Europe

British PM denounces Kerry for speech critical of Israel

Garrett Tenney reports from Washington, D.C.

 

British Prime Minister Theresa May issued a strong statement Thursday denouncing Secretary of State John Kerry for a speech that was heavily critical of Israel.

“We do not believe that the way to negotiate peace is by focusing on only one issue, in this case the construction of settlements, when clearly the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians is so deeply complex,” a spokesman for the prime minister told The Jewish Chronicle

“And we do not believe that it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically-elected government of an ally. The government believes that negotiations will only succeed when they are conducted between the two parties, supported by the international community,” the spokesman continued.

A State Department spokesperson said:

“We are grateful for the strongly supportive statements in response to Secretary Kerry’s speech from across the world, including Germany, France, Canada, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and others. We are surprised by the UK Prime Minister’s office statement given that Secretary Kerry’s remarks—which covered the full range of threats to a two state solution, including terrorism, violence, incitement and settlements—were in-line with the UK’s own longstanding policy and its vote at the United Nations last week.”

According to the Jerusalem Post, Kerry mentioned “settlements” or “settlers” at least 62 times in his remarks Wednesday at the State Department. 

With three weeks remaining in his position, Kerry used his 70-minute speech to denounce the approach taken by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling his administration “the most right-wing in Israeli history with an agenda driven by the most extreme elements.”

He also asserted that if “Israel goes down the one-state path it will never have peace with the Arab world - and I can say that with certainty."

Kerry’s speech and May’s rebuke both stem from a controversial United Nations resolution that demanded Israel “immediately and completely” halt all settlement activity on Palestinian lands.

In a break with longstanding policy, the United States abstained from voting and did not veto the resolution. 

Britain was one of 14 nations on the Security Council to rule the settlements were illegal, a vote which resulted in Netanyahu snubbing May, according to the London Independent

The spokesman defended the support for the resolution, but slammed Kerry for his singular focus on the settlement issue.

“We continue to believe that the construction of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is illegal, which is why we supported UN Security Council Resolution 2334 last week. But we are also clear that the settlements are far from the only problem in this conflict. In particular, the people of Israel deserve to live free from the threat of terrorism, with which they have had to cope for too long,” he said.