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Live updates (closed)Latest: Abbas lays out conditions for talks

Netanyahu: Kerry merely paid ‘lip service’ in condemning terror

PM says secretary drew 'false moral equivalence' between Jerusalem building, Palestinian terrorism, insists he has 'incontestable' evidence US was behind UN vote; Abbas conditions peace talks on settlement freeze

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the press in response to US Secretary of State  John Kerry's speech on the Israeli government and his vision for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. December 28, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the press in response to US Secretary of State John Kerry's speech on the Israeli government and his vision for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. December 28, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • US Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a speech on Middle East peace at The U.S. Department of State on December 28, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Zach Gibson/Getty Images/AFP)
    US Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a speech on Middle East peace at The U.S. Department of State on December 28, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Zach Gibson/Getty Images/AFP)
  • US Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York on September 26, 2015. (AFP/Dominick Reuter)
    US Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York on September 26, 2015. (AFP/Dominick Reuter)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s developments as they unfolded.

US Jewish group calls for probe into UN vote

The American Jewish Congress calls on the US Congress to immediately hold hearings probing the Obama administration’s decision not to veto the UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements, which passed on Friday.

“There are serious questions that need to be asked of the Obama administration following UN Security Council Resolution 2334, with the US refusing to veto a one-sided, anti-Israel biased resolution that puts Israel in international legal jeopardy and takes the position that the Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem, including the Western Wall are no longer a part of Israel,” it says in a statement.

“We urge the US Congress to investigate the actions taken by the Obama administration leading up to the vote. Such a seismic shift in America Foreign Policy in the transition period, must be fully reviewed and accounted for, specifically, Samantha Power and Ben Rhodes should explain the process which led to their actions, particularly in light of questions being raised,” it says.

Senior Hamas member arrested by Israel

A high-ranking Hamas operative was arrested by Israeli security last month after crossing the border from the Gaza Strip into Israel, the Shin Bet says in a statement Wednesday. His interrogation by the internal security agency provided vast intelligence concerning the Palestinian terror group’s operations in the coastal enclave.

Bilal Razaineh, 24, was interrogated by Israel’s internal security agency after he was caught attempting to enter Israeli territory on November 27. Razaineh has reportedly been a member of the Izz a-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s armed wing, for nearly a decade, and his interrogation yielded information about the terror group’s tunnel-digging operations beneath the Gaza Strip.

According to the Shin Bet, Razaineh was involved in Hamas’s military operations, including tunnel-digging and sniper training. He provided Israel with intelligence concerning Hamas tunnel routes in the northern Gaza Strip and the manner in which Hamas is excavating its subterranean networks, as well as insider information about Hamas positions and operatives, the Shin Bet says.

His brother, Mustafa Razaineh, is a high-ranking member of the group’s armed wing. As head of Mustafa’s security, Raizaneh had access to a high level of security. Both are considered senior operatives.

According to a report by Egyptian news site Al-Mogaz from December 1, Razaineh fled the Gaza Strip amid an internal investigation into allegations of corruption in the inner circles of Hamas’s top security officials.

Investigators learned from Razaineh about Hamas’s use of civilian facilities for military purposes. The Razaineh family home served a base for tunnel construction and arms storage, and Mustafa Razaineh and other high-ranking Hamas operatives hid in the Kamel Adwan hospital in the Gaza Strip during 2014’s Operation Protective Edge, from which they commanded operations for the war against the IDF.

The Shin Bet served charges against Razaineh in the Beersheba District Court on Wednesday including membership in a terrorist organization and arms-related offenses.

Ilan Ben Zion

Settler leader says Kerry ‘the worst secretary of state in history’

A senior leader of a Jewish settlement council is calling US Secretary of State John Kerry “a stain on American foreign policy” and “ignorant of the issues.”

Oded Revivi, mayor of the West Bank town of Efrat and chief foreign envoy of the Yesha Council, made the remarks ahead of Kerry’s final policy speech on Mideast peace Wednesday.

