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U.S. Ambassador to U.N. on the Security Council's vote for a ceasefire in Gaza

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Could today's vote in the U.N. Security Council show us how the war in Gaza ends? Over the last eight months, cease-fire proposals have been debated at the U.N. and sometimes defeated because the U.S. vetoed them. Well, today, the U.N. Security Council overwhelmingly endorsed a plan that the U.S. introduced. And the U.S. says Israel has agreed to this plan. We are joined by the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Linda Thomas-Greenfield, to talk about it. Welcome.

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you. Delighted to be here.

SHAPIRO: How would you answer the question I just posed? Is this vote the beginning of the end of the war in Gaza?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know, that's our hope. This resolution sent a very clear, strong, unified message to Hamas that they accept the cease-fire deal that we put on the table and end this war immediately - accept the deal, release the hostages, more aid will flow in to Palestinians. And this cease-fire will continue as long as negotiations continue, so it was a welcomed resolution.

SHAPIRO: You say this sends a message to Hamas. And I want to ask in a moment about what you're hearing from Hamas and from Israel. But let me first ask why - after the U.S. has vetoed three previous cease-fire proposals and abstained from another, why this time is different.

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We've actually abstained from three resolutions as well, but this time it's different because the negotiations that are taking place on the ground have reached a point where we think we can push for a real bona fide cessation of hostilities.

SHAPIRO: Let's talk about the two most important parties here, Hamas and Israel. The proposal has been public for more than a week. You've said that Israel has agreed to it and that it, quote, "is nearly identical to Hamas' own proposals." So what are you hearing, either directly or indirectly, from Hamas' representatives?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, we're not talking to Hamas, but we did see some public statements that Hamas welcomed the resolution. But if they can say that they welcome the resolution, what we want to hear from them is that they accept the resolution, that they formally accept the deal, and they're ready to move forward. The resolution is the reflection of the deal.

SHAPIRO: And then there's the question of where Israel stand (ph), and President Biden has in some ways been much clearer about Israel's position on this than Israeli leaders. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's public statements have been quite murky. You said today that Israel should feel confident that Hamas, quote, "can no longer carry out an attack like October 7." But Netanyahu says his job is to crush and destroy Hamas and resign them to the dustbin of history. So has Netanyahu changed his definition of victory, or are you asking Hamas to agree to a cease-fire deal that resigns them to the dustbin of history?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, the president has been clear that Israel accepted the cease-fire deal. They have accepted the resolution. They've agreed to the deal and...

SHAPIRO: Then why isn't Israel clearer about that? Why doesn't Netanyahu say that?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: He hasn't said it, for reasons that I am not - I can't get into here, but the conversations between the president and Netanyahu and the - and Secretary Blinken and Netanyahu has been clear that they accept this resolution. They are ready to move forward. They want to see the hostages released, and they want to see peace occur along their borders. And they are working with us on this.

SHAPIRO: I understand the reassurance that the U.S. and Israel are close allies and have open communication and understand where each other stands, but the last eight months have given us some reason to doubt that. I mean, the U.S. has provided diplomatic and military support to Israel since the beginning of the war. And back in February, you told my colleague Michele Kelemen this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We have been absolutely clear that under the current circumstances in Rafah, a military operation now in that area cannot proceed.

SHAPIRO: And a military operation then did proceed, and we have seen the Palestinian death toll grow. Do you think it damages U.S. credibility when you set a red line, and then the U.S. fails to enforce it?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, we have enforced all of our statements on this issue, and this is why we have continued to work so hard to find a path forward to a cease-fire. And I think...

SHAPIRO: Help us understand how that red line was enforced. Because just looking at it from the outside, it looks like you clearly said this must not happen, and then this did happen.

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We said it shouldn't happen, but the president was clear when he defined that we were working very closely with the Israelis to ensure that they were more targeted and much more defined in what they were doing. And we've seen that the Israelis, they were not sending large bombs in. They went in and very surgically searched for Hamas fighters and surgically searched for hostages, and they got four hostages released over the weekend.

SHAPIRO: I think some would dispute...

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: If this deal is moved forward, we're going to see more hostages released.

SHAPIRO: I think some would dispute...

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Hamas...

SHAPIRO: ...How precise and surgical the Rafah operation was. But if I may just return to this cease-fire deal for a moment, the Security Council endorsed a proposal for a Ramadan cease-fire back in March, with the U.S. abstaining, and there was no cease-fire. So do you think today's vote is purely symbolic, or is this actually going to happen?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know, it's going to happen. It's something that we have worked on for eight months. Our people have been working on the ground 24/7, working with the Qataris, working with the Egyptians to bring this to fruition. And it has the support of countries in the region. It has the support of countries who have hostages. It has the support of the G7. We have never been this close. And ultimately, this deal will lead to the end of the war in a manner that ensures Israel's security but brings immediate relief to civilians in Gaza.

SHAPIRO: Linda Thomas-Greenfield is the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Thank you for speaking with us again today.

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Ari Shapiro
Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.