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
July 28, 2021


Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you, Ms. Hastings, for your briefing. Once again, I would like to express my deep appreciation for the work of the UN, and particularly your team and Special Coordinator Wennesland. Thank you also to Ms. Oppenheimer for your participation today, and I welcome and acknowledge the participation of Israel and the observer state of Palestine.

Mr. President, the United States remains committed to a two-state solution, and we will continue to oppose efforts to single out Israel unfairly in UN forums. Israelis and Palestinians deserve equal measures of freedom, dignity, security, and prosperity. Violence threatens these goals directly. So, we are encouraged that the cessation of hostilities between Israel and Gaza-based militants, for the most part, continues to hold.

We continue to encourage both Israelis and Palestinians to exercise restraint, and refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric – including settlement activity, annexation of territory, evictions, demolitions, incitement to violence, and compensating individuals imprisoned for acts of terrorism. And we hope to partner with Israel and the Palestinian Authority in maintaining calm and keeping flashpoints like the situation in Jerusalem – be it in the Old City, on the Temple Mount, Haram al-Sharif, or in Sheikh Jarrah – from reigniting the situation.

As the immediacy of the most recent escalation recedes, we must make good on our commitments to provide humanitarian assistance and support recovery efforts in Gaza. To that end, the United States continues to provide critical humanitarian aid to vulnerable Palestinian refugees. Two weeks ago, the United States signed a Framework for Cooperation with the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. UNRWA and its staff are tirelessly committed to serving the needs of Palestinian refugees – but the agency needs operational and managerial improvements.

And I want to be clear: The United States has zero tolerance for manifestations of anti-Semitism, racism, or other forms of hatred in UN agencies, and that includes UNRWA. This is why our framework of cooperation – the most robust to date – outlines expectations and include benchmarks to increase UNRWA’s transparency and accountability, consistent with UN principles, including neutrality.

Shortly after signing the framework, we announced a contribution of nearly $136 million in additional humanitarian assistance to UNRWA. This new funding brings total U.S. humanitarian assistance to vulnerable Palestinians served by UNRWA this year to $318 million. But even with our robust support, the agency’s needs are vast. We call on other Member States – especially our partners in the Gulf – to step up their financial commitments, too.

In addition to ensuring that the agency is on a stable financial track, it is critical that UNRWA is able to implement its operations in line with the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and independence. And we look forward to working with donors to intensify these efforts.

As we work to provide aid to Palestinians in need, we are concerned over recent reports of the Palestinian Authority acting to restrict Palestinian freedom of expression and harass civil society activists and organizations. That is unacceptable. In particular, we are deeply disturbed by the death of Palestinian activist Nizar Banat. The circumstances of his death must be fully investigated and those responsible held accountable.

It should be in all of our interests to promote a sustainable solution for Gaza, and to take steps towards ending the suffering on both sides.

Mr. President, in late June, I had the honor to meet Leah Goldin. Her son Hadar was killed by Hamas militants. And his body remains in Gaza. For the last seven years, the Goldins have advocated endlessly for his return. When I met with her, I promised her I would do everything possible to support her efforts to have her son returned. No parent – no one – should have to endure such a wretched experience.

The United States will continue to fiercely advocate for the return of Israeli soldiers killed in action in Gaza, as well as the return of Israeli civilians held captive there. And we will continue to push for decency, for humanity, for equality, and for peace for all.

Thank you, Mr. President.