Revivi said Kerry is “the worst secretary of state in history” who “chose to stab his closest ally in the back” and knows little about the realities of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Israel is angry the US allowed a resolution to pass in the United Nations Security Council calling settlements a “flagrant violation” of international law. Israel accuses the US of orchestrating the resolution.

AP

Oded Revivi (Courtesy of Avi Hyman Communications)

Oded Revivi (Courtesy of Avi Hyman Communications)

Second black box from crashed Russian plane found in Black Sea

Russian rescuers trawling the Black Sea on Wednesday found the second black box from a Syria-bound military plane that crashed at the weekend with 92 people on board, authorities say.

“The second onboard recorder from the Tu-154 plane has been found and raised from the seabed,” the defense ministry says in a statement to Russian news agencies.

The discovery of the black box comes the day after rescuers found the primary inflight recorder and should help provide vital clues as investigators try to work out what caused the fatal crash.

Russia’s FSB security service has said it is looking into four main suspected causes: pilot error, technical failure, faulty fuel and a foreign object in the engine.

The agency said that so far there were no indications to suggest terrorism was behind the crash, but did not rule it out entirely.

AFP

Bill to ban national service at left-wing NGOs passes preliminary vote

A bill that would ban national service volunteers from working with organizations that receive most of their funding from foreign governments, namely left-wing human rights groups, is approved in its preliminary reading in the Knesset.

The bill was proposed by Likud lawmaker Amir Ohana and comes after the B’Tselem organization raised the ire of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others by criticizing Israeli settlement policy at the United Nations Security Council in October.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely writes on Twitter that she is “very proud” to support the legislation.

Ya’alon says ‘responsible’ leader would have blocked UN vote

Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon says a more “responsible [Israeli] leadership” would have thwarted the UN Security Council resolution on settlements.

“I have no doubt that a more responsible leadership must have, and could have, prevented this step,” Ya’alon says in criticism directed at his former boss, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Ya’alon, who resigned from political life after Netanyahu removed him from the Defense Ministry last May, says the UN resolution is “shameful,” but criticizes the diplomatic “boycotts” that Netanyahu has implemented since the resolution passed on Friday.

The former defense minister has said he will return to political life to challenge Netanyahu for the premiership.

Outgoing Defense Minister and Likud member, Moshe Ya'alon, speaks at a press conference in which he announces his resignation from the Knesset, in the Kirya, the Tel Aviv IDF headquarters, on May 20, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Outgoing Defense Minister and Likud member, Moshe Ya’alon, speaks at a press conference in which he announces his resignation from the Knesset, in the Kirya, the Tel Aviv IDF headquarters, on May 20, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Erekat confirms meeting with Kerry, but says transcript is ‘lies and half-truths’

Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat says the transcript of a meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry is “lies and half-truths,” but confirms the meeting took place in Washington.

Meanwhile, US officials from the State Department and National Security denied the meeting took place at all.

“The leaked minutes are lies and half-truths” said Erekat, according to the official Palestinian Authority Wafa news agency. “They were leaked to serve Netanyahu and Liberman’s wars against the international community who championed international law and considered all of Israel’s, the occupying power, dictates and settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, including in East Jerusalem, illegal and a gross violation of international law.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) seen with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat at the Palestinian Presidential compound in Ramallah on July 23, 2014. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) seen with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat at the Palestinian Presidential compound in Ramallah on July 23, 2014. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

According to Wafa, Erekat confirms the meeting described in the minutes took place.

In a meeting in early December with Erekat, Kerry told the Palestinians that the US was prepared to cooperate with the Palestinians at the Security council, Israel’s Channel 1 TV said, quoting the Egyptian Al-Youm Al-Sabea newspaper. Also present at the meeting according to the report were US National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and Majed Faraj, director of the Palestinian Authority’s General Intelligence Service. Kerry is quoted as saying that he could present his ideas for a final status solution if the Palestinians pledge they will support the proposed framework. The US officials advised the Palestinians to travel to Riyadh to present the plan to Saudi leaders.

White House national security council spokesman Ned Price on Wednesday told The Times of Israel that no such meeting took place. “The ‘transcript’ is a total fabrication,” he said.

