Explanation of Vote on a United Arab Emirates-Drafted UN Security Council Resolution on the Situation in the Middle East

Ambassador Robert Wood
Alternative Representative for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
December 8, 2023

AS DELIVERED

Thank you, Mr. President.

Colleagues, despite a rushed process and lack of appropriate consultation by the resolution’s authors, the United States engaged in good faith on this text. We proposed language with an eye toward a constructive resolution that would have reinforced the life-saving diplomacy we have undertaken since October 7; increased opportunities for humanitarian aid to enter Gaza; encouraged the release of hostages and the resumption of humanitarian pauses; and laid a foundation for a durable peace.

Unfortunately, nearly all of our recommendations were ignored. And the result of this rushed process was an imbalanced resolution that was divorced from reality, that would not move the needle forward, on the ground, in any concrete way. And so, we regretfully could not support it.

We still cannot comprehend why the resolution’s authors declined to include language condemning Hamas’ horrific terrorist attack on Israel on October 7. An attack that killed over 1,200 people. Women, children, the elderly. People from a range of nationalities. Burned alive. Gunned down. Subject to obscene sexual violence.

We are very disappointed that for the victims of these heinous acts, the resolution’s authors offered not their condolences, nor condemnation of their murderers. It’s unfathomable. Nor is there condemnation of the sexual violence unleashed by Hamas on October 7.

Over the last 20 years, this Council has repeatedly underscored the need to take seriously all reports of conflict-related sexual violence.

Yet this Council and many of its members have been conspicuously silent in response to reports that Hamas committed acts of sexual- and gender-based violence on October 7. These incidents must be investigated and condemned, just as we do in any other conflict.

Equally disappointing is that the authors declined to add language reaffirming that the ICRC must be permitted to access and provide medical treatment to the hostages still held by Hamas terrorists and other extremists.

The resolution also fails to encourage a resumption of humanitarian pauses, to allow for the release of hostages and an increase of aid. This formula has worked. It could resume very quickly, if Hamas agreed to release women and civilian hostages.

This text also failed to acknowledge that Israel has the right to defend itself against terrorism, consistent with international law. This is a right to which all states are entitled.

As I stated earlier today, no country could or should tolerate what Hamas did on October 7. If any of our own countries had been attacked in this way, we would all expect this Council to reaffirm our right to protect our citizens.

Perhaps most unrealistically, this resolution retains a call for an unconditional ceasefire. I explained in my remarks this morning why this is not only unrealistic but dangerous: it would simply leave Hamas in place, able to regroup and repeat what it did on October 7.

Colleagues, a senior Hamas official recently stated the group intends to repeat the vile acts of October 7, “again and again and again.” And yet, this resolution essentially says Israel should just tolerate this. That it should allow this terror to go unchecked.

That’s not tenable. It’s not realistic. And it’s a recipe for disaster – for Israel, for the Palestinians, and for the entire region.

As long as Hamas clings to its ideology of destruction, any ceasefire is at best temporary, and is certainly not peace. And any ceasefire that leaves Hamas in control of Gaza would deny Palestinian civilians the chance to build something better for themselves.

For that reason, although the United States strongly supports a durable peace in which both Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace and security, we do not support this resolution’s call for an unsustainable ceasefire that will only plant the seeds for the next war.

Colleagues, like you, I am heartbroken by the images out of Gaza and the deaths of many thousands of civilians, including children. Every innocent Palestinian life lost is a tragedy that rips apart families and communities.

It goes without saying that the United States supports the renewal of humanitarian pauses, to enable the release of and the provision of additional aid, even as we seek an end to this war not only for one day or one week, but forever.

Let us be clear: it is the rejection by the resolution’s author of the United States’ sensible – indeed, essential – proposals that has deprived this Council of an opportunity to support the tough work necessary to break the cycle of violence and to lay the foundation for a more peaceful and secure future.

The United States will continue the hard work of diplomacy. To free hostages. To increase protection of civilians. To expand humanitarian aid. And to create an opportunity for Palestinians and Israelis to live side by side in peace and security.

As well, we need to redouble our collective efforts to surge humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people and create conditions so that humanitarian assistance can reach people who need it, who are in desperate need of food, of water, of shelter. We are working toward that every day, with Israel, Egypt, the UN, and others.

As President Biden reiterated last week: “a two-state solution is the only way to guarantee the long-term security of both the Israeli and the Palestinian people.”

We will continue to work towards this goal because as Secretary Blinken has said, “that is the only way to ensure lasting security for a Jewish and democratic Israel, the only way to ensure that the Palestinians achieve their legitimate aspirations for a state of their own.”

Thank you, Mr. President.

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