WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — Hours after Secretary of State John Kerry said a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians is “in jeopardy,” and added it is the “only way to achieve a just and lasting peace,” Israeil Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Kerry’s speech a “great disappointment,” claiming Kerry’s words were “unbalanced.”
In live broadcast on Israeli TV, Netanyahu criticized Kerry for a speech highly critical of Israel at a time when he said the region is “going up in flames.”READ MORE: Campaign 2021: Early Voting Begins In New Jersey And New York City
“For a full hour, the secretary of state attacked the only democracy in the Middle East,” Netanyahu said.
He also accused Kerry of focusing heavily on Israeli settlements, while paying little attention to Palestinian incitement and violence.
Kerry was responding Wednesday to withering Israeli criticism of the United States’ abstention from a vote condemning Israeli settlement construction.
“If more and more settlers are moving into the middle of Palestinian areas it’s going to be that much harder to separate, and that much harder to imagine transferring sovereignty, and that’s exactly the outcome some are purposely accelerating,’ Kerry said.
As CBS2’s Andrea Grymes reported, Kerry called for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.
“This is a time to stand up for what is right,” Kerry said during his speech at the State Department. “We have long known what two states living side by side in peace and security looks like. We should not be afraid to say so.”
Kerry said that there must be a two-state solution that includes a “secure and recognized border” between Israel and the new nation of Palestine.
He also said an agreement must help Palestinian refugees, designate Jerusalem as a capital for both states and satisfy Israel’s security needs.
“It is not in U.S. interest to help anyone on either side create a unitary state,” he said. “Now we may not be able to stop them, but we can’t be expected to defend them.”
Kerry said that if Israel rejects a two-state solution for peace with the Palestinian people, “it can be Jewish or it can be democratic.”
Kerry reiterated the American position that a two-state solution giving both Israelis and Palestinians a home state is the best roadmap to peace.
“There is still a way forward if the responsible parties are willing to act,” Kerry said. “And I want to share practical suggestions for how to preserve and advance the prospects for the just and lasting peace both sides deserve.”
He also made it clear that despite recent differences in policy, the United States continues to be Israel’s closest ally, saying “no American administration has done more for Israel’s security than Barack Obama’s.”
“Regrettably some seem to believe that the U.S.’ friendship means the U.S. must accept any policy, regardless of our own interests, even after urging again and again that the policies change,” he said. “Friends need to tell each other the hard truths, and friendships require mutual respect.”
On Wednesday, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said he is ready to resume peace talks if Israel freezes settlement construction.
“Secretary Kerry and the Obama administration have, unfortunately, continued to stab Israel in the back,” said New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind. “Secretary Kerry and President Obama are living in a fantasy land. The world is in worse shape than it has ever been thanks to this administration, which is not respected anywhere in the world. This very administration continues to betray its allies while rewarding terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.”
Israel has been furious at the United States since the U.N. vote late last week. Netanyahu slammed the resolution and accused the U.S. of colluding with the Palestinians in drawing it up.READ MORE: Many New Yorkers Canceling, Scaling Back Halloween Festivities Due To COVID Concerns
“I myself have seen the information and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that information exists. What it shows is that the Obama administration helped craft, push and lobby for this United Nation Security Council resolution,” said David Keyes, spokesman for the Israeli prime minister.
Kerry said the United States “did not draft or originate” the U.N. resolution condemning the settlements, “nor did we put it forward” in the U.N.
But he said that the vote was “in keeping with” American values for democracy.
“The vote in the United Nations was about preserving the two-state solution,” he said. “That’s what we were standing up for. Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, living side by side in peace and security with its neighbors.”
Ben Rhodes, Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, also said it was “not a U.S. resolution.”
“We did not draft it,” he said. “We did not put it forward.”
A senior Israeli Cabinet minister, Gilad Erdan, on Wednesday called Kerry’s speech a “pathetic step,” further heightening tensions between the two close allies as President Barack Obama prepares to leave office.
In a statement to CBS2, Senator Charles Schumer said that Kerry “seems to have forgotten the history of the settlements in Gaza, where the Israeli government forced settlers to withdraw from all settlements and the Palestinians responded by sending rockets from Gaza into Israel.”
“While he may not have intended it, I fear Secretary Kerry, in his speech and action at the UN, has emboldened extremists on both sides,” Schumer added.
The Obama administration has long criticized the acceleration of Israeli settlement activity as an obstacle to peace. Israel has long disagreed, citing biblical and political connections to the land along with security interests.
Israeli leaders have made no secret they are counting on President-elect Donald Trump to change U.S. policy.
Speaking in Florida Wednesday evening, Trump said, “The UN has such tremendous potential. Not living up to its potential.”
On Twitter earlier Wednesday he said, “We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect.”
The president-elect said that Israel “used to have a great friend in the U.S., but —not anymore.” He said the nuclear deal was the “beginning of the end and now this (U.N.)!”
“Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching,” he said.
Netanyahu tweeted back saying, “President-elect Trump, thank you for your warm friendship and your clear-cut support for Israel!”
The Palestinians are hoping the resolution will give them momentum at a French-hosted Mideast peace conference scheduled next month.
On Wednesday, Jerusalem’s city hall postponed a vote on applications to build nearly 500 new homes for Israelis in east Jerusalem.MORE NEWS: Costumed Canines Compete In 31st Annual Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade
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