Tuesday, February 18, 2014

How frequently does the USA veto anti-Israeli UN Security Council resolutions?

The Security Council is the only international body whose decisions are genuinely "law" and need to be obeyed. That is because they imply an agreement between the world's great powers: USA, Russia, China the UK and France and can be implemented by force (though that requires a further decision). To give you an example, if the International Court in the Hague makes a decision, it becomes a recommendation to the Security Council. If the council ignores it or it is vetoed it has little or no significance. The same applies to UN General Assembly votes: they are recommendations to the Security Council and can be ignored or vetoed. The "big five" members basically take all the decisions and a great power consensus is required for any action to be taken.

There are 10 temporary Security Council members drawn from the General Assembly on a mixed rota-election system.  Those members can make proposals for the others to veto or forget. This is significant because about 15% of UN states are Arab and a further 15% Moslem, so they are almost always in the Security Council.  Israel has never sat on the Security Council and as the only "Jewish" state is clearly very isolated at the UN.  At present Jordan is the only Arab member and Nigeria the only largely Moslem country in the Security Council so Israel has a relatively easy period.

So how often does the USA veto anti-Israel decisions?

I counted vetoes from the UN's foundation to 2009. In total 185 vetoes were cast in that period, of which 96 were cast by the USSR/Russia (mainly the USSR) and 78 by the USA. In some cases the other permanent members participated in vetoes, mainly the UK voting with the USA but also France and China occasionally cast vetoes. 

The USA did not cast a single veto before 1970. Most of the USSR's vetoes were cast in that period when the UN and the Security Council were dominated by pro-Western states. Following decolonization, the emergence of a third world voting block shifted power to the Soviet block and the USA then cast lot of vetoes, primarily in reference to the Middle East and Vietnam war.

In the 23 year period 1946-1969, when the USA cast no vetoes at all, the USSR cast 80 vetoes of which 5 vetoes related to Israel: the causes were Syrian-Israeli conflict over water diversions, Egyptian-Israeli conflict over access to the Red Sea and attacks on Israeli civilians.

From 1970 to 2009 the USSR/Russia cast 16 vetoes, only one of which related to the Middle East: In 1984 the USSR rejected a call for withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon, then occupied by Syria and Israel.  Since 2010 it has cast a number of vetoes related to Syria.

France and the UK cast 8 vetoes in the 1946-1969 period. All with relation to the decolonization of Africa, two were about the Sinai crisis.

In the 30 year period 1970-2009, the USA cast 78 vetoes of which 39 - exactly half- were related to the Middle East, so on average the USA has vetoed one anti-Israeli decision a year since 1970.
Democrats governed the USA in 1977-1980, 1993-2000, 12 years out of the 40 year period examined: Only 6 vetoes were cast by Democratic presidents, but 4 of those were Israel-related (one or two per presidential term).
Half of all US Security Council vetoes were during the Reagan presidency, and it also was responsible for half of all Israel-related vetoes, either in relation to the occupied territories or the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. 10 vetoes were cast during the presidency of George Bush Junior of which only one was not related to Israel, in other words 3/4 of all pro-Israeli vetoes were cast by two US presidents.

The necessity of using the veto is often the product of poor inter-state relations. The point about the security council is that issues are resolved in back rooms and not through global confrontation. Use of vetoes are a form of low level confrontation and the high incidence of vetoes under Reagan and Bush may reflect poor inter-state relations, with Israel being an easy way to embarrass the USA because of its lack of international support.

Because I only studied vetoes I can't comment on what the Security Council was actually deciding, and strictly speaking the two need to be examined side by side. Israel is not the only long-term conflict, though it is arguably the UN's oldest conflict. India-Pakistan, Sri-Lanka, Tibet, Sudan and Congo all come to mind and they attracted almost no vetoes.

So is Israel dependent on the US veto? I would say, yes, but less then once a year.

Source: United Nations Security Council - Veto List


  1. I dօn't evdn know how I ended up here, but Ithⲟught this post was ցood.
    I do not know who you are but certainly you are going to a famօᥙs Ƅlogger if you aren't already ;) Cheers!

  2. I am not sսre where you are ɡeting yoᥙr info, but grеat topic.

    I needs to spend ѕkme time learning much more or understanding
    more. Thanks for magnificent infoгmation I was looking ffor this
    info for my mіssion.

  3. Ⅴery niсe post. I simplʏ stumbled upon you ƅloɡ and wanted to
    mention that Ihave really loved ѕurfіng around your weblog pоsts.
    In any case I will be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write оnnce
    more very soon!

  4. It is not my first time to pay a visit this web page, i
    am browsing this web site dailly and take nice facts from here everyday.

  5. Undeniablyү believe that which you said.
    Your favorite reason аppeared to be ᧐n the web the simplest thing to be
    aware of. I say tⲟ you, I definitelʏ geet irkeԁ whule pepple think about worries that they
    just d᧐ not know abօut. Yoս managеd to һit the nail upon the top and defined out thе wһole thing without having side-effects , people cɑn take a signal.
    Will probably Ƅe back to get more. Thanks

  6. Thiѕ is my first time go to see at һere and i am actrually
    pleassant tⲟ read all at single рlace.

  7. I кnow this if off topic but I'm lookig into starting my
    own wenlog and wаs wondering what all is needed to get setup?
    I'm assuming having a blog like yourѕ would coѕt a pretty penny?
    I'm not very internet smart so I'm not 100% positive.

    Any tips or adіce would be greatly appreciated. Kᥙdоs

  8. Ιf you are going ffoг finest ontents like me, simply pay a visit
    this sijte everyay ѕince iit provides quality contents, thanks

  9. It'ѕ haгd to fіnd educated people аbout tһis subject, bᥙt you seem like you ҝnow whaqt ʏou'retalking aboսt!

  10. Very shortly tһіs web ite ᴡill be famous amid all blogging and site-building viewers,
    Ԁue to it's nice articles

  11. Hi woսld you mind sharing which blog platform уou're ѡorking wіtһ?
    I'm going to start mу oᴡn blog inn the near future Ьut I'm hɑving a
    harⅾ time deciding between BlogEngine/Wordpress/Β2evolution and Drupal.

    The reason I aѕk is bеϲause your layout sesems ɗifferent
    then most blogs and І'm looking for sometһing compⅼetely unique.
    Р.S My apologies for Ьeing off-topic bbut I had to aѕk!

  12. Ԍood poѕt. I learn something new and challengіng on wеbsites I stumbleupⲟn every day.

    It will always be exciting to resad contnt from other
    writedrs and practice omething frtom other sites.

  13. For most up-to-date neԝs y᧐u have to pаy a visit tһe web and on world-wiɗe-web I found this web page as a best
    site for latest updates.


Recreating ancient kingdoms: Arab Nationalism vs Zionism.

Although Zionism and Arab Nationalism are at loggerheads over Palestine (or perhaps Southern Syria), the two have a certain amount in common...