Key Arab states on Thursday expressed their support for US Secretary of State John Kerry’s framework for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the two-state solution, which he laid out a day earlier in a long, comprehensive speech in Washington.
Saudi Arabia issued a statement Thursday via an official news agency saying that the kingdom “welcomed the proposals” set forth by Kerry and that they were in accordance “with the majority of the resolutions of international legality and most of the elements of the Arab Peace Initiative” adopted by the Arab League in 2002.
Kerry’s proposals represent “an appropriate basis for achieving a final settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” the Saudi Press Agency reported, citing an unnamed source in the Saudi Foreign Ministry.
Qatar echoed Saudi Arabia’s remarks, saying in a Foreign Ministry statement that the parameters “go in line with the majority of international legitimacy’s resolutions as well as the Arab Peace Initiative, stressing Qatar’s support for efforts aiming at reviving the peace process in the Middle East.”
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry also backed the initiative with a spokesman saying “the principles proposed by Secretary John Kerry are mostly consistent with the international consensus and the Egyptian vision,” and warning that “in the end what is important is the will to implement those principles eventually.”
Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said the parameters would be “studied and evaluated,” disclosing that Kerry had spoken in recent months with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry about “some aspects of his vision” during talks with international and regional parties involved in the peace process, according to Ahram Online.
In a 70-minute speech on Wednesday, Kerry described settlements as a central obstacle to achieving an agreement between the sides and declared that Israeli actions in the West Bank were putting the two-state solution, which he said was the sole path to peace, “in serious jeopardy.”
Kerry argued that settlement construction in the West Bank was being “strategically placed in locations that make two states impossible” and said the “the status quo is leading toward one state, or perpetual occupation.”
Settlement expansion, he declared, “has nothing to do with Israel’s security.”
“If the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or democratic, it cannot be both, and it won’t ever really be at peace,” he warned.
The acceptance of Kerry’s proposal by Arab states appeared to be a tacit nod to the Israeli government’s core demand the Palestinians recognize Israel a Jewish state.
Citing the 1947 UN partition plan, Kerry endorsed Netanyahu’s demand that the Palestinians recognize the principle of two states for two peoples — “one Jewish and one Arab, with mutual recognition and full equal rights for all their respective citizens.”
“Recognition of Israel as a Jewish state has been the US position for years, and based on my conversations in these last months, I am absolutely convinced that many others are now prepared to accept it as well – provided the need for a Palestinian state is also addressed,” Kerry said in his speech.
The address came on the heels of a United Nations Security Council resolution slamming Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which passed when 14 nations voted in favor and the US abstained, allowing the measure through and infuriating Israel
The resolution draft was introduced by Egypt on Thursday and then withdrawn amid pressure from Israel and the incoming Trump administration which intervened on its behalf. The efforts to table the proposal were thwarted when, on Friday, Malaysia, Senegal, Venezuela and New Zealand — current members of the Security Council — pushed the resolution through for a vote.
Israel has accused the US of colluding with the Palestinians to advance the resolution, charging that Washington had abandoned and ambushed its Mideast ally, a charge the US has denied, including by Kerry in his Wednesday speech.
An Egyptian paper on Tuesday published what it claims were the transcripts of meetings between top US and Palestinian officials including Kerry that, if true, would corroborate the Israeli accusations.
The White House said the transcript was “a total fabrication,” but the Egyptian report fits with Israeli claims that it had received “ironclad” information from Arab sources that Washington actively helped craft last week’s UN resolution.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.