Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield during a Press Conference in Ramallah, West Bank

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
Ramallah, West Bank 
November 17, 2021

Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield during a Press Conference in Ramallah, West Bank


AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Hi, everybody. I’m just getting my instructions on what I’m supposed to say. (Laughter.) No. Good afternoon. I think you all know that my name is Linda Thomas-Greenfield. I’m the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and I’m a member of President Biden’s Cabinet, and I just want to thank all of you for joining me today.

It’s been a real pleasure to be here in Ramallah as part of my visit to Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan. As you may have heard, this is my first visit to this region. So over the last few days I’ve met with a wide range of people, including Israeli officials, UN representatives, and Palestinians, including the – including Palestinian civil society representatives who are so critical to democracy, human rights, and the promotion of peace. I will soon meet with President Abbas and other representatives of the Palestinian Authority later this evening.

And while there are many items on the agenda, my top goal here is very simple: I’m here because we want to continue to build relationships with the Palestinians based on trust and understanding, and we believe Israelis and Palestinians alike deserve equal measures of freedom, security, dignity, and prosperity. This is important in its own right, and it is also the best way to advance a negotiated two-state solution.

In my work at the United Nations and with the international community, we want to create the conditions for a lasting, sustainable peace, and the Biden Administration is working in tangible ways to improve the lives and livelihoods of Palestinian people. We have provided more than $450 million in economic development, security, and humanitarian assistance to that end. We’ve also provided more than 500,000 doses of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to – vaccines to the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza through COVAX with one single objective in mind, and that is saving lives. These donations are made with no strings attached. We are committed to being the world’s arsenal of vaccines because with this pandemic, no one is safe until everyone is safe.

And this morning I had the opportunity to visit an UNRWA school and meet with schoolchildren and officials. I saw how important it is that we remain engaged and providing the resources and the oversight that children need and deserve, and I heard such amazing statements from young girls who still have a sense of hope in spite of all of the issues that they have to deal with on a daily basis.

This has been such a meaningful visit for me. I’m so grateful to everyone who has graciously hosted and shared their perspectives with me so far. And with that, I’m looking forward to your questions. And I’ll allow the translator to translate for me, and then I’ll take questions.


MODERATOR: Let’s go to Ali Sawafta of Reuters.

QUESTION: Hi, Ali Sawafta from Reuters. Is there any progress in reopening the American consulate in Jerusalem? And my second question is going to be about the funds to the UNRWA. Are we going to see – you resume already the funds to the UNRWA, but are you going to raise this fund to be as it is in the West Bank? Thanks.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Good. Thank you for both of those questions. I don’t have anything new to add on the consulate beyond what you’re already heard from Secretary Blinken.

And on UNRWA, I did have an opportunity to meet with UNRWA to reinforce to them our strong support for the activities that they are providing to provide services for the Palestinian people. We’ve given them a little over $300 million now, and we’re working with them and other donors to look for additional support. We are also working with them on trying to help them on reforms that will make the organization more efficient and more effective in providing support to the Palestinian people. Our goal is to continue to work with them on these issues in the future.


MODERATOR: Let’s go to Shireen from Al Jazeera.

QUESTION: In your meeting with Gantz, you criticized the escalation of violence by the settlers regarding the Palestinians. In many stories you’ve seen how the settlers seized the land of the Palestinians that the Palestinians can no longer enter their land. Also, we see the continuation (inaudible) of settlements, and yet you also criticized the excessive use of Palestinians for the UN branches. In your point of view, what is the best way for Palestinians to protect their land, also knowing that there is no peace process at this point going on? Thank you.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I raise the issue of settler violence in all of my meetings with the government, and you’ve heard our statements on that publicly. And we have also indicated that no side should take any action that would compromise the possibilities of a two-state solution, and that was raised in the context of the settlements as well that no unilateral actions, again, should be taken on that front.

