Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Representative to the United Nations, at a UNGA Emergency Special Session Before the Vote on a Resolution on the Situation in the Middle East

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October 27, 2023

Thank you, Mr. President. And I would have been pleased to allow my Irish colleague to go before me.

Colleagues, we meet at a perilous moment. A perilous moment for Israelis and Palestinians first and foremost, but also for the region and the world. The death, destruction, and desperation playing out before our eyes is enough to make one lose faith in humanity.

How could Hamas carry out such barbaric acts of terror? How could Hamas gun down civilians, burn families alive, and execute children – and do so with glee? How could Hamas take more than 200 people hostage – innocent civilians, including a nine-month-old baby and his four-year-old brother? How could Hamas justify taking a 23-year-old American citizen, Hersh, whose parents I met this week.

And the answer is: They cannot. There is no justification for terror. None whatsoever. You all know that.

And we must condemn Hamas’ acts of terror. Hamas’ goals are single-minded, and they’re sickening. They are determined to destroy Israel and kill Jews. And let’s be clear: Hamas has never cared about the genuine needs or concerns or safety of the people it claims to represent. And Hamas has no respect for the rule of law or human life. To them, Palestinian civilians are expendable. To them, Palestinian civilians are human shields. And it really is despicable, and it’s cowardly.

The lives of innocent Palestinians must be protected. The lives of UN personnel and humanitarian workers and journalists must be protected. And we mourn – we mourn the loss of every single innocent life in this crisis. Every single one. We must not look away.

And we must not become numb to the pain and the suffering of people like Wael Al-Dahdouh – a Palestinian journalist whose wife, son, daughter, and grandson were killed in Gaza this week. And my heart breaks for Wael. My heart breaks for all –all of the innocent civilians who are caught up in this crisis.

Colleagues, the United States has made clear, in both public and private conversations, that as Israel exercises its right – and indeed, its responsibility – to defend its people against a terrorist group, it must do so in line with the rules of war. There are no “law-free” zones in war. International humanitarian law must be respected throughout Gaza and the region by all actors.

President Biden and Secretary Blinken, in partnership with the UN and regional actors are engaged in direct diplomacy to help protect the lives of all civilians and to ensure humanitarian assistance can flow into Gaza.

As humanitarian organizations have stressed, the needs of Palestinians in Gaza are dire. So many families lack access to food, clean water, and other essentials. And hospitals need fuel to keep patients alive. This is a humanitarian emergency. And we are doing everything in our power to save lives.

The United States is the single largest donor to the Palestinian people, having contributed more than $1 billion to UNRWA since 2021. And last week, President Biden announced an additional $100 million in humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank.

While in the region, President Biden also secured an agreement with Israel, Egypt, and the United Nations that allowed aid to start reaching Gaza. But much more needs to be done. Much, much more is needed. And its needed urgently.

We continue to encourage Israel, Egypt, and all partners to take concrete steps to alleviate this humanitarian crisis. Just as we continue to urge and encourage all Member States, particularly those with the greatest capacity to give, to help us meet the UN’s appeal for the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

Colleagues, time is of the essence, and lives hang in the balance. As you’ll notice, two key words are missing in the resolution before us. The first is Hamas. It is outrageous that this resolution fails to name the perpetrators of the October 7th terrorist attacks: Hamas. Hamas. It is outrageous.

Another key word missing in this resolution is: Hostage. This resolution makes no mention of the innocent people – including citizens of many of you in this room – many of you here today who have citizens who are being held hostage by Hamas and other terrorist groups. These are omissions of evil. And they give cover to, and they empower, Hamas’ brutality. And no Member State – no Member State – should allow that to happen. You should not let it stand.

And that is why we have co-sponsored an amendment, put forward by Canada, that corrects these glaring omissions. This amendment is straightforward and its unobjectionable. It calls on us to condemn Hamas’ terrorist attacks on October 7th and it calls for the immediate and unconditional release of hostages. It should be easy. This is the bare minimum that we would hope to see in this resolution.

We urge all Member States to vote yes on this amendment. The General Assembly must send a clear message to the world that we stand against all acts of terror, and that we stand with all those who are being held hostage.

We believe the UN Security Council – a body charged with maintaining international peace and security – must send this same message. And that’s why, this week, we put forward a Security Council resolution that garnered the support of the majority of the Council. In drafting this text, we solicited input from all Council members, including Russia and China. And the product of our consultations was a balanced and strong resolution. That among other things condemned Hamas’ terrorist attacks, called for the immediate and unconditional release of hostages, stressed the urgency of addressing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, including through humanitarian pauses, and made clear that we must keep the hope of a two-state solution alive.

Again, this was a strong and balanced text. But unfortunately, Russia and China decided to veto this resolution. And while the United States worked to forge consensus around a balanced product, Russia has put forward bad faith, one-sided resolutions without any consultations whatsoever.

Colleagues, one-sided resolutions, whether they are put forward in the Security Council or the General Assembly, will not help to advance peace. Not when they ignore the facts on the ground. One-sided resolutions are purely rhetorical documents that seek to divide us at a time when we should all be coming together. And we must not cling to longstanding lines of division.

As President Biden said yesterday, there is no going back to the status quo as it stood on October 6th. We must not go back to the status quo where Hamas terrorizes Israel and uses Palestinian civilians as human shields. And we must not go back to the status quo where extremist settlers can attack and terrorize Palestinians in the West Bank. The status quo is untenable and it is unacceptable.

This means that when this crisis is over, there has to be a vision of what comes next. In our view, that vision must be centered around a two-state solution. Getting there will require concerted efforts by all of us – Israelis, Palestinians, regional partners, and global leaders – to put us on a path for peace. To integrate Israel with the region, while insisting that the aspirations of the Palestinian people be part of a more hopeful future.

We deeply regret that the resolution now under consideration is detrimental to this vision. But while this resolution is deeply flawed and does not meet this moment, the United States will continue to work with all Member States to chart a future where Israelis and Palestinians have equal measures of security, freedom, justice, opportunity, and dignity. And a future where Palestinians realize their legitimate right to self-determination and a state of their own.

Thank you very much.

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