Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Situation in the Middle East (via VTC)

Ambassador Kelly Craft
Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
July 21, 2020


Thank you for your briefing, Nikolay. As always, we appreciate you and your team’s hard work in finding solutions to this conflict. I thank the other two briefers for your remarks today, also. While you are certainly entitled to your opinions, I would remind my Council colleagues, and those listening today, that that’s precisely what much of your remarks were: your opinions.

As Nikolay discussed, we too remain deeply concerned about the resurgence of COVID-19 in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.

I want to share a tragic statistic with the Council that illustrates the negative impact of perpetual conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, and hopelessness caused by the neglectful and abusive government in Gaza. In the past six months in Gaza, there have been more than 15 suicides and hundreds of attempts, the majority of the victims under the age of 30. Fifty percent of close to 2 million people in Gaza are under the age of 18. They deserve a real future, not the path to misery that lies ahead with the current, inept leaders.

Hamas killed and injured hundreds when they seized power from Fatah and the Palestinian Authority 13 years ago. They have instigated violence ever since and, to this day, silence voices of moderation and prospects for peace and prosperity for the Palestinian people.

A number of factors contribute to the desperate situation in Gaza, however, the oppressive rule of a terrorist organization, Hamas, is at the center. Today, Hamas pretends to function as a government, employing violent intimidation tactics against any chance for free press, civil society, and freedom of expression. Hamas’ charter states “there is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad.” They are willing to subject the Palestinian people to despair and perpetual conflict to fulfill their violent vision and appease the hegemonic aspirations of sponsors, such as the regime in Iran, than to forge a future of peace and prosperity. Trapped in such a cycle of madness, it is not surprising that the youth in Gaza have lost hope.

What’s worse is the prospect that the regime in Tehran is poised to unleash even more misery and bloodshed, not just in Gaza, but in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, should this Council allow the lifting of the arms embargo on Iran. Arguably, this session and the meetings on the Middle East in the months to come, should be focused on this great threat to peace and security.

We can debate semantics and resolutions, but we must focus on how to instill hope in the young people in Gaza, in the West Bank, and in Israel. The status quo is a failure. We should be discussing how to get responsible Israeli and Palestinian leadership to sit down at the negotiating table.

President Trump introduced his Vision for Peace to do exactly this, and to give the young people on both sides the opportunity for a prosperous and peaceful future.

Some have rejected the elements of our plan, but no one has offered an alternative that is both realistic and credible. In fact, we’ve seen more discussion of the potential punitive responses against Israel, rather than discussion of productive ways to engage in peace and encourage the Palestinians to come to the negotiating table. Unless we can get the parties to engage directly, young people in Gaza, the West Bank, and in Israel will continue to suffer.

So, I ask you all, what other options remain at this stage? Should the Council keep meeting month after month saying the same things, or are we actually prepared to contain Iran’s sponsoring the Islamic Jihad and Hamas – the creators of chaos and death? Are we ready to create a climate in which Palestinians and Israelis can settle their conflict? There can be no substitutes for direct negotiations between the two parties.

This Council must prioritize the pursuit of peace for a better future for Palestinians and Israelis, and that means speaking to the root causes of this conflict and its agitators. That way, we will help the Israelis and Palestinians and people across the Middle East.

Thank you.