Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday that if Israel rejects a two-state solution for peace with the Palestinian people, “it can be Jewish or it can be democratic.”
Hours after President-elect Donald Trump issued a blistering attack on Twitter, Mr. Kerry defended President Obama’s treatment of Israel, claiming “no American administration has done more for Israeli security than Barack Obama’s.”
Mr. Kerry, who’s tenure at the State Department will end when Mr. Trump takes office in three weeks, stood by the administration’s decision to allow the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution last week that called Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory a “flagrant violation of international law.”
“The vote in the United Nations was about preserving the two-state solution that’s what we were standing up for,” he said, asserting that the Israeli settlement activity has “steadily grown” in recent years, dangerously inflaming tensions with Palestinians and jeopardizing any realistic path toward peace.
Critics say the Obama administration’s decision to abstain from the Friday’s Security Council vote — rather that block it from happening with a veto — was equivalent to supporting the measure and marked a troubling departure from Washington’s long history of defending Israel at the U.N.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office is denouncing Secretary of State John Kerry’s Mideast policy speech, saying it was “skewed against Israel” and “obsessively” focuses on Israeli settlements.
In a statement, Netanyahu’s office says the speech “barely touched upon the root of the conflict — Palestinian opposition to a Jewish state in any boundaries.”
Mr. Kerry, who spoke before a large crowd at State Department headquarters Wednesday, dismissed the criticism.
The U.S., he said, “did in fact vote in accordance with our values.” The secretary of state said critics “failed to recognize that this friend, the United States of America, has done more to support Israel than any other country.”
“This friend that has blocked countless efforts to delegitimize Israel, cannot be true to our own values, or even the stated democratic values of Israel and we cannot properly protect and defend Israel if we allow a viable two-state solution to be destroyed before our own eyes,” Mr. Kerry said.
Mr. Kerry also stressed that while the U.S. abstained from Friday’s vote, the Security Council’s 14 other member nations voted unanimously to approve the resolution.
His comments came after Mr. Trump had issued a barrage of tweets on Wednesday morning, urging Israel to “stay strong” until he takes office next month and accusing the President Obama of erecting “roadblocks” to a smooth transition.
“We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter. “They used to have a great friend in the U.S., but not anymore.”
“Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!” Mr. Trump said of his pending inauguration.
• The Associated Press contributed to this report.