Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
January 12, 2024
Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you, Under-Secretary-General Griffiths and Assistant Secretary-General Brands Kehris for your briefings.
It has been more than three months since Hamas carried out the deadliest attack against Jews since the Holocaust and set this conflict into motion. A conflict that has killed and displaced far too many people. According to UN estimates, more than 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza have been internally displaced. People are sheltering in overcrowded UN facilities, others are living in the streets – entire families, young children, the elderly.
The situation is heartbreaking and untenable. And the United States’ position has been clear and consistent: Palestinian civilians in Gaza must be able to return home as soon as conditions allow. Just this week, while in the region, Secretary Blinken announced that Israel has committed to have the United Nations send an assessment team to the north of Gaza.
The United States has also made clear that civilians must not be pressed to leave Gaza under any circumstances. We unequivocally reject statements by some Israeli ministers and lawmakers calling for a resettlement of Palestinians outside of Gaza. These statements, along with statements by Israeli officials calling for the mistreatment of Palestinian detainees or the destruction of Gaza, are irresponsible, inflammatory, and only make it harder to secure a lasting peace.
But just as these words send the wrong message, so too do the words we are not hearing from this Council. Why can some Council members still not bring themselves to condemn Hamas’ horrific terrorist attack on October 7th? Why have some Council members stopped talking about the plight of the more than 100 hostages being held by Hamas or the fact that Hamas and Hezbollah continue to fire rockets on Israel?
Roughly 250,000 Israelis are internally displaced because of these relentless attacks. And why have some Council members refused to hold Hamas accountable for using civilians as human shields? We urge all Member States to speak out, and press Hamas and Hezbollah to do what is necessary to end the violence and displacement they have wrought.
Colleagues, even as this Council focuses on the conflict in Gaza, we must not turn our attention away from the West Bank where there has been an unprecedented rise in violence in recent months. We have seen Palestinian extremist militants carry out attacks against Israeli civilians. We unequivocally condemn these attacks, just as we unequivocally condemn attacks by Israeli extremist settlers that target Palestinians and their property and displace entire communities.
The United States strongly opposes the advancement of settlements in the West Bank. And we strongly oppose the violence that has come to characterize them. At their core, settlements undermine the geographic viability of a two-state solution, exacerbate tensions, and further harm trust between Israelis and Palestinians.
At least 340 Palestinians in the West Bank have been killed by Israelis in the past three months. I want to be clear: the United States will continue to respond to this escalating violence – including through our new visa restriction policy. Under this policy, we have taken steps to impose visa restrictions against individuals who are involved in or meaningfully contributing to the undermining of peace, security, or stability in the West Bank. But we know this is just one piece of the broader picture.
And we urge the Israeli government to prevent and investigate settler violence – and hold extremists who perpetrate it to account. We also urge the Israeli government to exercise restraint in its operations in the West Bank by respecting civilian infrastructure, especially in refugee camps, and minimizing civilian harm.
Finally, we have long maintained that stability in the West Bank is dependent on PA Security Forces. That means the PA must take steps towards reform and revitalization. And it means Israel must release revenues that allow the PA to pay their security forces.
Colleagues, at this profoundly difficult moment, the United States has stepped up to lead and to advance a vision for a lasting peace. Where Israel is integrated into the region and terrorist groups can no longer threaten Israel’s security. Where Palestinians realize their aspirations for a state of their own and Palestinians in Gaza – and the West Bank – are unified under the Palestinian Authority. Where Israelis and Palestinians live side-by-side in peace with equal measures of security, freedom, and dignity.
This is the only way forward. This is the only way to end this terrible cycle of violence once and for all. The damning reality is that Israelis and Palestinians will forever be scarred by years and years of mistrust and fear and violence. But the generations that follow need not know this reality.
So let us work together to sow the seeds of peace. That must be our charge.
Thank you, Mr. President.