he then added, “it did exist when Hitler decided to kill the Jews.”

Also on Monday, Mr. Katz said Mr. Lula was not welcome in the country until he takes back his remarks.

Citing “the seriousness” of statements made by Israeli officials, Brazil’s foreign minister, Mauro Vieira, also summoned the Israeli ambassador for a meeting in Rio de Janeiro on Monday, according to the statement.

Mr. Lula’s recall of his envoy does not represent a permanent rupture in diplomatic relations, as Brazil’s Embassy in Israel will remain open. But the discord does highlight a growing rift between Israel and countries that have been reluctant to align themselves in support of its military action in Gaza, most notably South Africa and Brazil.

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The lack of diapers has led some desperate parents to use plastic bags.CreditCredit…Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

Inside a factory that used to sell wedding gowns, tailors in Rafah, a city in southern Gaza, make diapers out of Covid-19 protective gear. The diapers are a great help to parents who are struggling to keep their babies dry and offer some relief to Gazans short of necessities after months of war.

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Charred ground in the West Bank village of Huwara after a settler rampage last February.Credit…Samar Hazboun for The New York Times

Within weeks of President Biden imposing financial sanctions on Israelis accused of violent assaults in the occupied West Bank, crowdfunding campaigns on behalf of two of the men had collected the equivalent of more than $170,000.

Far-right Israelis pledged the funds in a show of support for the settlers, whose efforts to exert Israeli control over lands in the West Bank have often involved maintaining illegal outposts and assaulting and intimidating Palestinians. But the donations have become the focus of a legal battle after an Israeli credit card company balked at transferring the funds.

Cal, the credit card company processing the donations for Yinon Levi, one of the settlers hit with sanctions, refused to send the money designated for Mr. Levi and stated that it would reimburse those who had donated, according to the nonprofit group that set up the crowdfunding campaign. The group appealed to an Israeli court, arguing that the donations were intended for Mr. Levi’s family, including his three children, and should not be affected by the U.S. restrictions.

Last week, a court in Tel Aviv issued a temporary injunction while it hears arguments in the matter.

The sanctions that the Biden administration announced on Feb. 1 barred four Israelis from the U.S. financial system, and some Israeli banks have enacted restrictions on the men in order to not run afoul of the American measures.

Mr. Levi, whom the U.S. State Department accused of leading settler groups in attacks on Palestinian and Bedouin civilians, told ABC News that he had been unable to access his money in Israel and would struggle to pay workers on his farm. David Chai Chasdai, who the State Department said had led a deadly riot in the Palestinian town of Huwara, told an Israeli television channel that he couldn’t pay his phone bills or his children’s kindergarten fees.

On Feb. 6, a campaign in support of Mr. Levi — who last week was also hit with sanctions by Britain — appeared on the Israeli crowdfunding platform Givechack featuring a photo of him, his wife Sapir Levi and their three children. The campaign portrayed the family as victims of harassment by the Israeli left and emphasized its financial plight since Mr. Levi’s accounts were frozen.

Within 10 days the campaign had raised over 517,000 Israeli shekels ($141,000). Then the nonprofit group that organized it took it down. Reut Gez, the director of the nonprofit, the Mount Hebron Fund, said in an interview that Cal, the Israeli credit card company, “asked us to take down the campaign, and are withholding the funds.” The group filed a lawsuit to get the company to release the money either to it or to a trustee that would manage the funds for the family.

The Mount Hebron Fund was founded in 2015 by the Mount Hebron Regional Council, a state-funded local authority in the West Bank, and is managed by council members and their relatives, according to the Democratic Bloc, a group that monitors the Israeli far right. Ms. Gez said that all the donations for the Levi family had come from Israel.

The campaign to support Mr. Chasdai has raised 114,000 shekels, roughly $31,000, through a separate crowdfunding platform. Those funds have been collected by the nonprofit Shlom Asiraich, which aids Israeli Jewish extremists imprisoned for serious crimes, including murder, largely against Palestinians.

The crowdfunding efforts show that even though most Israelis, according to opinion surveys, oppose settler violence, there is sympathy on the far right for those facing financial penalties. But the sweeping nature of the U.S. sanctions means that financial institutions would be reluctant to participate in efforts to direct money to Mr. Levi or others, experts said.

“The language of the order suggests that anyone who enables or provides funds to sanctioned persons is implicated and risks repercussions themselves,” said Eliav Lieblich, a law professor at Tel Aviv University. “No one wants to mess with the U.S. Treasury.”

Natan Odenheimer reporting from Jerusalem

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Ofer Cassif, an Israeli lawmaker, during the debate over his impeachment in the Knesset on Monday.Credit…Abir Sultan/EPA, via Shutterstock

A far-left Israeli lawmaker, Ofer Cassif, has narrowly avoided being expelled from Parliament after he backed efforts to charge Israel with genocide at the International Court of Justice.

Of Israel’s 120 lawmakers, 85 voted to expel Mr. Cassif — just short of the 90 required to oust a member of the Knesset, as the Parliament is known in Hebrew. Eleven lawmakers voted against the motion, and the remaining did not vote.

Right-wing lawmakers began proceedings against Mr. Cassif, a Jewish member of Hadash, a predominantly Arab political alliance, after he signed an online petition in January that accused Israel of taking “systematic and thorough steps to wipe out the population of Gaza.”

Oded Forer, a right-wing opposition lawmaker, called Mr. Cassif’s efforts “treasonous,” accusing him of endangering Israel’s security and of backing Hamas’s attacks on Israel. Mr. Forer then led efforts to expel Mr. Cassif through a law enacted in 2016 — and never previously enforced — that allows for the impeachment of lawmakers who back “armed struggle” against Israel.

Mr. Cassif was suspended from Parliament in October for 45 days after criticizing the government’s conduct of the war.

Though he survived permanent expulsion on Monday, supporters had said the effort to oust him had already highlighted the shrinking space for dissent in wartime Israel.

“The attempt to oust him is simply political persecution,” Haaretz, the main left-leaning newspaper in Israel, said in an editorial published the day before the vote. The editorial also called the effort “an antidemocratic act meant to serve as a precedent for ousting all of the Knesset’s Arab lawmakers.”

Several prominent Arab Israeli politicians were detained by the police for several hours in November as they prepared to hold a rally to protest Israel’s campaign in Gaza.

Johnatan Reiss and Gabby Sobelman contributed reporting.

Patrick Kingsley reporting from Jerusalem

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