Two-state solution in Mideast 'in serious jeopardy': US' Kerry
Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday the future of a two-state solution is "in serious jeopardy”, defending U.S. abstention last week on a UN Security Council vote condemning Israeli settlements.
"The United States did, in fact, vote in accordance with our values, just as previous U.S. administrations have done at the Security Council before us,” Kerry said at a news conference where he outlined the Barack Obama administration’s vision for Middle East peace.
Kerry said the vote was aimed at "preserving the two-state solution" noting that two separate states is "the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians".
Kerry also defended the American administration's commitment to Israel.
"No American administration has done more for Israel's security than Barack Obama's," he said. "The Israeli prime minister himself has noted our unprecedented military and intelligence cooperation. Our military exercises are more advanced than ever.”
Kerry slammed Israeli leaders for suggesting the U.S. act against it’s own interest. "Regrettably, some seem to believe that the U.S. friendship means the U.S. must accept any policy, regardless of our own interests, our own positions, our own words, our own principles, even after urging again and again that the policy must change,” he said.
Kerry said the U.S. administration has blocked "countless efforts to delegitimize Israel” at the UN.
According to the top American diplomat, previous U.S. administrations also allowed resolutions against Israel to pass the Security Council.
Under George W. Bush, he said, the Council passed six resolutions that Israel opposed, including one calling for a complete freeze on settlements.
He reiterated his belief that "Israel's future is a Jewish and democratic state” as long as it admits to live "side by side in peace and security with its neighbors”.
"They [Israelis and Palestinians] can choose to live together in one state or they can separate into two states,” he said. "But here is a fundamental reality, 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.”
Kerry said he witnessed first-hand the "ravages of conflict” on both sides and the deep polarization raging in the region accompanied by a narrative of enmity, which makes a one-state solution impossible.
"After decades of conflict, many no longer see the other side as people, only as threats and enemies,” he said.
He pointed out that most of Israeli and Palestinians have ignored the possibility of peace or given up hope about a change in the region.
"With this passive resignation, the problem only gets worse, the risks get greater and the choices are narrower,” he said. "If there is only one state, you would have millions of Palestinians permanently living in segregated enclaves in the middle of the West Bank with no real political rights, separate legal education and transportation systems, vast income disparities, under a permanent military occupation that deprives them of the most basic freedoms.”
Kerry rejected Israeli accusations that the U.S. was the driving force behind the UN vote but said Washington has long been against Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
He also reiterated that the holy city of Jerusalem should remain shared territory of both communities.
The U.S. wants a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on 1967 borders, before the Six Day War.
Kerry said in an effort toward a "one state and perpetual occupation" the Israeli settler population in the West Bank has grown by 270,000 since the Oslo Accords of the 1990s.
He blasted right-wing Israeli officials who argue settlements are required for the security of Israel.
He characterized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government as "the most right-wing in Israeli history, with an agenda driven by the most extreme elements."
Ahead of Kerry’s speech, President-elect Donald Trump took on the Obama administration’s Israeli policy.
"We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect,” Trump said on Twitter. "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!,” he added in reference to the date he takes the oath of office.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced Kerry's speech, calling it unstable and biased against Israel.
"Like the Security Council resolution that Secretary Kerry advanced in the UN, his speech tonight was biased against Israel," according to a statement by Netanyahu's office.
"For over an hour, Kerry obsessed over the issue of settlements and barely touched upon the root of the conflict -- Palestinian opposition to a Jewish state in any boundaries," it added.
Israeli Education Minister Nafatali Bennett also criticized Kerry, asserting that Israel would not support the establishment of a Palestinian state.
"If it was up to me, I will not allow the establishment of another terror state in the heart of our country," he said.
Kerry managed to find support in Israel from opposition leader Isaac Herzog. "John Kerry has always been a great friend of Israel," Herzog said, "His speech tonight shows true concerns about Israel's future." he added.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reacted in a statement that expressed his commitment to the peace processes.
Palestine Liberation Organization's General-Secretary Saeb Erekat read a statement that said Abbas followed thee speech with "great interest".
Whenever Israel agrees to halt all settlement activities, including in and around Occupied East Jerusalem, and commits to implementing the signed agreements, Palestinian leadership is prepared to resume permanent status negotiations, Abbas said, according to the statement.AA
Last Modified: 2016-12-29 11:07:22
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