Statement by Ambassador Alejandro D. Wolff, U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, on the Situation in the Middle East, in the Security Council Chamber

Alejandro Wolff
Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
October 14, 2009




AS DELIVERED

Thank you Mr. President. Let me also join others in welcoming Minister Al-Malki and Ambassador Shalev to the Council today and also to thank Under Secretary-General Pascoe for his comprehensive update. As we have noted in prior monthly Middle East consultations, advancing the cause of peace in the Middle East is among the most important objectives President Obama has identified for our renewed international engagement. As President Obama affirmed to the General Assembly on September 23, "the time has come to re-launch negotiations without preconditions that address the permanent status issues: security for Israelis and Palestinians, borders, refugees, and Jerusalem. The goal is clear: Two states living side by side in peace and security -- a Jewish state of Israel, with true security for all Israelis; and a viable, independent Palestinian state with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967, and realizes the potential of the Palestinian people."

Special Envoy Mitchell has just returned from another trip to the region, working to create the context for a prompt resumption and early, successful conclusion of negotiations between the parties. I wish to place in clear contrast two dramatically different visions for the road ahead: the road of statehood and the road of conflict.

The Palestinian Authority and President Abbas are constructing the basis for a viable and responsible Palestinian state. They have been making steady and significant progress towards that goal. We have welcomed Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad's development of a detailed, two-year plan to develop institutional capacity. We supported the development of over 2000 Palestinian security personnel to the West Bank, that is, the deployment of those personnel, after completing their training in Jordan, with another 500 on the way.

We have also welcomed the recent increases in economic activity and quality of life in the West Bank. Israel has taken constructive steps to facilitate this progress. It has removed key checkpoints and eased conditions at others, and withdrawn troops to the outskirts of four cities. These initial steps taken show that Israelis and Palestinians can make practical progress by working together towards the same goals.

Much more, however, needs to be done. Israel should stop settlement activity and dismantle outposts; the United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. Israel should further ease access and movement, and facilitate economic growth in the West Bank. Palestinians, for their part, should continue efforts on security, reform of governance institutions, and ending incitement. And all parties, including Arab states, need to move forward to re-launch negotiations as soon as possible.

Then there is the road of conflict. Hamas' behavior continues to fall short of the principles long outlined by the Quartet: renunciation of violence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements between the parties. In the month of September alone, thirteen rockets and mortars were fired from Hamas-controlled Gaza indiscriminately at civilian communities in Israel, and there were dozens of other attacks along the boundary. Terrorist attacks of this nature are not a form of "resistance." They do represent a threat to international peace and security, and they were the cause of the conflict between Israel and Hamas last winter. This path will never lead to the fulfillment of Palestinian aspirations for an independent state.

A further danger to international peace and security, which we note with very grave concern, is the continuing presence of armed groups including Hizballah in Lebanon.  Armed elements, their assets, and their weapons in South Lebanon pose a similar threat to those who work diligently for peace and security in that country. The explosion in Tayr Filsi, taken alongside the earlier explosion in Khirbet Salim, signals yet another weapons related violation of Security Council Resolution 1701. It should be a source of deep concern to all of us. We look forward to DPKO's report for detailed information on this latest, serious incident.

We continue to strongly support the full implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions 1701 and 1559, including their calls for all arms in Lebanon to be brought under state control and the delineation of Lebanon's borders. The people of Lebanon deserve to reap the benefits of a government whose services and authority extends throughout the land.

Mr. President, lest we sow the seeds of another conflict, all UN members must also fulfill their responsibility to prevent the smuggling of arms into Gaza.

We also continue to call for the immediate release of Gilad Shalit. At the same time, just as we defend Israel's right to self defense, we cannot accept the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The people of Gaza must have hope for a better future and know that the international community hears their concerns. We call for a reopening of the crossings, with an appropriate monitoring regime, to allow for the entry of legitimate goods into Gaza.

On the matter of the Report of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict that was requested by the Human Rights Council in Geneva, the allegations of human rights and humanitarian law violations contained therein it are not a matter for Security Council action. We continue to have serious concerns about the Report, its unbalanced focus on Israel, the overly broad scope of its recommendations, and its sweeping conclusions of law. Nevertheless, we take the allegations in the report seriously. Israel has the institutions and the ability to carry out serious investigations of these allegations and we encourage it to do so. Hamas is a terrorist organization and has neither the ability nor the willingness to examine its violations of human rights.

Finally, we urge all Arab states to take steps in the spirit of the Arab Peace Initiative towards building relations with Israel including ceasing harsh rhetoric in international organizations and other fora. Arab governments can also promote progress by supporting the Palestinian Authority under President Abbas both politically and financially, thus helping to improve conditions for all Palestinians throughout the West Bank and Gaza.

With patience and determination we can assist all people in the region to construct a new and better future and realize the peace and stability they deserve. 

Thank you, Mr. President.

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PRN: 2009/213