I think it is really important as we move forward that Israelis and Palestinians work together. We do believe, as I stated in my statement, that both sides deserve an equal measure of freedom and dignity and peace and security, and we think that a two-state solution is the only way for Israel to achieve a Jewish democratic state and for Palestinians to get a state of their own. And that is, again, what we’re working on.

I didn’t hear the second part of your question.

QUESTION: I’m asking what do you think that’s the best way for Palestinians to do, because when Palestinians go to the UN, they’ve been criticized several times as if it has been like a waste of time. So, what do you think from your own point of view is the best way for Palestinians to do to protect their rights and their land when there is no peace process going on?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I meet regularly with the Palestinian representative* in New York, but we don’t think that it is in anyone’s interest at the United States – or at the United Nations or otherwise to unfairly put Israel on the agenda almost on a monthly basis. There are so many issues in the Middle East that we are dealing with, and this is just one issue. We think that any solution for this situation is going to have to – will require both the Israelis and the Palestinians to sit down and work out that solution.


MODERATOR: Yes. All right, let’s go to Mohammad Daraghmeh, Al Sharq.

QUESTION: Hi. The Biden Administration pledged to revive the peace process and to improve the life of the – the life of the Palestinians under Israeli occupation, and we haven’t seen any sign of life in the peace process nor in the improving the life conditions. This is one.

The Palestinian Authority is suffering dire financial crisis and it might not be able to pay salaries next month.

Any sign of American action on this regard, both peace process and improving the life conditions?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: As I said, in terms of the peace process, we think it’s important for the two sides; they are the only ones that can move that agenda forward. The Biden administration has made clear from day one our support for a process that will lead to a two-state solution. I don’t know how to say that in any different way.

In terms of the economic crisis and budgetary crisis, I understand that – from the Israeli government that they have provided some funding or loan to the Palestinian Authority. But we’re also working to help them find solutions, including working with other countries in the region that might be able to provide support.


MODERATOR: Let’s go to Mosa’b Jaber, Sada News.

QUESTION: (In Arabic.)


QUESTION: Okay. (In Arabic.)

INTERPRETER: So, Mr. Mosa’b is saying former USUN Ambassador Nikki Haley once said – there was a statement reported saying that she’s not wearing high heels out of fashion, she’s wearing it to use it against –

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I’m sorry, she didn’t – I didn’t hear that part.

INTERPRETER: Yeah, she’s not wearing her high heels for fashion, she’s wearing it just to use it against anyone who criticizes Israel. So, could you (inaudible)?

QUESTION: Are you? Are you, Ambassador? (Laughter.)

INTERPRETER: So, he’s completing by saying that – continuing by saying this gave a bad image about the U.S. at the UN, not only, like, on Palestinian minds but also worldwide among different people. He is asking – the main question in this regard: Is the U.S. role at the UN, that position that former Haley gave, as, like we say, the constant doctrine of biased U.S. policy to Israel?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Our policy of support for Israel is ironclad. I’m not wearing high heels, and I’m not – even if I were, I wouldn’t describe it in that way, and nor is it for me to characterize how former Ambassador Haley described her support. But our support, the Biden Administration’s support, and 73 years of support for Israel’s security, is ironclad, and there’s no question about that. I had very, very good discussions with the Israeli government concerning their security – their legitimate security concerns, and those security concerns need to be addressed.

At the same time, our support for the Palestinian people, for supporting them both on the humanitarian side and helping them to find a solution, is also important. And we will work on both of those in the same spirit of trying to find a long-term solution to the situation here in the region.


MODERATOR: Let’s go to May Abu Asab of Radio 24.

QUESTION: (In Arabic.)

INTERPRETER: Since the U.S. administration and the Biden Administration supports a two-state solution, what is banning you from foreign and international reference for the peace process –

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I’m sorry, international –

INTERPRETER: An international reference –


INTERPRETER: Reference for a peace process that will (inaudible) and, like, revive that peace process?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Again, I’m not sure what the question is. But yes, we do support a negotiated two-state solution. But again, we think it is up to the two parties to lead in that process. We will be supportive.


MODERATOR: That’s all the time we have today for questions. (In Arabic.)