Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
May 16, 2021
Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you, Secretary-General Guterres, for joining us today. I would also like to thank the Special Coordinator Wennesland and your team for briefing the Council for the third time in a week on the tragic situation in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.
The human toll of this past week has been devastating. Hundreds have been killed and injured by rockets and airstrikes – including children. Sadly, these are numbers that may grow by the time we are even done with today’s meeting. We’re seeing neighbor turn against neighbor, and reports of extrajudicial killings. We’ve also been alarmed by violence impacting journalists and medical personnel, whose roles are crucial and must be protected and respected.
The United States calls on all parties to ensure the protection of civilians and to respect international humanitarian law. We also urge all parties to protect medical and other humanitarian facilities, as well as journalists and media organizations. We are particularly concerned about protecting UN facilities as civilians seek shelter in about two dozen of them.
In the hours since the Council last met on this issue, the United States has been working tirelessly through diplomatic channels to try to bring an end to this conflict. President Biden spoke to Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas yesterday. Secretary Blinken has spoken with senior Israeli, Palestinian, and regional leaders. The United States remains intensively engaged with Israeli, Egyptian, and Qatari officials, as well as the Special Coordinator and his team – all of whom are working to define and establish conditions for a sustainable calm.
In all these engagements with Israeli officials, the Palestinian Authority, and all regional partners, the United States has made clear that we are prepared to lend our support and good offices should the parties seek a ceasefire, because we believe Israelis and Palestinians equally have a right to live in safety and security. The current violence has deprived both communities of this basic right.
So, it’s time to end the cycle of violence. The United States calls on Hamas and other Palestinian groups in Gaza to immediately halt rocket attacks and other provocations. We also are deeply concerned about the ongoing intercommunal violence within mixed communities in Israel. We urge all parties to avoid actions that undermine a peaceful future. This includes avoiding incitement, violent attacks, and terrorist acts, as well as evictions – including in East Jerusalem – demolitions, and settlement construction east of the 1967 lines. And critically, all parties need to uphold and respect the historic status quo at the holy sites.
At the end of this latest round of fighting, we will face familiar, difficult, questions: How do we rebuild communities that have been scarred by violence? How do we alleviate the suffering of civilians in Gaza, and ensure Palestinian children can grow up with hope and opportunity instead of trauma? How can we best focus on the people of the region and their needs for justice, fairness, security, and opportunity?
These are all hard challenges, but prolonging this current cycle of violence will only make these challenges more complex and difficult to solve. And it will only put a negotiated two-state solution further out of our reach. So, the current cycle of violence must end. It is critical all parties return to working in good faith toward the vision of Israel and a Palestinian state, living side by side in peace, within secure and recognized borders, in which both Israelis and Palestinians enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, prosperity, and democracy.
But right now, children are terrified. And we need to do everything we can to move closer to a day when both Israeli and Palestinian children wake up every morning without fearing for their lives. Because that’s the future we all want. One where Palestinians and Israelis live in dignity and prosperity, where everyone has the freedom to pursue their dreams. We are committed to working with everyone in the region to make that future a reality.