Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
April 19, 2021
Thank you, Jeremy Ben-Ami, and the dedicated staff, board, and supporters of J Street, for everything you do.
I’m particularly encouraged by all the young people engaged and attending this conference. You represent a new generation of voices who will shape the future of U.S. foreign policy toward the Middle East. And we need you. We’re counting on you to push us forward and insist that both the United States and Israel live up to our shared values.
After all, it’s those democratic ideals – commitments to equality, transparency, and the rule of law – that represent the strongest connection between Israelis and Americans. They form the basis of our long-standing and unbreakable bond. Democracies must stick together. We have to stand up for one another. That’s especially true at a moment when both of our countries seek to address the rising scourge of anti-Semitism and hate. It is our collective responsibility to counter extremism in the United States and around the world, and the Biden-Harris administration is deeply committed to this effort.
As we work to deescalate tensions in the region, I want to also reiterate our steadfast commitment to Israel’s security. We support Israel’s recent efforts to build relationships with its neighbors and the Arab and Muslim world. And we will work to expand the circle of peace in the Middle East, which is not only good for Israel, but for the whole region.
We share another common goal with Israel: never allowing Iran to obtain nuclear weapons. To do that, we must use what President Biden calls the first instrument of American power: diplomacy.
The U.S. position on the JCPOA is clear: we are ready to return to the agreement if Iran returns to full compliance with its nuclear commitments. And, as demonstrated by our participation in ongoing talks in Vienna, we are working with international partners to determine whether that is possible. At the same time, we will continue to support Israel as it works to counter the threats posed by Iran’s aggressive behavior.
Of course, our partnership with Israel goes far beyond regional threats. At the United Nations, Israel is our valued partner on so many of the world’s most pressing global issues – from combating the climate crisis to preventing and addressing gender-based violence. And at the United Nations, I will continue to stand by Israel, especially when it is unfairly and disproportionately singled out by one-sided resolutions and actions.
It’s not that we aren’t willing to discuss issues related to Israel and the Palestinians at the United Nations – far from it. Rather, it’s that we won’t stand for single-minded targeting that doesn’t get us any closer to peace. Yet, as the president likes to say, we can’t be afraid to tell the truth to our closest friends. That means speaking out against provocative, unilateral actions that increase tensions and take us further from the path of peace.
As you know, we believe the best way to secure a peaceful and prosperous future for Israelis and Palestinians alike is a two-state solution. Unfortunately, the prospects of reaching a negotiated two-state solution seems quite distant. But we know that only a two-state solution can guarantee Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, while enabling the Palestinian people to achieve a state of their own. So, any step that moves away from that is a step in the wrong direction. Because when we look at the ongoing violence, threats, and incitements today, and the myriad threats from Israel’s surrounding neighbors, it is clear that a true and lasting negotiated peace is critical to ensuring Israel’s enduring security. It’s also, clearly, the best way to meet the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people. They deserve equal measure of freedom, security, prosperity, and democracy.
President Biden campaigned on restoring U.S. leadership on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, re-engaging the Palestinian people, and stopping the practice of treating Israel as a political football for cheap partisan gains. And that is precisely what the Biden-Harris administration is doing. The United States is once again engaging with the Palestinian leadership and working through the Quartet alongside our other international partners to encourage constructive steps that improve the situation on the ground. We are also restoring U.S. assistance programs that support economic development and humanitarian aid for the Palestinian people.
We recently announced new support to address the pandemic and food insecurity, economic and development assistance in the West Bank and Gaza, peacebuilding programs, and renewed support for the UN Relief and Works Agency. We are committed to serving as a strong partner to UNRWA, but we will also be its strongest critic when we see problems. We will work with the agency to push forward important reforms.
By resuming this assistance, we can and will help UNRWA – like we do with other UN agencies – provide the most effective and efficient assistance possible, and act consistently with UN principles of equity, neutrality, tolerance, and non-discrimination. These new funds will give hundreds of thousands of very needy children food and water. They’ll offer them clean sanitation and mental health services to help cope with the pandemic. They’ll provide basic dignity.
Providing humanitarian relief, fostering economic development, and supporting Israeli-Palestinian security coordination moves us closer to a day when Palestinian children, and Israeli children, wake up every morning without fearing for their lives and safety. Because that’s the future we all want. One where Palestinians and Israelis live in peace, dignity, and prosperity, where everyone has the freedom to pursue their dreams. It’s a future I know all of you at J Street are working day and night to build.
That’s why this conference is so important. Your advocacy – and your action – will help us advance our collective efforts toward peace. We are committed to doing that work. And we look forward to continuing it with you.