Thank you, Madam President, and thank you, Under Secretary-General Pascoe, for your briefing.
Madam President, Israeli and Palestinian leaders have continued to engage in proximity talks with the help of Special Envoy Mitchell. The gaps have narrowed, and we believe there are opportunities to narrow them further in direct talks, which we encourage the parties to begin as soon as possible. Special Envoy Mitchell was in the region again this week to continue this process. Based on President Obama’s recent meetings in Washington with President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu, we believe that we have an opportunity to make progress toward Middle East peace, which can ultimately only be achieved through direct negotiations, and we urge all concerned to work with us toward this goal.
Only through good-faith negotiations can the parties 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 and meet Israeli security requirements. We should all seek to assist the parties as they make the hard choices necessary for lasting peace—and do nothing to hinder them.
The United States has welcomed the new policy toward Gaza announced by the Government of Israel, which responds to the calls of many in the international community. Israel’s July 5th announcement of a list of controlled items for Gaza is an important step toward successful implementation of this new policy. With this change, the flow of goods and material into Gaza should significantly improve, along with the access that the people of Gaza have to those items.
We are already seeing progress, with an expansion of both the scope and quantity of goods entering Gaza through the crossings. We welcome these increases and expect the number of truckloads to continue to rise in the days and weeks ahead. These arrangements should improve conditions for the people in Gaza while preventing the entry of weapons for Hamas. We urge all those wishing to deliver goods to do so through established channels so their cargo can be inspected and transferred via land crossings into Gaza—to ensure that Israel's legitimate security needs are addressed even as the Palestinians’ humanitarian needs are met.
Hamas’ interference with international assistance and the work of nongovernmental organizations continues to seriously complicate efforts in Gaza. On June 28, for example, an armed band of masked men attacked and destroyed one of the sites of UNRWA’s Summer Games for children in Gaza. This was the second such attack in a month—another craven attempt to impose an extremist viewpoint on Gaza’s population. We commend UNRWA for conducting a program that promotes human rights and tolerance and that serves as a viable alternative to Hamas camps that promote radicalism and violence.
Hamas continued arms smuggling and commitment to terrorism undermines security and prosperity for Palestinians and Israelis alike. And Hamas continues to hold captive the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, whom it abducted in 2006. We call again for his immediate release.
Madam President, in its June 1st statement on the Gaza flotilla incident, this Council expressed support for the proximity talks, urged the parties to act with restraint, avoiding any unilateral or provocative actions, and called on all international partners to promote an atmosphere of cooperation between the parties and throughout the region. We urge the international community to shun unilateral action and confrontation and instead undertake conciliatory steps that promote cooperation between the parties. We call on all parties to act responsibly to meet the recovery needs of the people of Gaza and to rebuild Gaza’s civilian private sector, which will be the engine of Gaza’s recovery.
In this context, Israel, like any nation, should be allowed to undertake an investigation into events that involve its national security. Israel is capable of conducting a serious and credible investigation, and the structure and terms of reference of the independent public commission on the Gaza flotilla can meet the standard of a prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation. We will prejudge neither the process nor its outcome, and we will await the conduct and finding of the investigation before drawing further conclusions.
Madam President, the United States has expressed its concern about the reports of Israeli government actions in Jerusalem, including the demolition of a number of buildings in East Jerusalem. We have urged all parties to avoid actions that could undermine trust, and we continue to oppose unilateral actions that prejudge negotiations on the status of Jerusalem—which, like all other permanent status issues, must be resolved by the parties through negotiations.
Madam President, let me conclude by noting our firm and abiding commitment to Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence—and thus to the full implementation of this Council’s Resolutions 1559, 1680, and 1701. UNIFIL is integral not only to the full implementation of Resolution 1701 but also to maintaining calm along the Blue Line. The United States fully supports UNIFIL, and we commend the active role it plays in ensuring the implementation of Resolution 1701. We call on all parties to preserve UNIFIL’s freedom of movement within its area of operations and strongly support its mission.
Thank you very much, Madam President.
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