INTERVIEW: Maged Abdel-Fattah elaborates exerted efforts to overcome global polarization on Palestinian issue

Sahar Zahran in New York , Monday 15 Jan 2024

Ambassador Maged Abdel-Fattah, the Arab League's permanent representative of the Arab League to the UN, discusses the persistent Israeli war on Gaza and challenges, efforts, and dynamics at the Security Council in an interview with Al-Ahram.

Maged Abdel-Fattah


Since 7 October, Israel's relentless war of extermination and destruction in Gaza has persisted unabated, with international organizations and the global community failing to deter Israel. Western nations continue to support Israel, providing weapons and endorsing its actions, complicating efforts by the Arab League in international forums, especially at the United Nations.

Al-Ahram interviewed Ambassador Maged Abdel-Fattah to understand Arab efforts amid the fourth month of Israeli aggression, the dynamics in the UN Security Council sessions, and the upcoming challenges regarding Gaza. 

Al-Ahram: Why did the UN Security Council fail to issue immediate ceasefire resolutions in Gaza?

Maged Abdel-Fattah: The Security Council is in a critical period due to geopolitical tensions arising from the West's attempts to include countries like Poland and Ukraine in NATO and deploy nuclear weapons in that region, which is seen by Russia as a violation of previous agreements. The resulting confrontation intensifies the polarization between Russia and China versus Western powers, represented by the United States and EU countries, leading to the Council's ineffectiveness in addressing international peace and security issues. This is evident in its disparate treatment of the Ukrainian and Palestinian situations. In the face of these challenges, the Arab group and the Arab League mission in New York are making immense efforts to mitigate the negative impacts of political polarization, especially concerning the Palestinian issue.

A: Why is there a focus on humanitarian ceasefires rather than halting the violence, as seen in other conflicts?

MA: The United States, in coordination with Israel, is working explicitly towards its own goals. Israel continues blatant violations of international law and humanitarian law, disregarding UN Security Council resolutions in the entire occupied Palestinian territories. Recognizing that the UN and the civilized world condemn these violations, Israel seeks to create a permanent animosity with the international organization and its agencies. It attacks the Security Council, its members, the UN secretary-general, and senior officials, accusing anyone criticizing its blatant violations in UN meetings of anti-Semitism. Unfortunately, some permanent members of the council shield Israel using their veto power to prolong its military actions. Given this distorted context, if Israel has so far evaded accountability, there are ways outside the Security Council that can be used to hold it accountable for these crimes, such as the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice.

A: Have there been shifts in the positions of Arab League and Arab-Islamic groups in support of Israeli attacks?

MA: Certainly, looking at the recent vote on the concise ceasefire resolution on 9 December 2023, where the United States vetoed it using its veto power, you will find the following: Arab-Islamic efforts succeeded in gaining the support of 107 countries for the resolution proposed by the two groups in the council. This unprecedented number of endorsements for a resolution in the Security Council included the support of three permanent member states: France, China, and Russia. Additionally, we garnered support from all European, Asian, African, and Latin American countries in the council. Notably, the UK, a traditional ally of Israel and the US, refrained from participating in the objection to the resolution and vetoing it, marking a clear turning point highlighting the success of the Arab League and the Arab-Islamic groups in dividing the ranks of those supporting Israel and isolating it from the US-Israeli position.

A: Egypt and the UAE succeeded in passing a humanitarian resolution in the Security Council, emphasizing the need for humanitarian aid to enter Gaza and explicitly opposing the idea of displacing its residents. How can a ceasefire be achieved in this context?

MA: As a confirmation of the General Assembly's resolution, which received support from 153 votes, calling for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in Gaza, observers anticipate increased global movements within the Security Council to meet the international community's desire. While negotiations within the council show strong opposition from the US to any text calling for a ceasefire, they do not oppose the humanitarian truce when linked to a hostage exchange. 

In this context, the US supported a clause preventing the displacement of the Gaza population outside the strip, lending credibility to the Arab-Egyptian position which rejects the idea of Palestinian displacement, as outlined in the decisions of the Arab League and the Islamic Conference. Although UN Security Council Resolution 2720 does not fully meet the aspirations of Egypt and the Arab states, it represents a step in the right direction, garnering significant support on both the Arab and Islamic fronts and providing a framework to delineate the boundaries of Israel's illegitimate actions on the ground.

A: Do you believe that the current war has extinguished the prospects of a two-state solution? Is there still hope for the establishment of a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem based on the 4 June 1967 borders?

MA: No force on the ground can prevent the Palestinian people, supported by all Arab, Islamic, and peace-loving nations and governments, from realizing their dream of establishing an independent state with its capital in the holy city of Jerusalem. The Palestinian cause will remain our central issue until this is achieved. We are witnessing fundamental shifts in the approach to exploit the current humanitarian crisis resulting from the brutal military aggression on Gaza and other occupied Palestinian territories to find a new political horizon. In this regard, there have been several initiatives, some predating 7 October, and others following.

The Secretary-General of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul-Gheit has been making intensive efforts for a year and a half in collaboration with Josep Borrell, the high representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. In close coordination with Faisal bin Farhan, the Saudi foreign minister, and after the Israeli aggression, we have seen the beginning of European movements based on a Spanish initiative supported by Europe, calling for an international conference to negotiate key final status issues aimed at establishing the Palestinian state. All of this occurs while Russia remains willing to host a peace conference for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. We are also moving towards the inclusion of the State of Palestine as a full member of the UN, not just as an observer state, even if it clashes with the US veto when presented to the Security Council.

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