Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday slammed a major address by US Secretary of State John Kerry on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, calling the speech “almost as unbalanced as the anti-Israel resolution at the UN last week.”
Netanyahu was referring to a Security Council vote condemning Israel’s settlements, in which the US abstained.
Branding Kerry’s speech “a big disappointment,” Netanyahu criticized the secretary for “attacking the only democracy in the Middle East,” while numerous other conflicts raged across the region.
“Is that all he’s got?” he ridiculed the secretary. “A full hour, and that’s all he has,” Netanyahu said, in brief Hebrew remarks which he then followed with a longer, bitter English critique of the speech and of the conduct of the Obama Administration in its final weeks.
“Maybe he doesn’t realize it, but Israel is only place in the Middle East where Christians can celebrate Christmas. All of this doesn’t interest the US secretary of state, unfortunately,” Netanyahu fumed.
An earlier comment in Hebrew from the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem said Kerry “obsessively dealt with settlements and barely touched upon the root of the conflict.”
In a speech that lasted well over an hour, Kerry described settlements as an important obstacle to achieving an agreement between the sides and charged 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.”
He also condemned Palestinian incitement to violence and glorification of terrorists, singling out Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement, and slammed attempts to isolate and legitimize Israel in the United Nations and elsewhere.
But the prime minister said Kerry drew a “false moral equivalence” between construction in Jerusalem and Palestinian terrorism, and accused him of only “paying lip service” in his condemnation of terrorism. He noted that the controversial UN resolution, while condemning “incitement,” did not even attribute that incitement to the Palestinians. References to suicide bombers and millions of Israelis forced into bomb shelters by rocket attacks should not be “throwaway lines” in an address like this, he said..
“Israelis do not need to be lectured about the importance of peace by world leaders,” Netanyahu said. “No one wants peace more than the people of Israel.”
Netanyahu said he looks forward to working with the incoming administration of Donald Trump 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 before the resolution passed,” the prime minister noted.
He speculated that other countries could advance another UN resolution while the US directed from behind the scenes. France might take it up, he suggested. Or Sweden, which he described as no friend of Israel.
The prime minister and top diplomats have directly accused the Obama administration of working with the Palestinians to drive through Friday’s Resolution 2334, which the US has repeatedly denied.
Reiterating statements made his spokesman earlier this week, the prime minister said there is “absolutely incontestable evidence that the United States organized” and advanced the UN resolution, adding that the transcript leaked to Egyptian media is the “tip of the iceberg.”
“Some of it is sensitive; it’s all true,” he said of the information.
In his speech, Kerry laid out six principles that he said the United States believes must govern the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, chiefly that peace must provide for secure and recognized borders, based on the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed land swaps and a contiguous state for the Palestinians.
But, Kerry said, “a final status agreement can only be achieved” through direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, and insisted the US would not push for a further resolution at the Security Council.
Israel reportedly fears that the principles Kerry articulated will be discussed at a January 15 summit in Paris on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and could be enshrined in a further UN Security Council resolution. Netanyahu has said he will not attend the conference in Paris.