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

Ambassador Richard Mills
Deputy U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
June 27, 2022


Thank you, Mr. President. Good morning. Thank you, Special Coordinator Wennesland, for your briefing. The United States continues to appreciate your tireless efforts to work closely with the parties to reduce tension through dialogue.

The current tension on the ground, as you mentioned, is palpable and it is dangerous. The United States has repeatedly registered our outrage over the string of terrorist attacks against Israelis this year. And we condemn the rocket attacks launched from the Gaza Strip again this month, which – as you note – broke a two-month pause in rocket fire from Gaza. Many Israelis, especially those who reside close to the border with Gaza, live in perpetual fear that they or their families could come under attack at any time. This must stop.

We also deplore the escalation of settler violence against Palestinians, including the death of Ali Hassan Harb, a Palestinian in the West Bank who was killed on his family’s agricultural land. We take note of the May 2022 OCHA report that found over 1,000 Palestinians were injured by live ammunition fired by Israeli forces in 2021, seven times the amount of those injured by live ammunition the prior year. We are also deeply concerned about the potential evictions at Masafer Yatta, which were upheld by Israel’s Supreme Court, and we urge that these evictions not take place.

We once again call on all parties to refrain from unilateral actions that increase tensions and undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution, such as settlement activity, demolitions, incitement to violence, and evictions. President Biden will travel to the region in July to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to urge calm and explore ways to promote equal measures of security, freedom, and opportunity for both Israelis and Palestinians. The current U.S. administration continues to affirm its strong support for a two-state solution, which remains the best way to ensure Israel’s future as a democratic and Jewish state alongside a sovereign, viable Palestinian state.

We, like others on this Council, are concerned with the killing of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. We continue to stress the importance of accountability for Abu Akleh’s tragic death. The United States will not relent on our calls for transparent accountability for those responsible for this tragedy until justice is done.

Separately, we are troubled by the ongoing practice of using human remains as a bargaining chip. Last month, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield met, again, with Leah Goldin, a mother whose son’s remains are being held by Hamas. We continue to be disheartened by the cruelty of denying a family the ability to properly mourn their loved one. Many Palestinian families also know this suffering, as there are Palestinian remains that have similarly not been returned to their families. Human remains must be returned to their families immediately and unconditionally.

In the meantime, we should not lose sight of the hardship facing Palestinian refugees: 1.8 million Palestinians were suffering from food insecurity in March of this year. More than 80 percent of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Syria, and Gaza are living in poverty and are struggling to afford the food needed to feed their families. As Special Coordinator Wennesland has correctly noted, UNRWA plays a critical stabilizing role for the region, but, lamentably, UNRWA’s capacity to deliver food, education, and healthcare to Palestinian refugees is hindered by its long-standing financial instability. The United States is the Agency’s largest donor, contributing $338 million in 2021 and having already announced $79 million for 2022. We intend to provide additional support this year, and we also welcome the contributions announced at the June 23 UNRWA pledging conference. In order to support the Palestinian people, we urge all donors to provide robust, reliable funding, and to join us in supporting reforms to increase the Agency’s oversight, accountability, and transparency.

Finally, Mr. President, the United States affirms its commitment once again to a two-state solution and notes the importance of an inclusive process, one that involves the participation of women, youth, and civil society. Thank you.