Explanation of Vote at the Security Council Session on the Situation in the Middle East,
Including the Palestinian Question

Samantha Power
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations

New York, NY

December 30, 2014


Thank you Mr. President,

In recent years, no government has invested more in the effort to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace than the United States. Peace – however difficult it may be to forge – is too important to give up on. As we were reminded this summer in Gaza, and as we’ve been reminded too painfully recently in Jerusalem and the West Bank, the human consequences of ensuing cycles of violence are too grave. The United States every day searches for new ways to take constructive steps to support the parties in making progress toward achieving a negotiated settlement.

The Security Council resolution put before us today is not one of those constructive steps; it would undermine efforts to get back to an atmosphere that makes it possible to achieve two states for two people.

Regrettably, instead of giving voice to the aspirations of both Palestinians and Israelis, this text addresses the concerns of only one side. It is deeply imbalanced and contains many elements that are not conducive to negotiations between the parties, including unconstructive deadlines that take no account of Israel’s legitimate security concerns. In addition, this resolution was put to a vote without a discussion or due consideration among Council members, which is highly unusual, especially considering the gravity of the matter at hand. We must proceed responsibly, not take actions that would risk a downward spiral.

We voted against this resolution not because we are comfortable with the status quo. We voted against it because we know what everyone here knows, as well – peace will come from hard choices and compromises that must be made at the negotiating table. Today’s staged confrontation in the UN Security Council will not bring the parties closer to achieving a two-state solution.

We voted against this resolution not because we are indifferent to the daily hardships or the security threats endured by Palestinians and Israelis, but because we know that those hardships will not cease and those threats will not subside until the parties reach a comprehensive settlement achieved through negotiations. This resolution sets the stage for more division – not for compromise. It could well serve to provoke the very confrontation it purports to address.

For decades, the United States has worked to try to help achieve a comprehensive end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and we remain committed to achieving the peace that both Palestinians and Israelis deserve: two states for two peoples, with a sovereign, viable, and independent Palestine living side-by-side in peace and security with a Jewish and democratic Israel.

The United States does not just acknowledge the tremendous frustrations and disappointments on both sides over the years in pursuit of peace; we share them. And we understand the immense challenges the parties need to overcome to make peace a reality. Yet at the same time, we firmly believe the status quo between Israelis and Palestinians is unsustainable.

The United States recognizes the role that this Council has played before in advancing a sustainable end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including through resolutions 242, 338, and 1515, which calls for the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, with both states “living side-by-side within secure and recognized borders.” In a May 2011 speech, President Obama elaborated further that “the United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine…based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.” He made clear that the “Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their full potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.”

The United States will continue reaching out to the parties in an effort to find a way forward, and we are ready to engage and support them when they are ready to return to the table. And we will continue to oppose actions by both sides that we view as detrimental to the cause of peace, whether those actions come in the form of settlement activity or imbalanced draft resolutions in this Council. The parties have a responsibility to negotiate and to own the hard choices that will be needed if they are to bring real and long-overdue change to their region to benefit their people.

Today’s vote should not be interpreted as a victory for an unsustainable status quo. Instead, it should serve as a wake-up call to catalyze all interested parties to take constructive, responsible steps to achieve a two-state solution, which remains the only way to bring an end to the ongoing cycle of violence and suffering. We hope that those who share our vision for peace between two states – Israel and Palestine, both secure, democratic, and prosperous – will join us in redoubling efforts to find a path forward that can rally international consensus, advance future negotiations, and provide a horizon of hope for Palestinians and Israelis alike. Thank you.