US Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly took Israel and the Palestinians to task last week, accusing them of undermining the prospects for a two-state solution.
At a meeting last Monday of nations that fund the Palestinian Authority, Kerry accused Israel of failing to fulfill its promises to the Palestinians and of increasing settlement activity in an effort to put facts on the ground that would make a future Palestinian state “unsustainable,” Haaretz reported Sunday.
Kerry was also said to have accused the Palestinian Authority of inciting violence while not doing enough to prevent attacks. But his focus was mainly on Israel, the report said.
“How does increasing the number of settlers indicate an attempt to create a Palestinian state?” Kerry was quoted as saying. “The status quo is not sustainable. So either we mean it and we act on it, or we should shut up.”
Having invested decades trying to bring about the two-state solution outlined in the 1993 Oslo Accords and subsequent agreements, the US and the international community now warn of the increasing likelihood of some form of binational solution, where Israelis and Palestinians would live together in a single country.
“Either we reverse course and take serious steps on the path to a two-state solution, or the momentum of existing actions will carry us further toward an intractable one-state reality that nobody wants and nobody really thinks can work,” Kerry said.
“The consequences of the current trends reverberate far beyond the immediate damage the destruction and displacement may cause,” he continued. “What’s happening today destroys hope. It empowers extremists.”
Kerry reportedly called on Israel to cede to the Palestinians authority over parts of Area C, the more than 60 percent of the West Bank where it maintains full military and civilian control under the Oslo accords.
“If we really want to get serious about a two-state solution, we need much more than just one-time agreements and improvements,” he was quoted as saying. “We need to fundamentally change the dynamic by resuming the transition to greater Palestinian civil authority in Area C, which was called for in prior agreements.”
Kerry’s reported comments echoed sentiments expressed by President Barack Obama in his final address to the United Nations General Assembly last week. He declared that “Israel must recognize that it cannot permanently occupy and settle Palestinian land.”
In a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the UNGA, the president said that ongoing settlement construction was harming the peace process. Senior US officials said that during the private part of the meeting, which lasted a little over half an hour, Obama was more pointed, raising “profound US concerns” that settlements were eroding prospects for peace.
Officials in Jerusalem have expressed concern that Obama will use his last few months in office to facilitate a UN resolution to impose a deal between the two nations.
Netanyahu said the two had not discussed the possibility that the US would advance an initiative to further the peace process during the president’s last months in office — such as supporting a UN resolution unfavorable to Jerusalem — without coordinating with Israel.
In his own address to the UNGA last week, Netanyahu explicitly rejected a peace deal imposed by that body.
“We will not accept any attempt by the UN to dictate terms to Israel. The road to peace runs through Jerusalem and Ramallah, not through New York,” he said.
It has been reported that the Palestinian Authority is planning to present the United Nations Security Council with a draft resolution condemning Israeli settlement construction, a possibility PA President Mahmoud Abbas alluded to in his UNGA speech. It may do so after the November elections when before the next president takes office. According to the report, that would free Obama from any political considerations, reducing the chances of an American veto of the draft.
Publicly, Kerry said Friday that Israel and the US could still make progress toward a two-state solution in the coming months and that Israel could work with Mideast allies to achieve more stability in the region.
Speaking at a joint press conference before a meeting with Netanyahu in New York, Kerry said the US and Israel could use their friendship “to advance (peace efforts), what we believe is not only in the highest priority for Israel to provide for its long-term security.”
Kerry said that there were “things we believe we could achieve in the next months, and there are serious concerns that we all have about the security of the region, the need for stability, the need to protect the two-state solution.”
The top US diplomat added that the US-Israel alliance could also help “create a new relationship within the region that can be powerful in reinforcing that long-term security interest.”