Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a UN Security Council Open Debate on the Situation in the Middle East

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
January 19, 2022


Madam President, colleagues, before I deliver my remarks, I want to extend my condolences to the UAE. The United States condemns in unqualified terms Monday’s terrorist attack in Abu Dhabi, which killed three innocent citizens.

Thank you, Madam President. And thank you to Special Coordinator Wennesland for your briefing. And a special welcome and thank you to our briefers from EcoPeace. I also welcome the presence of Israeli PR Erdan and Observer State of Palestine* Al-Malki’s presence here today. And I also would like to acknowledge the presence of the Ghanaian Foreign Minister. Welcome, Madam.

This year offers an opportunity to recommit to reaching a political solution to the conflict. So let me start by reaffirming our strong support for a two-state solution, one in which a Jewish and democratic Israel lives in peace alongside a sovereign, democratic, and viable Palestinian state. And as I’ve noted before, I look forward to the day when we do not find the need to single out Israel for this type of unfair focus in this Council.

All forms of hatred and violence stand in stark opposition to the goal of a two-state solution. We are particularly concerned about tensions in the West Bank, Gaza, and in and around Jerusalem, especially violence perpetrated against civilians attempting to go about their daily lives.

To make progress, both Israel and the Palestinian Authority must refrain from unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions and undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution. That includes annexations of territory, settlement activity, demolitions, and evictions – like what we saw in Sheikh Jarrah – incitement to violence, and providing compensation for individuals imprisoned for acts of terrorism.

I want to reiterate a point I made to the Council previously for our new members: it was clear to me from my November trip to Israel and the West Bank that Israelis and Palestinians are locked in a spiral of mutual distrust, preventing the type of cooperation that could bring prosperity, freedom, and security for all. Israelis don’t believe they have a partner for peace, while Palestinians are trapped in despair born of the complete absence of a political horizon. That gap in trust is the single biggest obstacle to political progress and peace. Most of the work of rebuilding that trust needs to be done directly between the Israelis and Palestinians themselves. The recent meeting between Palestinian Authority President Abbas and Israeli Defense Minister Gantz yielded tangible steps, including Israel’s transfer of $33 million** in tax payments to the Palestinians, the issuance of business permits, and humanitarian status approval.

My hope is that we can keep building on that progress and we can all play a role in facilitating further positive steps. For example, I want to applaud Jordan and Egypt for the constructive role that they have been playing in preventing renewed violence, particularly the December 26 meeting they held in Cairo with the Palestinian Authority.

Madam President, we also appreciate Norway’s contributions as Chair of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee. This Committee serves as an important forum for the international community to support economic development for Palestinians.

This Council, too, can facilitate forward momentum. As can civil society organizations like the one we heard today, from EcoPeace – and thank you for your presentation, again. Israeli and Palestinian civil society members are instrumental in building bridges between people in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, and Jordan. Educational programs and round tables to discuss projects, such as the Green Blue Deal, are important for addressing shared issues that know no boundaries, know no borders, like climate change. We encourage broadening these types of exchanges to also include the Abraham Accords signatories. We need to underscore the importance of dialogue and technical exchanges to address our shared challenges.

Finally, on January 27, the United States will join with people from nations around the world to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day. When I was in Israel, I had the great honor of rekindling the eternal flame in the Hall of Remembrance at Yad Vashem. That solemn ceremony – next to the crypt that held the ashes of Holocaust victims from across Europe – served as a poignant reminder for me of our obligation to “Never Forget.” Remembering and honoring the victims of the Holocaust means more than reflection – it means taking actions. This is especially true as anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial are on the rise.

The harrowing events in Colleyville, Texas, this past weekend brought this home for us Americans. It reminds us that we all must work together to stand against anti-Semitism and extremism. The United States will continue to champion justice for victims of anti-Semitism, and for Holocaust survivors and their descendants. We are committed to building a world where the lessons of the Holocaust are taught universally, where survivors live out their days in dignity and comfort, and where all humans’ lives are shown decency and compassion.

For the first time in many years, all members of this Council have diplomatic relations with the State of Israel. This is a testament to the important shifts underway in the Middle East, and indicative of Israel’s contributions on the world stage. Let us avail ourselves of this opportunity to move beyond our standard talking points and identify ways to support the parties in pursuit of a sustainable and lasting peace for all of their people.

Thank you very much, Madam President.


*Observer State of Palestine Foreign Minister

**$32 million