Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Situation in the Middle East

Ambassador Richard Mills
U.S. Deputy Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
September 29, 2021


Thank you, Madam President. And thank you Special Coordinator for your briefing today. And my thanks, as well, to Ms. Rothbart and Ms. Farsakh for your powerful statements. They were heard. Thank you very much.

I think what’s clear is that while present circumstances are both difficult and concerning, there are steps that we can take to improve lives – in concrete and practical ways – of the Israeli and Palestinian people now. We can help today while also preserving the possibility of a negotiated two-state solution when the time is ripe. Of the urgent needs, we assess that we must focus our attention and our resources now on supporting the livelihoods of the most vulnerable in Gaza.

The United States wants to again express its thanks to Qatar for its financial assistance to Palestinians in Gaza. We welcome the commencement of the stipend disbursements and we hope that this stable income will help families meet their daily needs. To facilitate recovery, the United States calls for regular, predictable, and sustained access to Gaza for humanitarian actors.

In the interests of the people of Gaza and regional security, crossings should remain open, with regular hours, to normal commercial traffic and expedited transit of humanitarian goods. It is important that materials needed for vital relief and recovery efforts can get to affected areas. We were pleased that the Israeli government agreed to provide additional water to the Gaza Strip.

However, there is still a dire need to get water flowing regularly in Gaza and we hope to see the importation of water pipes to allow for the rehabilitation of water networks in Gaza. The de facto authorities in Gaza must refrain from interfering in humanitarian activity, assistance delivery, and internationally supported reconstruction efforts. These efforts are directly supporting Palestinians in Gaza, especially the most vulnerable.

The special coordinator mentioned the work of UNRWA. The United States has already contributed over $300 million to UNRWA this year. We call on others to step up and contribute to help address UNRWA’s imminent shortfall in funding for its core services. UNRWA is a vital lifeline and provides schooling to over 530,000 Palestinian children across the region. In the absence of UNRWA, many of these children would be unable to attend school or would be forced to attend schools under the influence of extremist groups.

At the same time, we will continue to urge UNRWA to make operational and managerial improvements to ensure that it can deliver assistance to Palestinian refugees efficiently and with maximum effect. We will keep working with UNRWA to ensure that it upholds commitments to promoting tolerance, respect, transparency, and accountability.

The United States also remains committed to widening the circle of peace between Israel and its neighbors. In the past year, we have seen Israel open embassies in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, and the UAE and Bahrain appoint their first ambassadors to Israel. And Israel and Morocco agreed to upgrade their missions to full embassies in short order. The United States is committed to expanding on these normalization agreements and hope these agreements, which are important in and of themselves, also generate momentum between Israel and the Palestinians.

In the meantime, we will continue to encourage both the Israelis and the Palestinians to exercise restraint and refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric. Such actions distract from reconstruction and it threatens the viability of a two-state solution – and of a future where Israelis and Palestinians live with equal measures of freedom, dignity, security, and prosperity.

Thank you, Madam President.