Kerry slams Is­raeli set­tle­ments

Ne­tanyahu hits back at ‘skewed’ speech

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

WASH­ING­TON: US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry warned yes­ter­day that Is­rael’s build­ing of set­tle­ments was en­dan­ger­ing Mid­dle East peace, ex­press­ing unusu­ally frank frus­tra­tion with the long-time Amer­i­can ally. Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu shot back at Kerry and ac­cused him of show­ing bias against the Jewish state. In a 70-minute speech just weeks be­fore the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion hands over to Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump, Kerry said Is­rael “will never have true peace” with the Arab world if it does not reach an ac­cord based on Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans liv­ing in their own states.

His re­marks added to strain in the US-Is­raeli re­la­tion­ship - char­ac­ter­ized by per­sonal ac­ri­mony be­tween Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and Ne­tanyahu - af­ter the United States cleared the way for a UN res­o­lu­tion last week that de­manded an end to Is­raeli set­tle­ment build­ing. “De­spite our best ef­forts over the years, the two-state so­lu­tion is now in se­ri­ous jeop­ardy,” Kerry said at the State Depart­ment. “We can­not, in good con­science, do noth­ing, and say noth­ing, when we see the hope of peace slip­ping away.”

“The truth is that trends on the ground - vi­o­lence, ter­ror­ism, in­cite­ment, set­tle­ment ex­pan­sion and the seem­ingly end­less oc­cu­pa­tion - are de­stroy­ing hopes for peace on both sides and in­creas­ingly ce­ment­ing an ir­re­versible one-state re­al­ity that most peo­ple do not ac­tu­ally want.” Kerry con­demned Pales­tinian vi­o­lence which he said in­cluded “hun­dreds of ter­ror­ist at­tacks in the past year.”

His part­ing words are un­likely to change any­thing on the ground be­tween Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans or sal­vage the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s record of failed Mid­dle East peace ef­forts. In a state­ment, Ne­tanyahu said Kerry’s speech “was skewed against Is­rael”. The Is­raeli leader said Kerry “ob­ses­sively dealt with set­tle­ments” and barely touched on “the root of the con­flict - Pales­tinian op­po­si­tion to a Jewish state in any bound­aries”. The Is­raelis are look­ing past Obama and ex­pect they will re­ceive more fa­vor­able treat­ment from Trump, who takes of­fice on Jan. 20. The Repub­li­can used his Twit­ter ac­count yes­ter­day to de­nounce the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, in­clud­ing its UN vote and the nu­clear ac­cord it reached with Iran last year. “We can­not con­tinue to let Is­rael be treated with such to­tal dis­dain and dis­re­spect. They used to have a great friend in the US, but not any­more, ”Trump said in a se­ries of tweets. “Stay strong Is­rael, Jan­uary 20th is fast ap­proach­ing!” Trump had openly lob­bied against the UN res­o­lu­tion and would be ex­pected to veto any fur­ther ones deemed anti-Is­rael. He has vowed to move the US Em­bassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and has ap­pointed as am­bas­sador a lawyer who raised money for a ma­jor Jewish set­tle­ment, has cast doubt on the idea of a two-state so­lu­tion and even ad­vo­cated for Is­rael’s an­nex­a­tion of the West Bank, a no­tion even fur­ther to the right than Ne­tanyahu’s own stance.

Kerry’s speech pro­vided some in­sights into an is­sue that he per­son­ally feels pas­sion­ate about and had hoped to re­solve dur­ing his years as sec­re­tary of state. He de­fended the US de­ci­sion to al­low the pas­sage of a UN res­o­lu­tion de­mand­ing an end to Is­raeli set­tle­ments, say­ing it was in­tended to pre­serve the pos­si­bil­ity of a two-state so­lu­tion. The United States ab­stained in the Dec 23 UN res­o­lu­tion, in what many see as a part­ing shot by Obama who had an ac­ri­mo­nious re­la­tion­ship with Ne­tanyahu.


WASH­ING­TON: US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry lays out his vi­sion for peace be­tween Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans yes­ter­day at the Dean Ach­e­son Au­di­to­rium at the Depart­ment of State.

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