The US would be guilty of “dereliction of duty” if it had vetoed the UN vote to condemn Israeli settlements, John Kerry has said.
The Secretary of State said just because the US was Israel’s ally it didn’t mean it would stand by and not do anything when the future of Middle East peace was under threat.
In his final speech on the Middle East peace process, Mr Kerry said that the only hope for the future was a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians.
He robustly defended the US decision not to veto the UN’s first vote since 1979 to condemn the building of settler homes in the West Bank.
Mr Kerry said the US had acted in accordance with its values because it could not allow the idea of a two-state solution to be destroyed.
In the harshest criticism of Israel by a US Secretary of State, Mr Kerry said: “No one thinking seriously about peace can ignore the reality of the threat settlements pose to peace.
“But the problem goes well beyond just settlements. Trends indicate a comprehensive effort to take West Bank land for Israel and prevent any Palestinian development there.”
He added: “The settler agenda is defining the future in Israel. And their stated purpose is clear: They believe in one state: greater Israel.”
We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect. They used to have a great friend in the U.S., but…….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 28, 2016
The US refusal to veto the UN vote was seen by some as a parting shot from Barack Obama to his successor Donald Trump, just weeks before the latter’s inauguration.
It has sparked a war of word with Mr Trump tweeting on Wednesday: “We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect. They used to have a great friend in the U.S but…”
He also tweeted: “Doing my best to disregard the many inflammatory President O statements and roadblocks. Thought it was going to be a smooth transition – NOT!”
In the immediate wake of the vote last week, Mr Trump, who had wanted to US to veto the vote to condemn the building of settler homes, said things at the UN would “be different after Jan. 20th.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded on Wednesday to Mr Trump’s tweets, writing: “President-elect Trump, thank you for your warm friendship and your clear-cut support for Israel.”
Mr Kerry said Mr Obama had been committed to Israel and to the peace process but said: “Despite our best efforts over the years, the two-state solution is now in serious jeopardy.
“We cannot, in good conscience, do nothing, and say nothing, when we see the hopes of peace slipping away.”