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

Ambassador Cherith Norman Chalet
Acting U.S. Deputy Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
November 20, 2019


Thank you, Madam President, and thank you, Mr. Mladenov, for your briefing. As always, we appreciate your team’s hard work to fairly address these complicated issues. I also want to thank Ms. Hary for her briefing.

I’m sure that there will be discussion, further discussions today of our Monday announcement regarding Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Ambassador Craft has already addressed this issue in writing, and I want to briefly take it up again today on her behalf.

It is the position of the United States that the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not per se inconsistent with international law. We believe that this complex political problem can only be resolved through direct negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis. I’d like to be clear on our decision: the U.S. Government is expressing no view on the particular legal status of any individual settlement, nor are we are addressing or prejudging the ultimate status of the West Bank – that is for Israelis and Palestinians to decide.

The relevant question today, then, is what real obstacles are preventing Palestinians and Israelis from sitting down to work toward peace. And on that matter, we must note the recent barrage of rocket fire from Gaza into Israel that represents a far greater barrier to peace.

Just for a moment, I want each person in this chamber to imagine what it would be like to live each day knowing that a siren could go off at any time, alerting you and your family that they have 15 seconds to reach a bomb shelter. Would anyone on this Council tolerate such an existence? Would you accept blame and criticism for the violence directed against you? Would you feel confident that there was a clear path to peace while these attacks persist? Of course not. And yet, this is often what Israel is expected to endure.

In just the past week, reports indicate that 450 rockets were fired into Israel by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. What is especially notable is that these attacks threaten the lives of Israelis and Palestinians alike. This Iranian-funded terrorist organization has repeatedly attempted to undermine progress toward peace. It has intentionally attempted to disrupt periods of calm and ceasefire between the Palestinians and Israelis. Both sides are affected by these terrorists’ actions: schools in Israel and the Gaza Strip are closed, businesses shut down, and families seek shelter. There is hardly a more significant, or more self-evident, barrier to peace.

The United States remains committed to the cause of peace, and Monday’s announcement does not alter this fact. We continue to believe that discussion between the Parties is the path to finding a solution that works for both sides and promotes and protects the welfare of Palestinians and Israelis alike. But just as we are committed to the cause of peace, we are committed to Israel and its fair treatment at the United Nations.

As Ambassador Craft has made abundantly clear, and asked me to convey again today, the United States has always supported Israel in the past; we support Israel today; and we will support Israel moving forward.

We will not stand idly by when the international community unfairly criticizes Israel, most especially when it fails to also condemn those who seek Israel’s physical destruction and even deny its right to exist.

If this Council is truly committed to peace, we must be clear-eyed in evaluating what the real obstacles are to its attainment. Rocket fire that threatens the safety of Israelis and Palestinians on a daily basis is such an obstacle.

Thank you.