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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June 27, 2023

Thank you, Madam President. Thank you, Special Coordinator Wennesland, for your briefing, and Dr. James Zogby for your insights. We share your alarm over the violence in the West Bank and remain deeply troubled by the escalation we have witnessed this year. We were horrified by the brutal terror attack against Israelis near Eli in the West Bank on June 21 that killed four and injured several others. We condemn this attack in the strongest terms and offer our deepest condolences to the families of those killed and wish the injured a speedy recovery.

We also condemn the recent extremist settler attacks against Palestinian civilians, which have resulted in a death, injuries, and significant damage to their property. We extend our condolences to the families of those affected and have underscored to the Israeli government the importance of holding fully accountable and prosecuting those responsible for these acts of violence. As the leadership of Israel’s security services acknowledged, it is vital that community leaders publicly denounce these acts and contribute to efforts to prevent them.

We are also concerned by the impact of this violence on U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens have been the victims of senseless acts of terror this year, and the recent victims of the violence in Turmasayya in the West Bank, a village with a majority U.S. citizen population, includes Americans. We are actively engaging with the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to secure the welfare of our citizens and provide equal measures of justice and security for all the Palestinian and Israeli civilians affected by this violence.

We are also deeply troubled by Israel’s recent announcements advancing more than 5,000 settlement units and reports of changes to Israel’s system of settlement administration that expedite the planning and approval of settlements.

Going forward, it is vital that both Israel and the Palestinian Authority take additional steps to de-escalate tensions. We call on all parties to refrain from unilateral actions, including settlement activity, evictions and the demolition of Palestinian homes, terrorism and incitement to violence – all of which serve to only further inflame the situation.

There have been moments over the last week where some people have questioned whether such a future is possible. Other people have warned that we are witnessing an escalation of violence not seen for more than 20 years. I understand the reasons for pessimism.

The violence of the past week must serve as a call for action for all of us in this Council to redouble our efforts toward peace. The United States will continue to work with Israel and the Palestinian Authority to promote steps aimed at lowering tensions and restoring trust, which can create the conditions to bring the parties back to the table.

Finally, while we welcome the end of the UNRWA West Bank staff union strike, which disrupted services for some of the most vulnerable, we remain concerned by the continuing financial crisis facing UNRWA, particularly as Palestinians face the prospect of rising food insecurity, among other humanitarian needs. Regional actors and the broader international community must urgently consider providing UNRWA with greater financial support.

Thank you, Madam President.

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