Remarks by Ambassador Robert Wood, Alternative Representative for Special Political Affairs, at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Middle East

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December 19, 2022

Thank you, Madam President, and thank you Special Coordinator Wennesland, for your briefing.

The United States applauds the difficult but important role the international community plays in the pursuit of peace and stability throughout the Middle East. At the outset, we would like to extend our condolences to the family of the Irish peacekeeper killed and wish the three injured in the attack on a UNIFIL patrol a speedy recovery.

The United States strongly supports the vital work of peacekeepers. This incident is a reminder of the cost we all bear in the pursuit of peace, and the responsibility we have to those lost in its noble pursuit to make all efforts to arrest the violence – not just in Lebanon.

The United States is deeply concerned by the sustained escalation of violence in the West Bank. The heartbreaking death of 16-year-old Jana Zakarneh is yet another tragic reminder of the human cost of this conflict and the importance of all parties to work to bring about an end to the conflict.

In this regard, it is imperative that the parties take urgent action to reduce the troubling levels of extremist violence fueling instability in the West Bank. The United States expects to see equal treatment of extremists – whether Israeli or Palestinian – in arrests, convictions, and punishments, as well as equal allocation of resources to prevent and investigate violent attacks.

It is also vital for Israeli and Palestinian leaders to both condemn all forms of violence irrespective of the nationality of the perpetrator. Both parties must remain committed to the idea that each people deserves to have equal measures of security, stability, justice, dignity, and democracy.

Unilateral actions and unhelpful rhetoric by the parties only serve to escalate tensions, fuel violence, and undermine the prospects of a negotiated two- State solution. These actions must stop.

The United States was deeply disappointed in the Palestinian-led initiative in the General Assembly to request an ICJ advisory opinion against Israel. This action is counterproductive and will only take the parties further away from the objective we all share of a negotiated two-state solution.

We also underscore the imperative of maintaining the historic status quo at the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount and condemn provocative actions and rhetoric related to the holy site.

We urge all sides to take further steps to improve the situation to the benefit of the Israeli and Palestinian people alike. Steps – however small – are badly needed from both Israelis and Palestinians to begin to reestablish confidence required to live side-by-side. We call on the international community to support such steps.

But amid the tension and anguish over the current situation, we must also look forward.

I just returned from a trip led by my friends Ambassador Gilad Erdan and Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh to the United Arab Emirates and Israel. Along with a group of other Ambassadors, I had the opportunity to see the vast potential for Israel’s normalization with Arab countries firsthand.

The Abraham Accords have the potential to bring tremendous benefits to the region, and the United States will continue to be a strong advocate of the Accords as a way to further trade, innovation, partnerships, and people-to-people exchanges in the Middle East.

While normalization between Israel and its neighbors is not a substitute for building peace between Israelis and Palestinians, it provides new avenues to pursue this aim and create new opportunities to benefit the lives of Palestinians.

This Administration strongly believes in the value of normalization and harnessing its potential to create a more stable, secure, and prosperous Middle East, to the benefit of all.

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