Saturday, January 30, 2010

Remarks by U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, at an Open Security Council Debate on the Middle East

Alejandro Wolff
Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, NY
January 27, 2010


Thank you, Mr. President. Advancing the cause of comprehensive peace in the Middle East remains one of the United States’ most important foreign policy endeavors. Our commitment to this goal is unwavering. And only through negotiations can this objective be realized—an approach we strongly encourage the international community to support.

The immediate resumption of negotiations toward a two-state solution is the only realistic way forward. It is in the interests not only of the United States but of Israelis, Palestinians, and all of the region’s people.

We call on all members of this Council to underscore this message publicly and with the parties. Waiting to resume talks benefits no one. The status quo does nothing to meet the legitimate needs of Israelis or Palestinians.

As Secretary of State Clinton has said, we believe that, through good-faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree on an outcome that ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments. Despite the difficulties and the complex political circumstances in the region, we are committed to relaunching negotiations and to the cause of comprehensive peace in the Middle East.

National Security Advisor Jones and Special Envoy for Middle East Peace Mitchell both conducted talks in the region this month. Senator Mitchell also traveled to Europe to consult with the Quartet and other key partners, and high-level Egyptian and Jordanian delegations made helpful visits to Washington. With the Israelis and the Palestinians, we have consistently pursued a two-pronged approach: first, to encourage the parties to enter negotiations to reach agreement on all permanent status issues; and second, to help the Palestinians build the economy and the institutions that will be necessary when a Palestinian state is established. The two objectives are mutually reinforcing. Each is essential, and neither can be attained without the other. Special Envoy Mitchell will be following up with the parties in the coming days, and he will return to the region in the near future.

Mr. President, the Quartet has long called on all parties to uphold their Roadmap obligations. A freeze on settlement activity is an Israeli obligation under the Roadmap, and U.S. policy on this remains unchanged. We do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. That said, we also believe that the settlement moratorium recently declared by the Israeli government is a significant step that could have a meaningful effect on the ground.

U.S. policy on Jerusalem also remains unchanged. The status of Jerusalem and all other permanent status issues should be resolved through negotiations. We disagree with some Israeli actions in Jerusalem affecting Palestinians in areas such as housing, including the continuing pattern of evictions and demolitions of Palestinian homes. Neither party should take actions that could unilaterally preempt, or appear to preempt, negotiations.

The United States recognizes that Jerusalem is a deeply important issue for Israelis and Palestinians and for Jews, Muslims, and Christians around the world. We believe that through good-faith negotiations, the parties can agree to an outcome that realizes the aspirations of both parties for Jerusalem and safeguards its status for people around the world.

We call on the Palestinian Authority to fulfill its Roadmap obligations to ensure security, reform its institutions of governance, and refrain from any acts of incitement. In this regard, we express our strong concern that a Palestinian Authority official recently attended a ceremony commemorating a terrorist who was responsible for an attack that claimed the lives of many Israeli civilians.

We are pleased to see the letter from the Secretary-General reporting that his staff continues to work constructively with the Government of Israel on issues related to the Gaza Board of Inquiry, and to note that the financial issues have been resolved in a manner satisfactory to the Secretary-General.

At the same time, we call on Israel to reopen its border crossings with Gaza, with appropriate monitoring to address security concerns. This would allow for greater movement of people and humanitarian and reconstruction materials, consistent with Resolution 1860 and the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access, thus alleviating the hardship and stress that civilians in Gaza face.

Hamas has yet to accept the principles established by the Quartet that are the building blocks of an independent Palestinian state: renouncing violence, recognizing Israel, and accepting previous agreements and obligations, including the Roadmap. Nor has it shown a greater interest in building a future for the Palestinian people than through its own hateful rhetoric and violence. We are also concerned about Hamas interference with international efforts to deliver humanitarian assistance in Gaza, continued arms smuggling, and the launching of terrorist rocket attacks against Israel, which, it is important to recall, precipitated the Gaza conflict just over a year ago. And we call for the immediate release of Gilad Shalit, abducted and held by Hamas since 2006.

A key component of international support for the Palestinian people comes through the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. We thank Commissioner-General Karen AbuZayd for her devoted service to UNRWA over the past nine years, and we welcome the appointment of Filippo Grandi of Italy to this post. We also welcome the appointment of Margot Ellis of the United States as UNRWA’s Deputy Commissioner-General.

The United States is UNRWA’s largest single donor. In 2009, we provided more than $267 million, including more than $116 million to the General Fund. Unfortunately, the Fund still faces severe and chronic shortfalls—estimated at $140 million for this year.

We appreciate the efforts of donors that have provided sizeable emergency support, but there is no substitute for predictable, annual contributions to the General Fund. As such, we welcome the renewed commitment of the Arab League, whose members have pledged collectively to provide UNRWA with no less than 7.8 percent of its General Fund. It is imperative that these pledges be delivered.

Let me conclude by turning briefly to the situation in Lebanon. We thank General Graziano for his service with UNIFIL, and we welcome General Asarta, who begins his new assignment tomorrow. We also recall the important contribution that all troop-contributing countries are making to this vital effort. We call upon all parties to fulfill the provisions of this Council’s Resolutions 1559, 1680, and 1701.

Thank you, Mr. President.