While a readout from the State Department earlier this month confirmed Erekat and Kerry had met, Price said “a tripartite meeting with Kerry, Rice, and Erekat never occurred.”

State Department spokesperson John Kirby also tweeted a denial.

German police detain alleged contact of Berlin truck attacker

German police on Wednesday detain a Tunisian national on suspicion of having ties to Anis Amri, the suspected Berlin truck attacker gunned down by Italian police last week, prosecutors say.

“The deceased suspect Anis Amri had saved the number of this 40-year-old Tunisian national in his phone. The investigations indicate that he may have been linked to the attack,” the federal prosecutor’s office says in a statement.

AFP

US denies Erdogan accusations of ‘supporting IS’

The United States embassy in Ankara on Wednesday denies Washington had ever supported Islamic State (IS) jihadists in the Syrian conflict after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed the extremists had enjoyed US backing.

“The United States government is not supporting Daesh,” the embassy says in a terse statement, using another acronym for IS.

The United States “did not create or support Daesh in the past. Assertions the United States government is supporting Daesh are not true,” it adds.

The statement does not mention Erdogan by name but said there was “considerable misinformation circulating in Turkish media” about US operations against IS in Syria.

“For those interested in the truths, here are the truths,” the embassy says.

AFP

Jerusalem okays one building permit in East Jerusalem — report

The Jerusalem municipality has approved construction of a Jewish-owned building in the Arab East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, Army Radio reports, adding that the site is owned by the Ateret Cohanim organization.

Beit Yehonatan, a building acquired by Ateret Kohanim in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan (photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash 90)

Beit Yehonatan, a building acquired by Ateret Kohanim in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan (photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash 90)

Earlier, reportedly at the request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the municipality called off a Wednesday discussion on issuing permits for hundreds of new homes in East Jerusalem, a move that would have defied a UN Security Council resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlement building and expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Lavrov said to reject Kerry request to adopt new peace framework

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has reportedly rejected a request by US Secretary of State John Kerry that the Quartet on the Middle East adopt the principles the US secretary will lay out in his address on Israeli-Palestinian peace on Wednesday.

Kerry and Lavrov spoke on the phone on Tuesday night, where the Russian foreign minister dismissed the US secretary’s proposal, Haaretz reports.

According to Russian media, Lavrov subsequently released a statement urging direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

“The two top diplomats exchanged views on the situation in the Palestinian-Israeli settlement and around it. Lavrov stressed the necessity of creating conditions for direct talks between the leaders of Israel and Palestine and warned against bringing US’ domestic agenda into the work of the Middle East Quartet and the United Nations Security Council. He stressed that attempts to use these formats in bickering between the Democrats and Republicans are harmful,” a readout from the call says.

Trump says US can’t keep treating Israel with ‘total disdain’

US President-elect Donald Trump says Israel cannot continue to be treated by Washington “with such total disdain and disrespect.”

Writing on Twitter, the president-elect implies the US, under the Obama administration, is no longer “a great friend” to the Jewish state.

‘Stay strong, Israel. January 20 fast approaching!’ Trump says

Trump is urging Israel to “stay strong” as Inauguration Day is “fast approaching.”

He also slams the “horrible Iran deal,” arguing it was the beginning of a process of US “disdain” toward Israel that ended with the United Nations Security Council resolution on settlements last Friday.

PLO slams Greek Orthodox patriarch for praising Israel

PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi issues a statement condemning Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos for praising Israel’s freedom of worship.

“We are seriously concerned by the statement of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, who praised Israel for being a ‘democracy’ that ‘respects freedom of worship.’ Theophilos III is very well informed of the Israeli violations of the freedom to worship of his own community during Easter and is also aware of the occupation of the Saint John Convent nearby the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, today turned into another illegal Israeli settlement,” she says, presumably referring to the Jerusalem municipality’s approval of one building permit for a Jewish structure in the Silwan neighborhood.

“Theophilos III is also well aware of the impact of the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem on the Palestinian people in general, and on the Christian population in particular. His statement could only be delivered by someone who aims at distorting reality by disregarding the rights and aspirations of his own congregation,” she says.

