Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
November 15, 2023
Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you all for being here.
I just spoke about this in the Chamber, but I wanted to start here by acknowledging an unthinkable loss, and that’s over 100 UN staff in Gaza. All of our hearts are heavy. These humanitarians were on the ground, working to save lives. And we mourn with the families and loved ones of UNRWA workers who were caught in the crossfire.
Since Hamas’ barbaric attack on October 7th, the world has turned to the Security Council for leadership, and many have been rightfully frustrated by its lack of progress. We got very close last month, when the United States put forward a strong and balanced resolution that 10 members of the Council voted for – and would have been adopted if not for vetoes by Russia and China. But today, we were able to adopt a resolution on this conflict.
And as I said in the Chamber, I am horrified that a few members of this Council still cannot bring themselves to condemn the barbaric terrorist attacks that Hamas carried out against Israel on October 7th. There is no excuse for the Council’s inability to condemn Hamas. None whatsoever.
That said, the United States supports many of the provisions of this resolution. The calls for Hamas to release the hostages, for international humanitarian law to be respected, for humanitarian pauses that will enable the unhindered flow of urgently needed humanitarian aid, and for safe passage of civilians fleeing the fighting.
We also know that while this resolution is critical, its passage alone will not save lives. Actions on the ground will. We have worked with Israel, its neighbors, the United Nations, and other partners to get aid into the hands of vulnerable Gazans. And we have secured initial steps for critical humanitarian pauses – pauses that should be coordinated with the UN – to enable hostage release, help civilians reach safe areas, increase the flow of aid, and ensure it reaches those in need.
But I know that so much more needs to be done. That includes providing fuel so that the UN can keep trucks flowing, and so that medical facilities starved of vital supplies by Hamas can continue to function.
As I said in the Council, ultimately the United States abstained on this resolution because of what wasn’t in it. Any mention, let alone condemnation, of Hamas’ slaughter of innocent civilians. Any affirmation of Israel’s right and indeed, its responsibility to protect its people from acts of terror.
So, we will continue to push for the Council to correct these omissions. All the while, we have been clear at the highest levels as to our expectation that parties to the conflict will protect innocent civilians. For Israel, this is an added responsibility, as Hamas has deeply embedded itself within the civilian population of Gaza. But Hamas’ actions do not lessen Israel’s responsibility to protect innocent people in Gaza.
At the end of the day, this will all come down to one clear, urgent goal: to save innocent lives. We will continue to press for the measures that will save lives in the immediate term. And we will continue to call for measures that will save lives in the long term. And ensure Israelis and Palestinians can live side by side in states of their own – with equal measures of security, freedom, opportunity, and dignity.
QUESTION: Israel already rejected the resolution and they pledged to continue to act. How does it affect the effectiveness of resolution? Is it going to be effective at all?
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: The resolution was an important statement by the Council on the situation on the ground in Gaza that focused on the humanitarian situation, and we do look forward to it having an impact on the ground.
QUESTION: Over 7,000 Palestinians have died since Brazil put forward its resolution last month, does United States regret not having abstained earlier?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We made a decision on that resolution because that resolution did not provide for Israel’s rights of self-defense. And we were very clear about that throughout as we worked with other members of the Council on trying to get a resolution approved that we all could sign off on. And this was one such resolution.
QUESTION: Ambassador, on the fuel issue, you mentioned in the Council that aid is scaling up, but in fact it’s grinding to a halt, because there is no fuel for the aid trucks, and only a very small quantity, 23,000 liters was allowed in by Israel. What is the United States doing to get what – the UN says they need 160,000 liters.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We’re doing everything possible on the ground. We have people there in the field working with the Israelis, working with the Egyptians, and working with the UN to respond to those needs, and we will continue doing that until we’re able to deliver what they require.
QUESTION: Ambassador, the resolution that you vetoed, also did not call for Israel’s right to self-defense, it had the same omissions, it had the same call for a humanitarian pause; why wait until 4,000 children were dead to –
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: This was a resolution that specifically addressed the humanitarian needs. The other resolutions did not. Those other resolutions were political resolutions. And as I said, this resolution is a huge step forward. Those other resolutions would not have addressed what was a clear, clear omission. And that is giving, at least, minimum identification and recognition to Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorists. And those terrorists continue to lob bombs into Israel, those terrorists are the ones in the hospitals that are using babies as human shields, and using civilians as human shields.
QUESTION: Do you think 40 days is too long to get such a resolution through?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Of course it is. Forty days is too long. This Council should have responded on day one to Hamas’ attacks and given the Palestinian people the support they require to stand up against Hamas.