Bri­tain slams Kerry over Is­rael com­ments

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

LON­DON:

Bri­tain scolded US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry for de­scrib­ing the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment as the most rightwing in Is­raeli his­tory, a move that aligns Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May more closely with Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump. Af­ter US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama en­raged Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu by re­fus­ing to veto a UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion de­mand­ing an end to Is­raeli set­tle­ment build­ing, Kerry’s pub­lic re­buke of Is­rael has un­set­tled some allies such as Bri­tain.

Amid one of the United States’ sharpest con­fronta­tions with Is­rael since the 1956 Suez cri­sis, Kerry said in a speech that Is­rael jeop­ar­dizeds hopes of peace in the Mid­dle East by build­ing set­tle­ments in the oc­cu­pied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

While Bri­tain voted for the UN res­o­lu­tion that so an­gered Ne­tanyahu and says that set­tle­ments in the oc­cu­pied ter­ri­to­ries are il­le­gal, a spokesman for May said that it was clear that the set­tle­ments were far from the only problem in the con­flict.

In an un­usu­ally sharp pub­lic re­buke of Obama’s top diplo­mat, May’s spokesman said that Is­rael had coped for too long with the threat of ter­ror­ism and that fo­cus­ing only on the set­tle­ments was not the best way to achieve peace be­tween Jew and Arab. Lon­don also took par­tic­u­lar is­sue with Kerry’s de­scrip­tion of Ne­tanyahu’s coali­tion as “the most right-wing in Is­raeli his­tory, with an agenda driven by its most ex­treme el­e­ments.”

“We do not be­lieve that it is ap­pro­pri­ate to at­tack the com­po­si­tion of the demo­crat­i­cally-elected gov­ern­ment of an ally,” May’s spokesman said when asked about Kerry 70-minute speech in the State De­part­ment’s au­di­to­rium.

The US State De­part­ment said it was sur­prised by the re­marks from May’s of­fice and said Kerry’s com­ments were in line with Bri­tain’s own pol­icy. It point­edly also thanked Ger­many, France, Canada, Jor­dan, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Ara­bia, Qatar, the United Arab Emi­rates for sup­port.

Trump and May?

Bri­tain has long cher­ished its so-called “spe­cial re­la­tion­ship” with the United States as a cen­tral pil­lar of its for­eign pol­icy, but May has strug­gled to build re­la­tions with Trump’s tran­si­tion team. Fol­low­ing his elec­tion, Trump spoke to nine other world lead­ers be­fore he spoke to May while he caused as­ton­ish­ment in Lon­don when he sug­gested that Brexit cam­paigner Nigel Farage should be Bri­tain’s am­bas­sador to Wash­ing­ton.

By openly crit­i­cis­ing Kerry, who will leave of­fice in just weeks, May moves Bri­tish pol­icy closer to Trump than its other Euro­pean allies such as Ger­many and France.

Trump has de­nounced the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s treat­ment of Is­rael and promised to change course when he is sworn in on Jan. 20. “We can­not con­tinue to let Is­rael be treated with such to­tal dis­dain and dis­re­spect. They used to have a great friend in the U.S., but not any­more,” Trump said in a se­ries of tweets. “Stay strong Is­rael, Jan­uary 20th is fast ap­proach­ing!”

Ger­many’s for­eign min­is­ter, Frank-Wal­ter Stein­meier, has come out in favour of the Kerry speech while France holds a Mid­dle East con­fer­ence next month in Paris.

But Aus­tralia has dis­tanced it­self from Obama’s stance on Is­rael, ABC re­ported. Pales­tinian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas said he was con­vinced peace with Is­rael was achiev­able but de­manded that Is­rael halt set­tle­ment build­ing be­fore talks restarted. — Reuters

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