Linda Thomas-Greenfield
Linda Thomas-GreenfieldREUTERS/Mike Segar

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield on Tuesday criticized Israel’s construction of homes in Judea and Samaria.

Speaking at a UN Security Council briefing on the situation in the Middle East, Thomas-Greenfield asserted that the Israeli construction “has reached a critical juncture”.

She recalled her recent visit to Israel, which she said was meant “in part to reaffirm US support for a two-state solution, which we still strongly believe is still viable – a two-state solution in which a Jewish and democratic Israel lives in peace alongside a sovereign, viable Palestinian state.”

On the Israeli construction, the US Ambassador said that during her visit she “was told how many Palestinian families fear eviction from their homes because it is nearly impossible to get building permits as settlements expand.”

“US disapproval of settlement expansion goes back decades. This is nothing new for us. But the practice has reached a critical juncture, and it is now undermining even the very viability of a negotiated two-state solution,” she added.

At the same time, Thomas-Greenfield also criticized the UN’s anti-Israel bias.

“Israelis also shared with me their concern that the United Nations is intrinsically biased against Israel. They interpret the overwhelming focus on Israel in this body as a denial of Israel’s right to exist and an unfair focus on this one country – and they are correct,” said the US envoy.

“The Security Council’s monthly meetings on the situation in the Middle East that focus almost exclusively on Israel are seen by Israelis as another example of this. This Council’s attention should reflect all areas that threaten international peace and security, and we should have open meetings on Lebanon and meet on Iran more regularly. Israel does not define the Middle East,” she added.

“As Council Members know, the animating principle behind the Biden Administration’s approach to Middle East peace is that Israelis and Palestinians deserve equal measures of freedom, dignity, security, and prosperity, which is a goal unto itself and a means to advance a negotiated two-state solution. But we cannot make progress toward this end without a modicum of trust. It is critical to explore opportunities with Israelis and Palestinians to rebuild some degree of confidence in each other,” stated Thomas-Greenfield.

“Fortunately, my meetings yielded several promising ideas we can pursue together. Both sides spoke of the need for confidence-building measures to break down the walls of distrust. Much of this trust-building needs to be worked out between the Israelis and Palestinians themselves, but this Council, however, can play a role in facilitating constructive steps. We can enforce Security Council resolutions intended to constrain Iran’s regional malign activities, nuclear threats, support for terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah,” she continued.

“The Security Council can also speak with one voice in denouncing the incitement to violence, whether by terrorist organizations or individuals. We can promote steps to improving the lives of ordinary Palestinians, from urging Israel to issue more work permits to granting additional building permits in Area C of the West Bank. The Council can also demonstrate its support for new efforts to facilitate humanitarian and reconstruction assistance to Gaza while ensuring protections against diversions to terrorist organizations are robust.”

While she stressed the importance of providing funding to UNRWA, the UN agency for “Palestinian refugees”, Thomas-Greenfield also denounced the anti-Semitism which is prominent in textbooks used by the organization.

“And, finally, the international community can also provide financial contributions to UNRWA that match the political support the Agency enjoys. As more states step up with contributions, they should also join the United States in urging UNRWA to establish a more sustainable financing model and to rigorously adhere to humanitarian principles, including of neutrality, something I personally raised with UNRWA leadership during my visit to include concerns about anti-Semitic references in textbooks used in UNRWA schools,” she said.

She called for the Security Council to support “tangible steps to make a real difference in the lives of Israelis and Palestinians” and added, “But unfortunately, time is running out – we need to move now. Let us all commit, today, to constructive partnership and concrete progress between Israelis and Palestinians. This is the only antidote to despair, mistrust, insecurity, and violence that threatens a two-state solution, which remains our best chance for a sustainable and just peace.”