After repeated chidings from Biden administration officials on a variety of topics, the U.S. largely laid off Israel at Wednesday’s United Nations Security Council meeting, striking a less critical tone.
The monthly council session on the Israeli-Palestinian file unsurprisingly brought the usual fireworks between the envoys from Jerusalem and Ramallah, but U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield lauded the efforts of both sides for making commitments in recent multilateral forums to lessen tensions.
“That’s why the United States joined the meeting in Aqaba on Feb. 26, and the follow-on meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh on March 19, with Israel, the Palestinians and Jordan and Egypt. We applaud the commitments of the parties and the steps taken to restore calm,” said Thomas-Greenfield. “These meetings are an affirmation that both sides can seek calm and find a way forward.”
She said the U.S. was “deeply concerned” about what is poised to be the deadliest year of violence in the region since the Second Intifada, putting the onus on both Israelis and Palestinians to lower tensions.
“The United States is troubled by the escalation of violent attacks by Palestinians against Israelis and by violent attacks against Palestinians by Israeli settlers in the West Bank. We reject all such acts of violence, as well as incitement to violence,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “And let me also underscore that accountability and justice should be pursued with equal rigor—and resources—in all cases of extremist violence.”
The latter remark, without referencing Israel by name, reflects recent U.S. sentiment that Jerusalem is not doing enough to deter violence by Jews in Judea and Samaria, who have responded to recent terrorist attacks.
Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan and PLO envoy Riyad Mansour traded barbs, with Erdan accusing the Palestinians of repeating lies, glorifying terrorists and “regurgitating fabrications” that do nothing to bring about an end to the conflict.
Mansour pointed to a recent statement by Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich denying the existence of a Palestinian people, telling the council that Israel will use the sentiment “to justify what is to come.”
Mansour also criticized Smotrich’s comments calling for the destruction of the Palestinian Arab town of Huwara, which has served as a launching site for terrorist attacks against the adjoining Jewish population. Smotrich subsequently attempted to clarify the remark after coming under international scorn.
“To the Palestinian representative, I say: ‘Shame on you. Shame on you.’ It is so audacious that you dare condemn the words of an Israeli minister who apologized and clarified what he meant, while your president and the rest of Palestinian leadership regularly incite terrorism, never condemn the murders of Israeli civilians, praise Palestinian terrorists, and actively attempt to rewrite facts and the truth by erasing Jewish history,” Erdan said.
He also affirmed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s assertion from earlier in the day that the government will not allow the resettlement of four communities in northern Samaria abandoned during the 2005 disengagement. The Knesset repealed the relevant law this week, allowing Jews to once again visit the area.
The repeal’s passage drew criticism from the U.S. State Department, which said it went against Israeli commitments made earlier in the week at Sharm el-Sheikh.
Righting a historic wrong
Erdan echoed Netanyahu, saying, “the State of Israel has no intention of building any new communities there,” but he said the new law “rights a historic wrong” and will allow Israelis to enter areas that are “the birthplace of our heritage.”
Russia continued its use of the Security Council forum to criticize the U.S., alleging its rival seeks “to monopolize the peace process and reform it after their own specific gauges by imposing an economic truce on the Palestinians instead of meeting their legitimate aspirations for having an independent state.”
Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russia’s first deputy permanent representative to the U.N., told the council that “this once again confirms the inadequacy of the ‘behind-the-curtain’ schemes that Washington promotes and then imposes on parties to conflict while bypassing the U.N. Security Council and disregarding the internationally recognized decisions.”
While Polyanskiy said that Moscow reconfirms “Israel’s right to ensuring security,” he was critical of draft laws working their way through the Knesset which would allow for the stripping of citizenship and deportation for terrorists, even as top Russian officials have been charged with war crimes for the deportation from Ukraine to Russia of hundreds of children.
The ambassadors from France, Brazil, Gabon, Ghana, Japan, Malta, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates joined together after the session to issue a press statement. French envoy Nicolas de Rivière called on all parties to exercise restraint and reiterated the council’s demand that Israel immediately cease building in territory under its control in the eastern part of Jerusalem, along with Judea and Samaria.
Erdan said during the session, though, that the perpetualization of the conflict lies with the Palestinians’ rejectionism, and not with Israeli building.
“That’s the sole purpose of the Palestinian Authority—eternalizing the conflict in order to delegitimize the very idea of the Jewish state and its existence. That is why they have rejected every peace plan, that is why they rejected the Partition Plan back in 1947,” said Erdan. “This has and continues to be the Palestinians’ only goal.”