“We call upon Patriarch Theophilos III to work for justice and peace of the oppressed rather than covering up the daily violations of the oppressors.”

President Reuven Rivlin speaks with Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III at his residence in Jerusalem in honor of the upcoming New Year, on December 27, 2016. (Mark Neiman/GPO)

President Reuven Rivlin speaks with Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III at his residence in Jerusalem in honor of the upcoming New Year, on December 27, 2016. (Mark Neiman/GPO)

‘We have what to look forward to,’ minister says of Trump

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan retweets Trump’s post in support of Israel, writing on social media: “We have what to look forward to.”

The senior Likud minister on Tuesday called Kerry’s speech on peace — scheduled for 6 p.m. Israel time on Wednesday — “pathetic.”

Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan attends an Interior Affairs Committee meeting at the Knesset on December 12, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan attends an Interior Affairs Committee meeting at the Knesset on December 12, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Iran claims successful long-range missile test

Iranian media reports say the Islamic Republic successfully tested long-range surface-to-air S-200 missiles

The Press TV report says Iranian military drills also tested the “Mersad” medium-range missile system, “deployed to annihilate mock aggressive aircraft,” and the “Talash” (Endeavor) missile defense system, downing drones.

Screen capture of an Iranian missile launch, October 10, 2015 (YouTube: PressTV News Videos)

Screen capture of an Iranian missile launch, October 10, 2015 (YouTube: PressTV News Videos)

Kerry set to outline ‘comprehensive vision’ for Israel-Palestinian peace

In just under an hour, Kerry will deliver a speech laying out his vision for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“In the speech, the secretary will lay out a comprehensive vision for how he believes the conflict can be resolved in the Middle East,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters on Tuesday.

The Times of Israel will be live-streaming and live-blogging the State Department address.

JTA contributed

US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a press conference after a meeting in Paris on December 10, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / PATRICK KOVARIK)

US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a press conference after a meeting in Paris on December 10, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / PATRICK KOVARIK)

Kerry will argue UN vote ‘did not blindside Israel’

According to The New York Times, Kerry will use the speech to argue that Washington’s decision not to veto the UN Security Council resolution on settlements last week “was not unprecedented” and “did not blindside Israel,” according to a senior State Department official.

Kerry will “address some of the misleading critiques” against the US administration, the official is quoted saying.

Netanyahu thanks Trump for ‘clear-cut support’

On Twitter, Netanyahu thanks Trump for his “warm friendship” and “clear-cut support for Israel!”

US official indicates no further UN action on Israel

A senior State Department official indicates there will be no further UN Security Council action on Israel under the Obama administration, according to The New York Times.

Israeli media has reported that Netanyahu fears the US will attempt to push a peace framework through the Security Council before Obama leaves office.

Kerry says US could not ‘in good conscience’ block UN vote

Kerry begins his speech,

He says the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “animated foreign policy.”

“President Obama has been deeply committed to Israel and its security,” he says.

He says he “worked on it intensively… for one simple reason: because the two-state solution is the only way to achieve a just, lasting peace.”

He says it’s the only way to ensure Israel and the Palestinians’ future.

That “future is now in jeopardy,” he says.

He says the US “could not, in good conscience stand in the way of a UN resolution,” and says he’ll explain why.

Kerry says UN vote about preserving two-state solution

Kerry says “regrettably,” some “seem to believe the US friendship” means the US must accept all Israeli policy.

“Friends need to tell each other the hard truths,” says Kerry of Israel.

He notes that Israel’s UN envoy Danny Danon does not believe in the two-state solution.

Kerry says he’s “compelled” to say that “the United States did in fact vote in accordance with our values” at the UN in its abstention.

“The vote in the United Nations was about preserving the two-state solution,” he says.

He says Obama administration has been Israel’s “greatest” friend.

“No US administration has done more for Israel’s security than Barack Obama’s,” he says.

Kerry says commitment to Israel security ‘personal’

Kerry touts US military support for Israel.

“This commitment to Israel’s security is actually very personal for me,” he says, saying he was “captivated” by Israel upon his first visit as a senator. He says he’s “come to love” to Israel.

