Remarks at a Fourth Committee General Debate on “Israeli Practices and Settlement Activities Affecting the Rights of the Palestinian People

Ambassador Robert Wood
Alternative Representative for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
November 7, 2023

Remarks by Ambassador Robert Wood at a UN General Assembly Fourth Committee General Debate on “Israeli Practices and Settlement Activities Affecting the Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories”


Thank you, Chair.

As President Biden said last week, there is no going back to the status quo as it stood on October 6th.

We must not go back to the status quo where Hamas terrorizes Israel and uses Palestinian civilians as human shields. And we must not go back to the status quo where violent extremist settlers can attack and terrorize Palestinians in the West Bank. The status quo is untenable, and it is unacceptable.

When this current crisis is over, there has to be a vision of what comes next. In our view, that vision must be centered around a two-state solution.

Getting there will require concerted efforts by all of us – Israelis, Palestinians, regional partners, and global leaders – to put us on a path to peace.

All of us recognize the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people, and we support equal measures of security and prosperity for Israelis and Palestinians alike. But make no mistake: Hamas does not represent those aspirations.

One month ago today, Hamas killed more than 1,400 civilians and took more than 200 people hostage. Gaza-based militants continue to fire barrages of rockets toward Israel. Citizens from dozens of Member States are still being held hostage by Hamas.

We must condemn Hamas’ acts of terror. Hamas’ goals are single-minded, and they’re sickening. They are determined to destroy Israel and kill Jews. And let’s be clear: Hamas has never cared about the genuine needs or concerns or safety of the people it claims to represent. And Hamas has no respect for the rule of law or human life. To them, Palestinian civilians are expendable. To them, Palestinian civilians are human shields. And it really is despicable, and it’s cowardly.

I want to reiterate the clear U.S. view that the lives of all civilians – Israelis and Palestinians, men and women, children and elderly – must be protected. There is no hierarchy when it comes to protecting civilian lives – a civilian is a civilian is a civilian. We have reiterated to Israel that while it has the right and responsibility to defend its citizens from terrorism, it must do so in a manner consistent with international humanitarian law. The fact that Hamas operates within and under the cover of civilian areas creates an added burden for Israel. But it does not lessen its responsibility to distinguish between terrorists and civilians.

The United States is also deeply concerned by the significant uptick in violence against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank. We condemn the killings of Palestinian civilians – and we urge Israel to prevent these attacks, working with the Palestinian Authority.

President Biden has expressed his support for humanitarian pauses in the fighting to allow hostages to get out, to allow humanitarian aid to reach Gaza and be distributed, and to allow safe passage for civilians, which will help people access humanitarian assistance or move to safer locations. We also continue to urge all Member States to work to prevent any spillover of the crisis.

There are no shortcuts to statehood, and this will only be possible through direct discussions between the parties. It is in these moments that we must redouble our efforts to counter extremism and terrorism – precisely to preserve a horizon of hope for a negotiated two-state solution.

Colleagues, one-sided resolutions, whether they are put forward in the Security Council or the General Assembly, will not help to advance peace. Not when they ignore the facts on the ground. One-sided resolutions are purely rhetorical documents that seek to divide us at a time when we should all be coming together. And we must not cling to longstanding lines of division.

We deeply regret that several of the draft resolutions under consideration in the Fourth Committee are detrimental to this vision. But while these resolutions this Committee will consider later this week are deeply flawed and do not meet this moment, the United States will continue to work with all Member States to chart a future where Israelis and Palestinians have equal measures of security, freedom, justice, opportunity, and dignity – and a future where Palestinians realize their legitimate right to self-determination and a state of their own.

Thank you, Chair.