Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took parting swipes Wednesday at the Obama administration, calling John Kerry’s earlier speech “unbalanced” but saying he had “no doubt” the alliance between the countries would endure despite disagreements.
Earlier Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry defended the Obama administration’s decision to abstain from voting on a U.N. resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity in areas Palestinians seek for a state. Allowing it to pass was seen by some as a slap to Israel. He questioned Netanyahu’s commitment to Palestinian statehood, which has been the basis for serious peace talks.
“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.
Kerry’s speech came amid the final days of an administration that has had tense relations with Israel. President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to repair the relationship. Trump has condemned Obama for allowing the resolution to pass and said Wednesday that the current president has put up “roadblocks” for Trump’s transition.
Trump’s comments on U.S.-Israeli relations clash with past precedent in which presidents-elect did not comment on foreign policy until they took office.
Netanyahu on Wednesday thanked Trump on Twitter for his “warm friendship” and “clear-cut support for Israel” after the president-elect tweeted that Israel should “stay strong” as his administration approaches.
Netanyahu said Kerry’s speech was “almost as unbalanced” as the U.N. resolution, which he harshly criticized. He said that peace will not be achieved through speeches or U.N. resolutions but through direct talks.
“Israel remains committed to resolving the outstanding difference between us and the Palestinians with direct negotiations,” Netanyahu said.
He also contended that Kerry spent “most of his speech blaming Israel for the lack of peace.”
In his speech, Kerry stressed that Obama’s commitment to Israel has been as strong as previous presidents, giving assurances that the Obama administration is not planning any other parting shots at Israel and saying it would not recognize Palestinian statehood. He did not focus only on Israel’s failings in the peace process, criticizing Palestinian leaders’ “incitement” of violence.
Obama has expressed frustration about the growth of Israeli settlements, and Israel’s government has argued that curbing them should not be a precondition to peace talks.