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
May 24, 2023


Thank you, Madam President. And thank you, Special Coordinator Wennesland, for your informative briefing. Ms. Hary, thank you so much for your presentation today.

It’s been a challenging month for the region, and the United States extends condolences to all Israelis and Palestinians affected by ongoing violence.

When this Council last convened on this issue, it was against the backdrop of hundreds of rockets being fired at Israel by Gaza-based Palestinian terrorist groups. These attacks posed a threat to civilians in Israel and harmed Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

At that time, the United States reaffirmed our support for Israel’s inherent right of self-defense. We unequivocally condemned the attacks on Israel. And we called on all parties to exercise restraint in both action and rhetoric.

I am pleased that, with the assistance of Egypt and Qatar, the parties took steps to de-escalate the situation, and that the ceasefire announced on May 14 has held with the exception of only one incident.

The question we must ask today, in the aftermath of this latest round of fighting, is what can be done to prevent future violence and better protect Israeli and Palestinian civilians. We believe diplomacy and direct engagement must be central to these efforts.

This year’s meeting in Aqaba and Sharm el-Sheikh between Israel and Palestinian Authority, convened by Egypt, Jordan, and the United States resulted in several important commitments. Now, the parties must focus on implementation, just as the parties must refrain from further escalatory actions. This includes racist statements and incitement, as well as violence.

President Abbas’s statement on May 15, equating Israel with the lies of infamous Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, offers a case in point. His comments are a gross affront to Holocaust victims and survivors. Making this kind of statement about the world’s only Jewish state is entirely unacceptable, especially during a time of rising antisemitic violence around the world.

Similarly, President Abbas’s claim that the United States “wanted to get rid of the Jews and benefit from their presence in Palestine”, is totally without basis and it is deeply offensive to the American people.

As I have said many times before, the United States supports all efforts to achieve a comprehensive, just, and lasting peace based on a two-state solution. But violence and incitement only move us away from that shared goal.

The United States is also concerned by the provocative visit an Israeli minister made to the Haram al-Sharif/the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on May 21, and the accompanying inflammatory rhetoric. This holy place should not be used for political purposes. We call on all parties to respect the sanctity.

Furthermore, I want to reaffirm our longstanding position in support of the historic status quo at Jerusalem’s holy sites. We are also deeply troubled by Israel’s decision to allow citizens to establish a permanent presence in the Homesh outpost in the northern West Bank, which, according to Israeli law, was illegally built on private Palestinian land.

This order is inconsistent with both former Prime Minister Sharon’s written commitment in 2004, as well as the commitments the current Israeli government made through the Aqaba-Sharm process. Let me be clear: advancing Israeli settlements in the West Bank undermines the prospect of peace.

We also unequivocally condemn the racist speech that occurred during the “Flag Day” march through Jerusalem on May 18, including chants of “death to Arabs.” These chants are outrageous and they are unacceptable. And hateful speech of any kind, such as the examples I just noted, runs counter to the efforts of the UN Secretary-General and Under-Secretary-General Moratinos to combat racism and other forms of bigotry, including antisemitism.

Colleagues, the United States also recognizes the severe fiscal crisis that the Palestinian Authority faces in fostering further instability in the West Bank. We encourage all parties in the region to consider ways to support the Palestinian Authority and ameliorate this financial crisis. Now is the time to make meaningful contributions to UNRWA and pursue further efforts toward the long-term stabilization of its finances.

In closing, I want to again urge all parties to exercise restraint in both action and rhetoric and find ways to build confidence such as the return of remains of those killed in conflict, and I reference in particular Hadar Golden. We must find a way to give his parents peace.

All need to de-escalate tension and prevent any further loss of life, and to recommit to efforts, such as those agreed at Aqaba and Sharm el-Sheikh, that will rebuild trust and create conditions for constructive dialogue. Let us all do our part, as members of this esteemed Council, to help build a future where Israelis and Palestinians enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, and dignity.

Thank you.