“Out of those experiences came a steadfast commitment to Israel’s security that has never wavered” throughout my political career, says Kerry.

Kerry says Israeli military checkpoints in the West Bank can make any daily experience for Palestinians “an ordeal.”

He describes visits to Palestinians, Israelis, in Gaza and Sderot.

“No children — Israeli or Palestinian — should have to live like that.”

Kerry says, despite the “difficulties, upon becoming US secretary “I knew I had to do everything in my power to end this conflict.”

2-state solution in serious jeopardy, Kerry says

Kerry says two-state solution “in serious jeopardy.”

He says violence and the “seemingly endless occupation” paving the way for a one-state solution.

He says there are a similar number of Jews, Palestinians living between Jordan and Mediterranean.

They can choose to live in one or two states, he says. But if they opt for a binational state: “Israel can either be Jewish or democratic — It cannot be both. And it will never fully be at peace,” he says.

Citing polls, he says that many Israelis and Palestinians no longer see each other “as people.”

“The extraordinary polarization of this conflict extends beyond” Israelis and Palestinians, he says. He says anyone who disagrees with Palestinians is cast as pro-occupation, while those who criticize Israel are cast as anti-Semitic.

He says “passive resignation” by both sides is dangerous.

Kerry slams ‘broad and systematic’ settlement growth

Kerry says there is “absolutely no justification” for terrorism, noting the hundreds of attacks in the past year.

He says “the murderers of innocents are glorified on Fatah websites.”

Kerry says the Palestinian leadership renounces terrorism, but sends a “different message” by naming public squares after terrorists.

Kerry says the US has condemned the “wholly unbalanced and inflammatory UNESCO resolution on Jerusalem” and urged the Palestinians not to pursue legal action at the ICC.

Hamas “continues to pursue an extremist agenda,” and denies Israel’s right to exist, Kerry says. He discusses the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. “And yet despite the urgency of these needs, Hamas and other militant groups continue to rearm,” he says, “threatening attacks on Israeli civilians — that no government can tolerate.”

Kerry says Israel’s coalition is “the most right-wing in Israel’s history” and is “driven by the most extreme elements.”

On the West Bank, Kerry says Israel has reversed transitions to ultimately relinquish control to Palestinians.

“I don’t think people in Israel or in the world” realize “how broad and the systematic” the trend has become, he says, noting the growth of settler population.

He says population of distant settlements grew by 20,000. Kerry says Israel just approved a new settlement “closer to Jordan” than Israel. What does that tell the Palestinians about Israel’s commitment to peace? he says.

He says “of course” settlements are not the core of the conflict. “Let’s be clear, settlement expansion has nothing to do with Israel’s security,” he says.

Kerry says ‘unprecedented’ outpost law a ‘major step’ toward annexation

Kerry says one of the “most troubling” developments are outposts built on privately owned Palestinian land, illegal even under Israel’s laws.

He slams the “unprecedented” legislation to legalize outposts.

For the first time it would apply domestic, rather than military, law in the West Bank, and would be a “major step toward a process of annexation,” he says.

He quotes Bennett saying the law will be the first step in annexing West Bank.

Kerry dismisses claims settlers should be allowed to live under Palestinian sovereignty.

“Does anyone here really believe the settlers will submit to Palestinian law in Palestine?”

He says what constitutes a settlement bloc is being defined unilaterally by the Israelis and that’s why the US objects to settlement building in blocs.

Kerry says Area C mostly off-limits to Palestinians

Kerry says that in terms of geography, it isn’t just how many settlements there are, but how they are spread out.

“The more outposts that are built, the more the settlements expand, the less possibility to build a contiguous state,” he says.

“The problem obviously goes well beyond settlements,” he says. Kerry says Area C, which he says was supposed to be transferred to Palestinians under Oslo Accords, “much of it [is] effectively off-limits to Palestinian development.”

“Almost no private Palestinian building is approved in Area C at all,” he says, with the exception of one unit. He says more Palestinians have been displaced in Area C in 2016 than any previous year.

Kerry quotes Bennett saying “the era of the two-state solution” is over.

