Remarks at a UN Security Council Open Debate 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
October 26, 2020


Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Deputy Foreign Minister, and thank you, Special Coordinator Mladenov, as always, for your briefing. You have provided a very informative report and we applaud you and your team’s efforts to keep this Council fully briefed. I would also like take a moment at the outset to wish Saeb Erekat, politician, lead Palestinian negotiator, and an architect of the Oslo Accords, a speedy recovery from COVID-19.

Once again, we find ourselves in the Council debating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and members states will read statements packed with the same rhetorical fodder of hundreds of statements before them. It’s time to stop this unproductive practice. Jews and Arabs are Abraham’s children, they share Middle Eastern ancestry, culture and history, and deserve a future of peace as the cousins they are.

As the Council is aware, just a few weeks ago, the United States co-hosted an informal dialogue with the Security Council to discuss the historic Abraham Accords. Senior Emirati and Bahraini officials joined Senior Adviser Jared Kushner to provide more details on these arrangements and to showcase what’s possible when leaders make courageous and bold decisions that advance the cause of peace.

As the discussion highlighted, opening direct ties between these three dynamic societies and advanced economies has incredible potential to transform the region. Normalization will spur economic growth, enhance technological innovation, foster interfaith dialogue, and forge closer people-to-people relations. And just last week, President Trump announced another historic breakthrough with Sudan also agreeing to normalize relations with Israel. For years, Sudan harbored the very terrorists – Al Qaeda affiliates, Hizbollah, and Hamas, who threaten people around the world and who wanted to destroy Israel – and today, their leaders announced a peace agreement. The conversation in the region is changing. As the President said, a new chapter is beginning.

The simple truth is that the Council repeats decades-old approaches to this conflict each month that go nowhere. Many UN Member States are trapped in stale policies and narratives that will always fail to bring peace. President Trump’s bold diplomacy and rejection of failed, conventional attitudes lies at the heart of the successful Abraham Accords. His willingness to approach things differently led to a historic breakthrough – the most significant step toward peace in the Middle East in more than 25 years.

It is this same creative, realistic, and fresh thinking that led to the President’s Vision for Peace. We encourage our regional partners and the members of this body to thoughtfully consider the United States Vision for Peace and to play a constructive role in encouraging direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians on its basis. Unlike past efforts, this Vision is detailed, realistic, and implementable. We put great, immense thought and consideration drafting the Vision for Peace. Agreements are about details, and this plan has them. Like them – or don’t like them and offer alternatives – but deals are made in the details. This is why we have encouraged the Palestinians to offer their position by utilizing the Vision and bringing their perspectives to the negotiating table. The table has been set for two, and peace is within reach.

Simply rejecting the Vision out of hand does nothing to help the Palestinian people or advance the cause of peace, nor does holding more conferences or summits that are only designed to rehash the same old, tired points. We have been getting together to talk for 25 years – I think now is the time for action.

We’ve heard many members of this body talk about the importance of the Arab Peace Initiative as a basis for negotiations. The Arab Peace Initiative was historic in its time, but it dates back to 2002, and it just doesn’t provide the kind of detail we need to reach peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

What we need today is progress, and this is what a peace deal based on the Vision for Peace would deliver. A deal would bring much needed economic support and investment to the Palestinian people. It would open up a whole new world of opportunities.

Within the UN, the United States continues to oppose the annual barrage of more than a dozen perennial resolutions biased against Israel – resolutions in which the text barely changes from year to year – a fact that underlines how habitual the UN’s attitudes toward Israel and the Palestinians have become.

This one-sided approach surfaces far too frequently in UN resolutions and only serves to undermine trust between parties and fails to create the kind of positive international environment that we need to achieve peace. It is for this reason that we are urging both parties and regional partners to be creative and embrace the innovative approach that the Vision for Peace presents. If the international community continues to operate under the same assumptions and simply repeat the same old talking points, the unique opportunity we now have will be missed

In President Abbas’ intervention during the General Assembly, he called for an international conference to launch discussions, and I’ve heard several of my fellow Council members endorse this idea. We have no objection to meeting with international partners to discuss the issue – but I have to ask, how is this different than every other meeting convened on this issue over the past 60 years? I have also heard some liken the idea for a conference to the 1991 Madrid Conference. And, while Madrid brought everyone around to the table, it took bold leadership and difficult decisions from the leaders on both sides, behind closed doors, to actually move the ball forward in any meaningful way. We cannot keep doing what we have been doing and expect things to change; we are failing the Israeli and Palestinian people.

The United States has demonstrated for the first time in 25 years that a different approach to the situation in the Middle East can yield results. Today, because of American leadership, Israel is closer to its Arab neighbors than ever before; and its Palestinian, direct neighbors should take advantage of this positive momentum. History will judge how this Council responds to this historic moment – it can either shrink from the challenge or rise to the occasion. We encourage members of the Security Council to embrace the opportunities presented by the Abraham Accords and encourage the Council’s support for the Vision for Peace. If what you seek is peace, security, and stability for the Middle East and its people, then I urge you to join us in supporting these historic breakthroughs.

Our task, in this Council, as laid out 75 years ago, is to support peace, security, stability, including in the Middle East. This takes courage. Let’s join together in supporting these historic breakthroughs, and the Palestinian and the Israeli people, and their desire for peace and a better future.

Thank you.