“This is the day of truth. Everyone has to take their responsibilities. History will judge us all,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned at the debate on a resolution on the war in Gaza. 121 members of the General Assembly understood the need for urgent action – they voted to call for an immediate and sustainable humanitarian ceasefire, the protection of the civilian population and the release of the hostages.
Bulgaria and another 43 countries chose to abstain, and another 14, led by the USA and Israel, declared against. Chancellor Olaf Scholz tried to explain why Germany passed: The text ignores the terrorist aggression of Hamas, and we support Israel’s right to defend its security.
A motion to specifically condemn Hamas was tabled by Canada, but Pakistan countered: “Israel should also be named if you want to be honest and fair. We all know who started this – 50 years of Israeli occupation and killing of Palestinians with impunity.” The Canadian amendment received only 85 votes to 55, and a two-thirds majority passed Jordan’s principled text without mentioning the warring parties.
The EU split as France, Spain, Belgium, Ireland, Portugal, Slovenia, Luxembourg and Malta voted “for”, and Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary voted against. The US prefers humanitarian pauses to a ceasefire. Israel defines the resolution as a shame and disgrace because it does not condemn Hamas. Their ultimate recommendation for a million Gazans to move from the northern to the southern part of the enclave has been sharply criticized by the UN.
Bulgaria’s passivity in conflict topics on which there is no consensus in the European Union hardly surprises anyone. Our foreign policy generally follows the common position. This is not necessarily a minus – we won’t gain authority and respect, but we also don’t run the risk of running out of self-initiative.
In the Karabakh conflict last month, we slipped under the radar. Now, however, the problem is much more complex. The situation in Gaza is escalating, skirmishes are affecting neighboring countries, even in Dagestan, Muslims stormed the airport because of a plane from Israel.
Europe has shown that it cannot reach a common position. A serious part of the population does not take the side of the Jews. Thousands of demonstrations in support of Palestine flooded major cities from North America to Western Europe to Australia. Demonstrating are not only Arab expatriates, but young progressive Westerners who are a key constituency for the dominant liberal elite. Sensing the mood, some European politicians are looking for a more balanced position. The representative of France at the UN said that nothing justifies the killing of civilians, the situation in Gaza is catastrophic and the only reliable solution is two states, i.e. creating a Palestinian. At the same time, Paris condemned the violence of Israeli settlers against civilians in the other occupied territory, the West Bank, where there have already been more than 100 Palestinian victims since the Israeli response to the attack by Hamas on October 7.
The USA, in the person of Joe Biden and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, has become convinced that its support for Israel does not meet with approval in the region. The president visited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv and defended Israel’s version of a rocket attack on a hospital in Gaza that killed hundreds. This infuriated Jordan, which canceled hosting a four-way meeting with Biden and representatives of Egypt and Palestine. Blinken, on the other hand, was left waiting all night to be received by the Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman. After returning to America, Biden drew parallels between Russia and Hamas in an effort to persuade Congress to grant $109 billion in emergency aid to Ukraine and Israel. The result was massive pro-Palestinian protests in major cities, individual murders of Palestinians and Jews.
Washington quickly calculated the situation and took a turn. In addition to the extreme positions of Iran and Turkey in favor of Palestine, global factors such as China, Russia and Saudi Arabia see in the Israeli bombing and ground offensive in Gaza violations of international law and war crimes. There are increasing criticisms of double standards (compared to Ukraine) and calls for the creation of a Palestinian state. Against this background, the US is calling on Israel to distinguish between Hamas terrorists and the civilian population, to allow humanitarian pauses and aid to the suffering Palestinians in Gaza.
For now, there are no prospects for de-escalation. This portends that Bulgaria and the other passers-by from the EU will hardly have the comfort of a neutral position for long.