Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Situation in the Middle East

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
February 20, 2023


Thank you, Madam President. Thank you, Special Coordinator Wennesland and Deputy Commissioner-General Stenseth for your briefing.

Colleagues, we are deeply troubled by the spiraling violence across Israel, the West Bank, and Jerusalem. We strongly condemn the recent terrorist attacks in Israel, including the horrific attack outside of a synagogue in East Jerusalem on January 27 and the attack on civilians, including children, at a bus stop in Jerusalem on February 10.

The deliberate targeting of innocent civilians is unconscionable. And the United States supports Israel’s right to self-defense.

Terrorist attacks on religious sites, attacks by settlers, attacks on security services, rockets launched against civilian areas, and other forms of violence create a cycle of increasingly dangerous escalations. This concern is raised by the upcoming period of religious holidays in Jerusalem.

We urge all parties to take steps to restore and maintain calm. And we underscore all visitors and worshippers should respect and maintain the historic status quo of the holy sites – in word and in practice.

It is essential Israelis and Palestinians immediately break the cycle of violence and de-escalate, and refrain from any unilateral or divisive actions that will bring us even further from peace and stability.

Now, let me add a clear, unequivocal statement: We strongly oppose Israel’s announcement that it will advance thousands of settlement units. And we strongly oppose Israel’s announcement that it begin a process to retroactively legalize nine outposts in the West Bank that were previously illegal under Israeli law.

These unilateral measures exacerbate tensions. They harm trust between the parties. They undermine the prospects for a negotiated two-state solution. The United States does not support these actions. Full stop.

The clear and longstanding position of the United States is settlement activity is unhelpful and puts us further away from a negotiated, two-state solution. These actions are simply detrimental to Israel’s long-term security and to our vision of a sustainable end to the conflict.

So we call on all parties to work toward the conditions necessary for direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, which is the only path to a sustainable end to the conflict and a two-state solution.

That’s why we strongly support the Presidential Statement, put forward by the United Arab Emirates, which demonstrates the Security Council’s unanimous, collective voice on these issues. The PRST is real diplomacy at work, and we believe it signifies to all parties how seriously this Council takes these threats to peace.

The United States joins the other members of this Council in asking both Israelis and Palestinians to take the urgent and necessary steps to restore calm and improve the quality of life for their people.

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, by virtue of its special role over Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, has an indispensable role to play in helping to preserve stability, which could be tested by the impending convergence of Passover, Ramadan, and Easter, when tensions tend to run high.

Ultimately, the parties themselves are the ones that can and must prevent a further downward spiral. In this regard, the United States stands ready to support the parties as they work to rebuild trust and create a foundation for an eventual return to negotiations.

At this moment of heightened tensions, we must be sure to support UNRWA, which serves as a lifeline to Palestinians and plays an important stabilizing role in the region. For our part, the United States has already announced nearly $50 million in support for UNRWA this new year. We call on our partners to provide early, predictable, and flexible funding to UNRWA to ensure the vital services it provides to the Palestinian people continue uninterrupted.

And let us continue to do everything – everything we can to extend a horizon of hope and push for peace. Thank you.