Kerry: Israeli Settlement Leaders Are Preventing Peace Process

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter
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Secretary of State John Kerry blamed both Israel and Palestine for the deterioration of peace negotiations, but pointed to settlement activity as a key impediment to a two-state solution.

Kerry outlined his concerns with Israeli settlement activity while providing a speech on the currently stalled peace negotiations Wednesday. He claimed that the potential for a peaceful solution to the decades-old conflict between Israel and Palestine is becoming increasingly unlikely.

“Despite our best efforts over the years, the two-state solution is now in serious jeopardy,” Kerry said, alluding his failed attempts to bring the two sides together to negotiate in 2014. “Both sides push a narrative that plays to people’s fears.”

Kerry reprimanded the Palestinian Authority for continuing to support incitement to violence against Israelis, noting that the Palestinian Fatah party website and public squares glamorize terrorists. He noted that there is absolutely no justification for terrorism — and there never will be — adding that “all incitement to violence must stop.”

Despite increasing violence coming from Palestinians, Kerry noted “we have to be clear about what is happening in the West Bank.”

The secretary spent a significant portion of his speech outlining the supposed one-state agenda of Israeli settlement leaders in the West Bank, which risks scuttling prospects of a two-state solution permanently. Kerry claimed these leaders are driven by ideological imperatives that disregard the concerns and rights of Palestinians.

Kerry admonished Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government for supporting the settler agenda by committing to more settlement building than any government in Israel’s history. He added that increased numbers of settlers will make it much more difficult to engage in land swaps, which could be a necessary step to a permanent solution.

Kerry warned that the one-state agenda of the settlers would lead to Palestinians living as “separate and unequal” citizens in Israel.

“Here is a fundamental reality,” the outgoing secretary of state said. “If the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or Democratic, but it cannot be both.”

The secretary’s speech comes just days after the Obama administration abstained from a vote in the United Nations Security Council, which condemned Israel’s settlement policy. Israeli officials saw the abstention as a major change from U.S. policy — they traditionally see the U.S. using its veto power to curtail anti-Israel resolutions. The Obama administration blamed the Israeli government’s settlement policy for the passage of the resolution, a point Kerry reiterated in his speech.

“We may not be able to stop them, but we cannot be expected to defend them,” Kerry said regarding the Israeli settlers. He also attempted to counter claims made by the Israeli government that the Obama administration somehow colluded to ensure the vote passed.

Kerry said Obama’s desire to back Israel did not change with the recent abstention, but it has nonetheless infuriated Netanyahu’s government, which promised to start working with the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump.

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