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

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July 27, 2023

Thank you, Madam President. Thank you, Assistant Secretary-General Khiari, for your briefing.

The United States remains deeply concerned by the level of violence in the West Bank. In the first six months of this year, the number of Palestinian deaths has already surpassed the number of deaths in all of 2022. The number of Israelis killed by terrorism this year is quickly approaching that of the whole of 2022. This escalating trend of violence underscores the fragility of the situation in the West Bank and the urgent need for the parties to take immediate steps to de-escalate and restore calm.

We condemn all extremist violence, whatever the nationality of the perpetrator, and extend our deepest condolences to those affected by these senseless acts. We welcomed the joint statement by top Israeli security officials, along with other statements from Israeli officials, condemning extremist settler violence against Palestinian civilians.

We expect the Palestinian Authority to also clearly denounce terrorist acts committed against Israelis. And we urge all parties to take proactive measures to counter all forms of violence and incitement and to ensure accountability and justice are pursued with equal rigor in all cases of extremist violence.

To that end, the United States is concerned by the provocative visit an Israeli minister made to the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount in Jerusalem on July 27, and the accompanying inflammatory rhetoric. This holy place should not be used for political purposes. We call on all parties to respect its sanctity.

Furthermore, I want to reaffirm our longstanding position in support of the historic status quo at Jerusalem’s holy sites. Israel faces real security challenges, and the United States supports its legitimate right to defend its people, including against threats posed by Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and other terrorists and militants.

We recognize that Israel took steps to avoid civilian harm during its operation in Jenin earlier this month. We are nevertheless concerned by the large number of injuries and the extensive damage to property resulting from the operation in Jenin.

We urge all parties to comply with their obligations related to the protection of civilians, as well as provide humanitarian access, particularly for medical care. Additionally, the United States condemns the practice of militants operating in houses of worship and seeking cover by establishing themselves near UN facilities and schools.

We welcomed the July 9 decision of Israel’s National Security Cabinet to consider new steps to bolster the Palestinian Authority. We likewise applaud the steps taken by the Palestinian Authority to reassert control of Jenin. We encourage Israeli and Palestinian security forces to increase their cooperation to improve the security situation in the West Bank, including in Jenin and other areas that have been loci of violence.

And we call on all parties to refrain from actions and rhetoric that further inflame tensions, including settlement activity, evictions, and the demolition of Palestinian homes, terrorism, and incitement to violence, such as payments to the families of terrorists.

While we are discussing international threats to peace and security – which is our mandate – we should not forget the destabilizing role Iran plays in support to groups in the West Bank and Gaza itself.

We would also like to take a moment to urge Hamas to return the remains of Oron Saul and Hadar Goldin and also release the two Israelis who are currently held captive by Hamas in Gaza.

We emphasized during Israeli President Herzog’s visit to the United States the need for the parties to work toward de-escalation. We will continue our engagement with Israel and the Palestinian Authority to promote steps aimed at lowering tensions and restoring goodwill. Good-faith dialogue remains the best chance to achieving stability.

The United States continues to believe Israelis and Palestinians alike deserve equal measures of security, prosperity, and freedom and will keep working towards these goals in tangible ways in the immediate term.

We continue to support a two-state solution and will continue to promote dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians and seek ways to achieve a comprehensive, just, and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Thank you, Madam President.

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