U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held a press conference moments ago to refute allegations that America was behind the UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement building which passed last Friday. Secretary Kerry spoke passionately for an hour and ten minutes and was, at times, clearly annoyed with Israel’s reactions to the vote.
Israel and its supporters have condemned the outgoing Obama Administration for declining to veto the vote. The resolution passed in a 14 – 0 vote with the U.S. abstaining.
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Mr. Kerry was quick to point out that England, France, China and Russia all supported the resolution when any one could have also vetoed it.
— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) December 28, 2016
He also made it very clear that America did not push forward the resolution saying, “The United States did not draft or originate this resolution, nor did we put it forward.” Kerry said that if anything the discussions held the by American diplomats at the UN before the vote were to have the content of the resolution be less critical of Israel.
Secretary Kerry took the opportunity to cite previous instances when American governments failed to veto similar anti-Israel resolutions including one time in 1987 when Ronald Reagan was President.
Kerry also reiterated his and the current American government’s support for a two state solution to the conflict. He said that Israeli governments had previously accepted this, but that its current government’s actions in expanding settlements in the West Bank have made it unlikely to happen. While Prime Minister Netanyahu publicly states his acceptance of the two state solution, John Kerry made it very clear that he believes Netanyahu’s actions say otherwise.
In a harsh rebuke of Israel and Netanyahu, Secretary of State John Kerry called settlements a threat to peace. https://t.co/6hGaq5lCkT
— NYT Politics (@nytpolitics) December 28, 2016
In addition, the Secretary of State referred to the Oslo Accords and said that both sides had pledged more than 20 years ago to work towards a peaceful settlement of the conflict and mutually recognized one another. Unfortunately, he made no reference to the sharp increase in terrorist acts directed at Israeli civilians by those based in the areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority after the Oslo Accords were first implemented. He also failed to acknowledge that Yasir Arafat was to blame for much of the problems which have blocked a final agreement from being reached.
Kerry said that Israeli settlers over the pre-1967 borders have grown by 270, 000 since the Oslo Accords were signed. But he made no mention of how many of these people live in Jerusalem, nor of Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005.
The biggest problem with Mr. Kerry’s words was his repeated insistence that there not only be a Palestinian State, but that Jerusalem would have to be divided between such a state and Israel so that the Palestinians could also call it their capital. While the official American position on the City of Jerusalem as held by its State Department has always been that it is not Israel’s capital and that it should be an international city as set forth in the UN Partition plan of 1947, American Presidents of both parties have not made such a declaration while in office. And since Oslo, not a one, Not Clinton, Bush or Obama, has called for Jerusalem to be divided again.
Israel suspended plans to begin construction of 618 new housing units in Jerusalem ahead of John Kerry’s speech. Its government is not likely to be happy with what was said and since Donald Trump has already expressed his support for Israel it will likely move forward with the construction now.
As for President Elect Donald Trump, he made the above tweets in support of Israel and in condemnation of the Obama Administration’s policies ahead of Secretary Kerry’s speech.
In response to this, Israel’s Prime Minister re-tweeted the comments with an expression of gratitude towards Mr. Trump.
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) December 28, 2016
Now most observers have been stressing the fact that this speech was given by Secretary of State John Kerry and not President Obama himself. This means that it will have much less of an impact. And the Trump people have already been criticizing Mr. Kerry as well as President Obama for the speech, reminding people that that they have only three weeks left in office.
Within the first 20 minutes after Kerry’s speech, members of the current Israeli government, from Cabinet ministers to diplomats, have appeared on Israeli television and international news channels to condemn the speech. They have collectively declared that Mr. Kerry’s words were not helpful and that his calls would make it harder for them to make peace.