Kerry says one state would be ‘separate and unequal’

Kerry says that if there is only one state. there would be “millions of Palestinian permanently living” in the West Bank with no rights, under a military occupation, with inferior education and health services.

“Separate and unequal is what you would have and nobody can explain how that works,” he says.

Rattling off questions about how a binational state would work, he says nobody has provided “good answers to these questions because there aren’t any.”

Kerry also predicts additional violence under these circumstances.

He says he can “say with certainty” that Israel will never have peace with Arab states without a Palestinian state.

But he confirms that shared interests, fears about Iran, has changed the situation.

Arab leaders are ready to have a “fundamentally different relationship with Israel,” he says.

Kerry says Arab leaders have confirmed they will “work openly” with Israel if progress is made with the Palestinians.

“My friends, that is a real opportunity that we should not allow to be missed.”

Kerry says Netanyahu actions on settlements ‘invited UN action’

Kerry says “in literally hundreds of conversations” with Netanyahu, he stressed that settlements “only invited UN action.”

“Yet the settlement activity only increased,” he says, including the “unprecedented” outpost bill.

“In the end we could not in good conscience protect the most extreme elements of the settler movement” trying to “destroy” the two-state solution, he says.

“We may not be able to stop them — but we cannot be expected to defend them,” he says.

“We did not take this decision lightly,” he says of choosing not to veto the UN vote. “But remember, it’s important to note that every United States administration…. has opposed settlements” and the action at Security Council “is far from unprecedented.”

Kerry ‘rejects criticism’ UN vote ‘abandons Israel’

Kerry points to past examples of US administrations allowing UN action against Israel.

“We were the only administration since 1967 that did not allow any resolution to pass that Israel opposed,” he says.

Kerry says the only time the United States exercised its veto was in 2011, in a resolution condemning settlements. But 30,000 settlement units have since been approved, he says.

“So we reject the criticism that this vote abandons Israel.”

“Virtually every country in the world opposes settlements,” he says, including many of Israel’s allies.

The resolution “does not break new ground,” he says, but merely “reaffirms” long-held positions.

Kerry denies US orchestrated UN resolution

Kerry says every US administration recognizes East Jerusalem as territory taken by Israel in 1967.

“We fully respect Israel’s profound historic” ties to “the city and its holy sites,” he says.

We also reject that “the United States was the driving force” behind the resolution, he says.

“The United States did not draft or originate this resolution — nor did we put it forward,” Kerry says, dismissing allegations by Israel that Washington pushed the initiative.

But he says that it’s a “standard practice” that if the final draft of the text was balanced, “it was possible we wouldn’t block it.”

Kerry says UN vote was about long-term peace

Kerry says it will be up to Israel to decide whether Netanyahu’s “unusually heated attacks” on the administration were worth it.

“Israelis are rightfully concerned that there is not a new terrorist haven right next to them,” he says. And Israel is rightfully concerned about non-recognition of Israel’s right to exist.

But the resolution was not about that, he says.

“This vote, I can’t emphasize enough,” was not about a peace deal, “it was about how we make peace with the Palestinians in the future,” to “preserve the possibility to do so.”

Kerry says US won’t impose peace, recognize Palestinian state

Kerry says there are interim steps both sides could take to “signal real process towards creating two states,” such as strengthening Palestinian infrastructure and institutions, and easing Gaza blockades.

He says none of these steps would compromise Israel’s security.

He says “a final status agreement can only be achieved” with direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians — and stresses he has always maintained this was the case.

Other countries at the UN disagree, he says.

Kerry says “these are not the choices we will make,” referring to imposing a framework on Israel at the UN Security Council to withdraw from the West Bank, or recognizing a Palestinian state.

Kerry says ‘both sides bear responsibility’ for peace deadlock

Talking about Israel’s beginnings, he says the Jewish state always struggled for its survival and the Palestinians also suffered terribly.

“When Israel celebrates its 70th anniversary in 2018, the Palestinians will mark a very different anniversary,” he says of the “Nakba” or “catastrophe.”

He notes that it will be 50 years since the Six Day War and over 20 years since Oslo Accords.

