Secretary of State John Kerry has issued a strong criticism on Wednesday over the Israeli settlements and has furthermore warned that the two-state solution to ending the conflict with the Palestinians is at risk.

  • Israeli settler population in the West Bank has grown by 270,000 since the Oslo Accords of the 1990s
  • Netanyahu and Trump are both eager for January 20th to come with immediate changes promised
  • Watershed moment in US-Israeli relations as conflicting politics plays out publicly
  • Kerry rejects Israeli claims that US worked behind the scenes to guide the UN resolution to passage

This comes with less than a month left in office.

Since the United States’ decision to abstain from a vote on, and not veto, a UN resolution which condemns the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Kerry has come out and defended it. He has called it, “the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”

“I am also here to share my conviction that there is still a way forward if the responsible parties are willing to act,” Kerry said, opening his speech.

But he paired his optimism with a warning: “Despite our best efforts over the years, the two-state solution is now in serious jeopardy.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not taken this quietly, labelling Kerry’s speech as “skewed against Israel” in a statement Wednesday.

“For over an hour, Kerry obsessively dealt with settlements and barely touched upon the root of the conflict — Palestinian opposition to a Jewish state in any boundaries,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu also signalled his support for the incoming Donald Trump administration, saying, “Israel looks forward to working with Trump to mitigate the damage this resolution has done and ultimately to repeal it. We hope the outgoing Obama administration will prevent any more damage.”

This back and forth is a remarkable moment for US-Israeli relations. It is a rare candid moment between the statesmen as they unveil their criticism of each other’s side.

It felt like eight years of tension was played out in these speeches, just over three weeks before Trump is set to take office in the White House.

 

Working together

In Kerry’s speech he called on both Israel and Palestine to take meaningful steps toward their commitment to a two-state solution, including urging them to comply with the terms of the Oslo Accords. He laid out six principles including secure borders, and a “fair and realistic” solution to the question of Palestinian refugees and establishing Jerusalem as an “internationally recognized capital of the two states.”

He rejected the possibility of the US joining efforts to dictate peace terms at the UN Security Council. “The incoming administration has signalled that they may take a different path, and even suggested breaking from long-standing US policies on settlements, Jerusalem — and possibly the two-state solution,” Kerry said. “That is for them to decide. That’s how we work.”

Trump of course couldn’t resist breaching transitional protocol yet again and made clear on Twitter before Kerry’s speech that change was on the way.

“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. The beginning of the end was the horrible Iran deal, and now this (U.N.)!” Trump tweeted. “Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!”

When asked about the speech Trump said it “speaks for itself”. Congress appears to back Trumps approach with House Republicans looking to bring up a non -binding House resolution which would condemn the latest UN resolution.

Kerry continued, “The United States did not draft or originate this resolution, nor did we put it forward,” he said, adding that the US simply made it clear to the resolution’s sponsors that “if the text was more balanced, it was possible we wouldn’t block it.”

 

Netanyahu responds

The Israeli Prime Minister was quick to respond to Trump’s salacious tweet with thanks.

He went on to state that Palestinian leaders were the “root of the problem”, not the Israeli government.

“In these days of the Hanukah holiday, the light must overcome the darkness, and Israel’s light must overcome all challenges with the Jewish Menorah lights I would like to bring light in the world,” he added.

Deputy speaker of the Knesset Ahmad Tibi, one of the most influential Arab members of Israel’s parliament said in response, “Let’s face the facts: Israel is upset because this American action advances freedom and equal rights for Palestinians”.

Netanyahu’s outrage has played out publicly, he has launched a scathing attack on the Obama administration and has summoned the US ambassador to a face-to-face meeting.

In the meanwhile he has said that his government will provide Trump with detailed, sensitive information on how the US allegedly played a covert role in making way for the UNSC resolution.

Watch Kerry’s full speech here: