State Department taken aback by May’s reprimand to US over SOS Kerry’s speech


U.S. St Dept was “surprised” Friday after British Prime Minister lavished harsh criticism of Kerry’s televised anti-Israel speech, pointing out, “The settlements are far from the only problem” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
• Australian PM: Security Council vote “unsettling.”

By Eli Leon, News Agencies, and Israel Hayom Staff


The U.S. State Department was “surprised” Friday after the British prime minister leveled harsh criticism at Secretary of State John Kerry speech, detailing his vision for the Middle East and Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Britain scolded Kerry for describing the Israeli government as “the most right-wing in Israeli history, with an agenda driven by its most extreme elements.”

UK PM Theresa May at G20 summit in Hangzhou, China - Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May at G20 summit in Hangzhou, China – Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

In an unusually sharp public rebuke, Prime Minister Theresa May’s office said that Israel had coped for too long with the threat of terrorism and that focusing only on the settlements was not the best way to achieve peace: “We do not believe that it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically elected government of an ally. The [British] government believes that negotiations will only succeed when they are conducted between the two parties, supported by the international community.”

The U.K. backed Security Council Resolution 2334, calling for an end to the Judea and Samaria settlement enterprise, but a spokesperson for May said she was concerned about the language Kerry had used.

“We continue to believe that the construction of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories is illegal, which is why we supported 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 in a statement quoted by The Guardian.

The State Department, it seems, was taken aback by May’s reprimand.

“We are surprised by the U.K. 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 U.K.’s own long-standing policy and its vote at the United Nations last week,” a State Department spokesperson told CNN.

“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,” he said.

CNN noted that May’s criticism of Kerry’s speech is highly unusual given the close relationship between London and Washington. But her office’s remarks align closely with views expressed by President-elect Donald Trump.

Trump has lambasted the Obama administration’s recent handling of matters pertaining to Israel and urged the Israeli government to “stay strong until Jan. 20,” when the new U.S. administration is sworn into office.

John Kerry's Diplomatic Legacy

“We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect,” he said in a tweet.

Also on Friday, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull criticized the Security Council’s resolution as “one-sided” and “deeply unsettling.”

According to the Australian Jewish News, Turnbull, speaking at a menorah-lighting ceremony at Sydney’s Central Synagogue, said that “Australia stands with Israel. We support Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. We support a peaceful resolution of the disputes between Israel and the Palestinians. We support a two-state solution just as the government of Israel does.”

The two-state solution “can only be negotiated between the parties,” he said, adding “It is not assisted by one-sided resolutions made at the councils of the United Nations or anywhere else, and that is why Australia has not, and does not, support one-sided resolutions. … Australia believes such resolutions are not conducive to the successful conclusion of negotiations, which we urge the parties to undertake. We urge the parties to ensure that everything they do is conducive to that outcome,” he said.

Ultimately, these issues can only be resolved by Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Turnbull said, adding, “We support Israel in its efforts to achieve that solution. Above all, we stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel in the fight against terrorists.”


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