Defense

Republicans pan Kerry’s Israel speech

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Republicans on Wednesday tore into Secretary of State John Kerry’s Middle East speech, calling it delusional and dangerous.

“Secretary Kerry’s speech today was at best a pointless tirade in the waning days of a outgoing administration,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in a statement.

“At worst, it was another dangerous outburst that will further Israel’s diplomatic isolation and embolden its enemies.”

{mosads}On Wednesday afternoon, Kerry gave a more than one-hour-long speech defending the Obama administration’s decision to allow passage of a United Nations resolution condemning Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory, and ratcheting up his criticism of the Israeli government and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The speech was seen as a last-ditch effort before the end of the administration in three weeks to lay out a path forward for peace between Israel and Palestinians after Kerry’s previous efforts fizzled out in 2014.

Kerry’s speech follows intense bipartisan backlash against the Friday U.N. vote and the administration’s decision to abstain, rather than veto the resolution.

In his statement, McCain said it’s up to the Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate peace and not Kerry, Obama, the U.S. or the U.N.

“Public lectures against Israel and U.N. resolutions attacking Israel do not aid the cause of peace,” he said. “They only provide those seeking Israel’s destruction a convenient excuse to blame Israel for their own intransigence.”

McCain said he supports a two-state solution, but that one is not possible right now because Israel has “no viable partner for peace.”

“Not when Israel’s right to exist is denied and threatened. Not when Hamas and Hezbollah continue deadly rocket attacks. Not when Palestinian leaders tolerate or even glorify terrorist attacks against innocent Israeli civilians by Palestinians armed with knives, meat cleaver, guns and cars.”

McCain’s ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) echoed that sentiment.

“While I appreciate Secretary Kerry’s enthusiasm, I am getting weary of plans and proposals that are at best fanciful and worse delusional,” Graham said in a statement. “Given the current state of discord and dysfunction among the Palestinians, a two-state solution is impossible until fundamental change occurs in Palestine.”

McCain and Graham have long been a critics of Kerry’s, also calling his diplomatic efforts in Syria delusional.

In his Wednesday statement, Graham said Palestinians are in “complete disarray” when it comes to acting like a state and couldn’t negotiate or execute a two-state solution.

“I wish Secretary Kerry and President Obama would stop pushing Israel to negotiate against themselves,” he added. “The only way the peace process can be restarted is for the Palestinians to hold elections and be governed by a single entity that rejects terrorism. That is not the current situation and until that day arrives, pushing Israel to restart the peace process is folly.”

A little before the speech started, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Kerry had no credibility to speak on the issue.

“After allowing this anti-Israel resolution to pass the UN, Secretary Kerry has no credibility to speak on Israeli-Palestinian peace,” Ryan (R-Wis.) said in a tweet.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said the Obama administration’s “abandonment” of Israel is more of a threat than settlements or the stalled peace process. He also said he looks forward to working with President-elect Donald Trump and members of Congress to improve U.S.-Israeli relations.

“I will also work to ensure that if the United Nations wants to continue to promote anti-Semitism and anti-Israel views, it will do so without U.S. taxpayer funding,” Rubio said in a statement. “This shameful episode in American foreign policy cannot end soon enough.”

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said Kerry’s speech laid out a “path to pain,” not peace.

“This whole charade is putting Israel at a huge disadvantage in peace negotiations, and needlessly tests our nation’s relationship with a critical ally in a volatile part of the world,” Scott added in a statement. “With three weeks left in this administration, it is absolutely ridiculous that they would choose to continue antagonizing Israel.”

In a series of tweets, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) ripped a number of statements in Kerry’s speech as “sickening lies,” compared the number of refugees the Obama administration has allowed into the country with the number of Israeli settlers in Palestinian territory and revived old accusations of Obama working to defeat Netanyahu’s reelection.

“Mess 2 clean up,” King concluded in the last tweet.

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) called Kerry’s speech “disastrous” and said it showed “willful ignorance.”

“Fortunately, positive change will come January 20th with President-elect Donald Trump,” Wilson added in a statement. “His selection of Governor Nikki Haley as UN ambassador is more important than ever to stand strong with Israel for peace and democracy.”

Prior to the speech, the House’s No. 2 Democrat also spoke against its stated intentions to outline an Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

“This flies in the face of the United States’s longstanding position that such a formulation should be reached only through negotiations by the parties and not by the United States, the United Nations or any other third party,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) said in a statement earlier Wednesday.

“The United States must now take steps to signal unequivocally to the entire world that we will continue to stand by our ally Israel as it seeks to build a future of peace and safety as a Jewish state and an equal member of the family of nations.”

Meanwhile, J Street, a liberal Jewish organization, hailed the speech as a strong expression of support for a two-state solution.

“The secretary laid out a clear choice for those who care about Israel’s future and security as the democratic home of the Jewish people,” the group said in a statement. “They can continue down the present path of unbridled settlement and occupation, and there will be one state between the Jordan and the River that will have to choose between being Jewish or democratic in nature. Or, they can take the steps necessary to keep the chances for separation into two states alive so that Israel can remain both Jewish and democratic.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who supported Obama’s decision to abstain from the Security Council vote, also signaled support for Kerry’s speech.

“Bold speech by Secretary Kerry,” she tweeted at the speech’s conclusion. “Security for Israel can only be achieved through peace. A two-state solution offers the only path forward.”

Updated at 4:04 p.m.

Tags Dianne Feinstein Donald Trump Joe Wilson John Kerry John McCain Lindsey Graham Marco Rubio Paul Ryan Tim Scott
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