Remarks at a UN Security Council Open Debate on the Situation in the Middle East
New York, New York
April 22, 2021
Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you, to you and the other members of the Council, for bearing with us as we’ve dealt with some of these technical issues this morning. And thank you again, Special Coordinator Wennesland and Acting Director Paulsen, for your briefings today. They were very useful for us in understanding what’s going on.
This Administration has been very clear about the United States’ commitment to advancing a negotiated two-state solution in which Israel lives in peace and security alongside a viable Palestinian state. We’ve also been clear about our desire to reengage with the Palestinians, and to restore U.S. assistance programs that support economic development and humanitarian aid for the Palestinian people.
On April 7, the United States announced the resumption of economic, development, and humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people, totaling $235 million. This includes $75 million in economic and development assistance, and $10 million for peacebuilding programs in the West Bank and Gaza – both through the U.S. Agency for International Development. It also includes $150 million in humanitarian assistance for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees – this is in addition to the $15 million in humanitarian assistance that we announced in March. We are also resuming vital security assistance programs. Taken together, this $250 million commitment is a meaningful one.
Our economic assistance includes support for small and medium-size enterprises’ recovering from the effects of COVID-19, it includes support for households to access basic human needs, such as food and clean water, and includes assistance for Palestinian civil society.
The United States is also resuming support for UNRWA services to ensure humanitarian aid – including critical COVID-19 assistance – reaches Palestinians in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and the West Bank and Gaza. UNRWA is a lifeline for millions of Palestinians, and we are committed to serving as a strong partner to the Agency so that it may provide the most effective and efficient assistance possible.
We must recognize, however, that the resumption of U.S. contributions is not a silver bullet to the Agency’s funding crisis. As this Council knows, global humanitarian needs far exceed available resources. The United States remains the single largest humanitarian donor globally – we’re very proud of this. However, burden sharing is not an option, it is a necessity. We call on other partners to step up their funding to the Agency, as well.
The United States will also reengage with UNRWA, its donors, host countries, and other Member States to address the long-standing challenges that UNRWA has faced over the years. The resumption of U.S. financial support for UNRWA is a first step – not the last – in our engagement with the Agency on critical reforms.
We are committed to working with UNRWA to uphold its neutrality – including zero tolerance for racism, discrimination, or anti-Semitism. We will work bilaterally with the Agency, and multilaterally with partners, to improve its transparency, accountability, internal governance and oversight, and its sustainability. It is critical that the UN Security Council and other international donors also work with partners to amplify efforts toward meaningful reforms and financial sustainability.
The United States’ comprehensive reengagement with the Palestinians is one part of our strategy to advance prosperity, security, and freedom for both Israelis and Palestinians. This assistance provides critical relief to those in need, it fosters economic development, it supports Israeli-Palestinian understanding and security coordination, the rule of law, and it promotes regional stability. It is also consistent with U.S. interests and values, as well as those of our regional partners – to include Israel.
As we work toward a more positive and constructive atmosphere on the ground, we also encourage both the Palestinian Authority and Israel to refrain from unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions and undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution, such as the annexation of territory, settlement activity, demolitions, incitement to violence, and providing compensation for individuals imprisoned for acts of terrorism.
Before I close, Mr. President, I want to acknowledge the upcoming Palestinians elections, which we believe are a matter for the Palestinian people to determine. The United States and other key partners have long been clear that participants in the democratic process must accept previous agreements, renounce violence and terrorism, and recognize Israel’s right to exist.
Thank you, Mr. President.