“Both sides bear responsibility for that,” he says of the failure of Oslo Accords.

Kerry says that based on his experiences in brokering Israeli-Palestinian talks, “the core issues can be resolved. If there is leadership on both sides committed to finding a solution.”

Her says the “level of trust was too low,” but the “gaps” were not too wide.

Kerry lays out principles for peace

Kerry says “mistrust is too high,” and “more negotiations with no progress will only reinforce the worst fears.”

He lays out principles for when both sides “are ready.”

The principles include “provide for secure and recognized borders between Israel and a viable and contiguous Palestinian state” based on 1967 lines, with mutual land swaps. He says land swaps necessary to reflect changes on the ground.

The second principle, based on Resolution 181, is “two states for two people with mutual recognition and full equal rights for all citizens.” He says recognition of Israel as Jewish state is important, and hints Palestinians are now willing to do so, provided Israel recognizes a Palestinian homeland.

Third principle is a “just, fair, and realistic solution for the Palestinian refugee issue” with compensation, acknowledgement of suffering, and international assistance. He says the plight of Palestinian refugees is “heartbreaking” and must be addressed.

Four: An agreed resolution for Jerusalem as the internationally recognized capital of two states with freedom of worship in accordance with status quo. He says Jerusalem should not be divided, but says there will be no peace without having a shared capital in Jerusalem.

Five: Satisfy Israel’s security needs. He says the Palestinians must build a non-militarized state.

Kerry says Jordan, Egypt can help secure both states

Kerry says “fully ending the occupation” is the main issue for the Palestinians.

He says there are ways to secure both states with Jordanian and Egyptian assistance.

Kerry says Arab countries must recognize Israel in final accord

Kerry says US-Israeli teams developed “very impressive” work that gave him confidence Israel’s security needs could be met.

Sixth principle: End the conflict and all outstanding claims, enabling normalized relations… as envisioned in the Arab Peace Initiative.

“For Israel this must all bring broader peace, with all of its neighbors,” he says.

Kerry says up to Trump administration how they will proceed

Kerry says “there is no viable alternative” to the two-state solution.

He says this is “a path the parties could take,” including realistic steps on the ground that would begin the process of separating into two states.

“We can only encourage them to take this path — we cannot walk down it for them,” he says.

Kerry says Palestinian economy has major potential with a “talented, hungry, eager to work young workforce.”

He says the incoming administration may take another approach or reject the two-state solution.

“That is for them to decide, that’s how we work. But we cannot, in good conscience… do nothing,” says the US secretary.

This is the time to stand up, he says.

He reflects on his last visit to the Jewish state, for Shimon Peres’s funeral.

Kerry says Shimon Peres was a “beautiful man” and says he was “proud to call him my friend.”

Kerry gets standing-O after ending speech

Concluding the speech, Kerry says both sides must not give up hope.

He received a standing ovation.

Bennett says no Palestinian state on his watch

Education Minister Naftali Bennett responds to Kerry’s speech.

“Kerry quoted me three times anonymously to show that we are opposed to a Palestinian state,” says Bennett on Twitter. “It’s true. If it’s up to me, we will not establish another terror state in the heart of the land [of Israel].”

Herzog hails Kerry, ‘friend of Israel’

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog praises Kerry for his “true concern” for Israel’s security.

“John Kerry was always a friend of Israel and remains a friend of Israel,” Herzog writes on Twitter, “and his speech expresses true concern about Israel’s security and future.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog on February 3, 2016 (Courtesy)

US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog on February 3, 2016 (Courtesy)

PM slams Obama on Facebook as Kerry speech ends

Moments after Kerry finishes his speech, Netanyahu posts a photo of Obama at the Western Wall on his Facebook page.

“2008: Presidential candidate Barack Obama at the Western Wall. 2016: UN calls the Western Wall ‘occupied Palestinian territory’ Seriously?” the post says.

Netanyahu to make statement at 8:45 p.m.

Netanyahu will make a statement to the press at 8:45 p.m. Israel time at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.

