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Remarks at the UN Security Council Session on the Situation in the Middle East

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
UN Headquarters
New York City
January 8, 2009

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Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, Mr. Secretary General. I am pleased to join the members of the Council for this important discussion tonight. It is obviously a very serious situation in Gaza. And while our goal must be the stabilization and normalization of Gaza through the implementation of a durable and fully respected cease-fire and an end to all terrorist activities, I think that this resolution shows that the Council and the United Nations is indeed seized of the matter.

This resolution is a step toward our goals. It reflects the international community’s concern about the circumstances in Gaza and its desire for a sustainable peace in Gaza.

I want especially to note that while much work remains to be done, there is important work underway. In that regard, the work of the Egyptian president, President Mubarak, in the mediation efforts of Egypt are to be not just applauded, but supported. I believe that it is those efforts that will ultimately help to lead to a durable cease-fire and that will not only lead to a durable cease-fire but to a sustainable peace in Gaza, and we must all support the Egyptian efforts.

Obviously, there are many tasks to be done to root out the causes of the hostilities, including to deal with the provision of rockets and the smuggling of weapons, to secure the borders so that we can lay the basis for the reopening of crossings based on the principles of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access, and to provide security for the Israeli people and a better life for the people of Gaza.

We must establish an international consensus that Gaza must never again be used as a launching pad for rockets against Israeli citizens, because it is important to remember how this crisis began. Violence in Gaza was instigated by Hamas, a terrorist group that called for the destruction of Israel. Eighteen months ago, Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in a coup, and since then, thousands of guns and rockets and mortars have been smuggled into Gaza. Hamas refused to extend the tahadiya and continued armament is a root cause of the current situation and it has gravely endangered the residents of both Gaza and southern Israel. Hamas’s commitment to violence is not only an attack on Israel, but also on the two-state solution.

We require principled resolution of the situation in Gaza, and the Security Council resolution that we are passing tonight, in fact, gives us a basis on which to do this.

Of course, it is not just a matter of resolving the situation on the ground. There will need to be a principled resolution also of the political challenges in Gaza that reestablishes the Palestinian Authority’s control, including over borders; and facilitates the normal operation of Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossings, as the resolution recognizes; and in time, the opening of other crossings.

And we support President Abbas as he carries out his responsibilities both with respect to governance and in negotiations to establish a state of Palestine. Regional states have previously recognized the importance of this, notably in the November 26 Arab League resolution.

As we strive for a sustainable cease-fire, the United States remains deeply concerned about the innocent Palestinians who are suffering in Gaza, and the United States will undertake, maintain, and continue the humanitarian efforts that we are taking to support UNRWA and the other nongovernmental organizations that are working there.

Let me say, too, that the United States recognizes the right of Israel, like other states, to exercise its right of self-defense. And we have said to Israel that it is obligated to take feasible steps to minimize the impact of any actions on civilians.

Ladies and gentlemen, I want to remind the Council also that Hamas continues to hold IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, and he must be released.

Finally, let me just note that while we are dealing with the current situation in Gaza, we must keep our eye on the goal of Resolution 1850, which we passed in this chamber a short time ago. That is the goal of establishing an enduring commitment to mutual recognition; freedom from violence, incitement, and terror; and a two-state solution, building upon previous agreements and obligations. All UN member-states bear a responsibility to promote these principles and to help the parties toward the establishment of a state of Palestine to live in peace, side by side with the state of Israel.

Ladies and gentlemen, the United States thought it important to see the outcomes of the Egyptian mediation efforts in order to see what this resolution might have been supporting, and that is why we chose to abstain tonight. But after a great deal of consideration, we decided that this resolution, the text of which we support, the goals of which we support, and the objectives that we fully support, should indeed be allowed to go forward. I believe in doing so, the Council has provided a roadmap for a sustainable, durable peace in Gaza.

Thank you very much.


Released on January 8, 2009

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