US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield is set to arrive in Israel on Monday, making her the first member of US President Joe Biden’s cabinet to visit the new government in Jerusalem.
Thomas-Greenfield will be visiting Israel for the first time. She is expected to meet with President Isaac Herzog, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli, with whom she shares a focus on female empowerment.
She will be accompanied by Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan on the trip, which is set to include a visit to Yad Vashem, as well as a security-focused tour to the Gaza and Lebanon borders, led by IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Herzi Halevi.
Erdan said that "as someone who represents our most important ally at the UN and Security Council, Ambassador Thomas Greenfield's stances are especially significant, and therefore, her first-ever visit to Israel and what she learns here has a very great importance that will influence her stances.
"I am sure that after her visit, her support for us will only grow stronger and she will things that are important to Israel on her visit, that will help our status in the international arena," Erdan stated.
Thomas-Greenfield said in a briefing on Friday that visiting Israel has been one of her top priorities.
“The Biden administration is committed to defending Israel from one-sided and biased resolutions that consume too much time in UN bodies, and I have been proud to stand up for Israel at the Security Council,” the ambassador said.
The statement came days after the US voted against most items in a package of resolutions against Israel, but abstained on one relating to support for UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees and their descendants, which included support for what their supporters call the “right of return.”
She said the US is “working diligently with the Israelis and with the Palestinian Authority, other regional partners and the UN to increase humanitarian and reconstruction assistance in a way that addresses Israel’s legitimate security concerns.” Washington provided over $218 million to UNRWA in 2021 to that end.
Thomas-Greenfield said she also hopes to discuss a positive agenda at the UN, impacting the Abraham Accords and aiming for Israel’s full participation in the UN system.
However, when asked whether the US will encourage Israel to rejoin UNESCO, which both countries left in the previous administration due to its anti-Israel stance, she had no answer. The Biden administration has said it would rejoin the organization.
She did, however, “note that since the US withdrawal from UNESCO, we have seen that many of our adversaries have really exploited the vacuum we left to advance their own authoritarian agenda in the organization. And we don’t believe that’s in the US or Israel’s interest.”
In relation to Iran, which is expected to return to indirect talks to rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal with the US later this month, Thomas-Greenfield said that Iran’s “nuclear activities beyond the JCPOA’s limits...only isolate Iran internationally and will not provide Iran any negotiating leverage.”
Thomas-Greenfield also said visiting Yad Vashem is important to her, as part of her work to “combat antisemitism and other forms of hatred across the globe and as we consistently raise our voices to say never again.”
Asked about the Biden administration’s aim to reopen the US consulate serving the Palestinians in Jerusalem, she had no comment.
The ambassador will also visit Ramallah and Amman on her trip to the region.