A-G approves police probe of Netanyahu — report

Channel 10 reports that Netanyahu will be investigated by police in two separate cases.

The prime minister will be called in for questioning in the coming days, according to the report.

Netanyahu slams Kerry’s ‘skewed’ speech

Netanyahu slams Kerry’s speech as “skewed” an “obsessive.”

“Like the resolution that John Kerry advanced at the UN [Security Council], John Kerry gave a skewed speech against Israel. For over an hour, Kerry dealt obsessively with the settlements and almost didn’t touch on the root of the conflict — the Palestinian opposition to a Jewish state in any boundaries,” a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office says.

Raphael Ahren

Danon says US ‘acted against Israel’ at UN

Doubling down on his criticism of the Obama administration, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations writes on Twitter that the White House “acted against Israel at the UN and any claim to the contrary is a distortion of reality.”

Jordan FM lauds Kerry’s ‘historic’ speech

Jordan Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh applauds Kerry’s “historic” address as “diplomacy at its best.”

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In remarks in Hebrew, Netanyahu says Kerry’s speech “a big disappointment.”

The prime minister says Kerry drew a “false moral equivalence” between construction in Jerusalem and Palestinian terrorism.

Netanyahu says Kerry only “paying lip service” in his condemnation of terrorism, and notes the UN resolution — while condemning “incitement” — does not attribute that incitement to the Palestinians.

He reiterates that the focus on settlements in Kerry’s address was “obsessive.”

The prime minister says he was “surprised” that Kerry dedicated one of his final addresses to the conflict, as the “Middle East is in flames.”

Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, the only place in the Middle East where Christians can celebrate Christmas, says Netanyahu.

In a follow-up statement in English, Netanyahu says he looks forward to working with the Trump administration to “repeal” the UN resolution.

“I wish I could be comforted” by Kerry’s promise not to seek further UN action, but the US said the same thing about the previous resolution, says the prime minister.

There is “absolutely incontestable evidence that the United States organized” and advanced the UN resolution, says Netanyahu, adding that the transcript leaked to Egyptian media is the “tip of the iceberg.”

“Some of it is sensitive; it’s all true,” he says of the information.

Netanyahu says other countries can advance another UN resolution, while the US directs from behind the scenes. For example, Sweden, “not a known friend of Israel” could do so, says Netanyahu.

“Israelis do not need to be lectured about the importance of peace by world leaders,” he says. “No one wants peace more than the people of Israel.”

Abbas says ready to resume talks, if Israel freezes settlement construction

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas says he’s ready to resume peace talks if Israel freezes settlement construction, AP reports.

J Street ‘applauds’ Kerry speech, urges congressional backing

The left-leaning J Street organization hails Kerry’s speech and urges US Congress and American Jewish leaders to throw their backing behind his initiative.

“J Street applauds Secretary of State Kerry’s speech today, which powerfully made the case that the two-state solution is not only in Israeli and Palestinian interests, but in the American national interest as well,” it says in a statement. “J Street strongly supports as well the secretary’s proposals for concrete steps toward the two-state solution that can be taken now and his outline of the basic principles on which resolution of the conflict can ultimately be based.”

“J Street calls on Members of Congress to welcome and respect the vision laid out by Secretary Kerry as an important marker and reaffirmation of US policy, and as a basis for future Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to achieve the lasting peace and security that both peoples crave and deserve,” it says.

“We call as well on Jewish communal leaders to endorse this vision and to make clear that the overwhelming majority of Jewish Americans and friends of Israel choose the path of two states and not the path that leads to a “Greater Israel” and increasing international isolation.”

Abbas lays out conditions for talks

In his first response to Kerry’s Mideast policy speech, Abbas says Wednesday that he is ready to resume talks “within a specific time frame and on the basis of international law.” He says that would include a reference to the UN Security Council resolution passed last week, over Israel’s objections, that declared settlement construction illegal.

Abbas’ comments reiterate longstanding Palestinian positions and do not address the six principles for peace Kerry outlined in his speech.

AP

US Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York on September 26, 2015. (AFP/Dominick Reuter)

US Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York on September 26, 2015. (AFP/Dominick Reuter)

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