Kerry takes harsh tone on Israel, suggests opening for action at UN

Kerry takes harsh tone on Israel, suggests opening for action at UN
© Francis Rivera

Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryWarren taps longtime aide as 2020 campaign manager In Virginia, due process should count more than blind team support Trump will give State of Union to sea of opponents MORE is taking an unusually harsh tone against the Israeli government, warning about recent language that appeared to undermine the prospects of side-by-side Israeli and Palestinian states.

The United States’ top diplomat notably declined to unequivocally rule out blocking any action at the United Nations Security Council on the issue on Sunday, suggesting the possibility of a radical move late in the Obama administration, albeit a slim one.


“If it’s a biased and unfair and a resolution calculated to delegitimize Israel, we’ll oppose it. Obviously, we will. We always have,” Kerry said at the Saban Forum in Washington.

“But it’s getting more complicated now, because there is a building sense of” frustration, he said, due to recent comments by Israeli figures.

For years, the U.S. has used its veto power at the U.N. Security Council to oppose efforts targeting Israel.

The Obama administration had last week appeared to rule out support for any move at the U.N. to pressure Israel to reach a final agreement on a so-called two-state solution. A major reversal still appears unlikely.

But Kerry’s comments hint at the exasperation in the Obama administration and fears about emboldening of Israeli hard-liners as President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpRosenstein expected to leave DOJ next month: reports Allies wary of Shanahan's assurances with looming presence of Trump States file lawsuit seeking to block Trump's national emergency declaration MORE prepares to take office.

“We have always stood against any imposition of a, quote, final status solution and against any resolution that is unfair and biased against Israel, and we will continue,” Kerry said. “We don’t support that.”

“There are, however, other people out there who, because of this building frustration — you need to know there are any number of countries talking about bringing resolutions to the United Nations.”

Kerry’s criticism of Israeli officials’ remarks was especially severe.

“Out of the mouths of ministers in the current government have come profoundly disturbing statements publicly,” he said.

Kerry specially called out Education Minister Naftali Bennett, a pro-settlement politician who in the wake of Trump’s victory declared that “the era of the Palestinian state is over.”

Israel, Kerry warned, was “heading to a place of danger.”

Earlier in the day, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied that settlements were hindering efforts toward peace.

“If Bibi says the settlements aren’t the cause of this conflict, I agree,” Kerry responded. “They’re not the cause of it."

"But ... if you have a whole bunch of people who are specifically, strategically locating outposts and settlements in areas that make it impossible to have a contiguous Palestinian state, they’re doing it for the specific purpose of not having a peace,” he said. “That affects the peace.

“That greatly complicates the whole topic of peace.”