quinta-feira, 29 de dezembro de 2016

Kerry defends US decision not to veto UN resolution against Israeli settlements / White House races to save Middle East peace process before Trump takes office

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, condemned a speech by US secretary of state John Kerry, saying it paid lip service to the ‘campaign of terrorism that has been waged by the Palestinians’. Netanyahu spoke at a news conference in Jerusalem on Wednesday after Kerry rejected criticism that the recent US vote in the United Nations Security Council abandons Israel, as some Israeli leaders have charged

Prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, says he told US secretary of state John Kerry that ‘friends don’t take friends to the security council’. Speaking at his weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, he states that the UN security council is not the place to resolve issues and goes on to say that he is looking forward to working with the new Trump administration when it takes office in January

Kerry defends US decision not to veto UN resolution against Israeli settlements
US secretary of state pushes two-state solution and criticises Netanyahu in toughest remarks on Israel by a US official in years

Sabrina Siddiqui in Washington and Peter Beaumont
Wednesday 28 December 2016 18.53 GMT

The US secretary of state, John Kerry, has offered a blistering defence of the US decision to allow a UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements, saying if Washington had vetoed it, Israel would have been given a licence for “unfettered settlement construction” and the end of the peace process.

Framing a two-state solution as “the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians”, Kerry took aim at the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, for building a coalition that was “the most rightwing in Israeli history, with an agenda driven by the most extreme elements”.

Kerry’s speech was the latest chapter in a high-octane diplomatic drama marked by a war of words between the Obama administration and Israel, since the vote on Friday that called Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem a “flagrant violation” of international law.

The speech was immediately condemned by Netanyahu, who described it as “skewed” and “obsessively” focused on the settlement issue.

The exchange between Kerry and Netanyahu marked a new low in the relationship between Israel’s government and the Obama administration.

The US abstention in Friday’s security council resolution drew unprecedented Israeli fury directed at its closest ally – and other friendly countries that voted for the resolution – and accusations of betrayal and underhand dealings.

However, describing the decision, Kerry said: “If we had vetoed this resolution ... the United States would have been giving license to further, unfettered settlement construction that we fundamentally oppose.

“It is not this resolution that is isolating Israel. It is the permanent policy of [Israeli] settlement construction that risks making peace impossible.”

The US secretary of state’s speech came as Donald Trump vowed once again to reverse US policy, which he has described as hostile to Israel, as soon as he takes office on 20 January.

This resulted in one of the most passionate speeches delivered by Kerry during his time as America’s leading diplomat.

Pushing back at Israel’s fury over the US abstention , Kerry pointedly questioned Netanyahu’s commitment to Palestinian statehood , asking whether Israelis believed their interests were best served by the recent attacks on the Obama administration by Israeli leaders.

Kerry also offered a bleak vision of the risk of the collapse of the Oslo peace process and the two-state solution, describing the alternative one-state solution in the darkest terms.

“Today, there are a similar number of Jews and Palestinians living between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean Sea,” Kerry told his audience of diplomats in Washington, out lining the demographic reality on the ground that would colour the future of a unitary state.

“[Israelis and Palestinians] have a choice. They can choose to live together in one state, or they can separate into two states.

“Despite our best efforts over the years, the two-state solution is now in serious jeopardy … We cannot, in good conscience, do nothing, and say nothing, when we see the hope of peace slipping away.

“If the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or democratic, it cannot be both, and it won’t ever really be at peace. ”

Kerry also took the opportunity to forcefully deny Israeli accusations that the Obama administration had been behind the drafting of the resolution amid Israeli accusations that the US colluded with the Palestinians .

The US, insisted Kerry, “did not draft or originate” the UN resolution, adding : “ Nor did we put it forward [in the UN].”

“The United States did in fact vote in accordance with our values, just as previous administrations have done,” Kerry said during the speech at the US State Department. “The vote in the United Nations was about preserving the two-state solution. That’s what we were standing up for.”

Kerry outlined a series of principles he said should form the basis of a future peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians, with the likely participation of the U S, including a “secure and recognised border” between Israel and the new nation of Palestine.

He also said an agreement must help Palestinian refugees, designate Jerusalem as a capital for both states and satisfy Israel’s security needs.

Kerry insisted that far from abandoning Israel, the Obama administration had been one of its strongest defenders, not least in the signing of a $38bn (£31bn) defence assistance deal.

Responding to the speech, Netanyahu said in a statement: “Like the security council resolution that Secretary Kerry advanced in the UN, his speech tonight was skewed against Israel .

Netanyahu says Kerry comments ‘skewed’ against Israel – video
“For over an hour, Kerry obsessively dealt with settlements and barely touched upon the root of the conflict – Palestinian opposition to a Jewish state in any boundaries.”

White House races to save Middle East peace process before Trump takes office
John Kerry to underline outgoing president’s support of two-state solution with speech setting out US vision of Israel-Palestine agreement

Julian Borger World affairs editor
Wednesday 28 December 2016 09.05 GMT

John Kerry is due to lay out a US framework for a Palestinian-Israeli agreement as the Obama administration and its international allies scramble to protect what is left of the peace process before Donald Trump takes office.

The US secretary of state will outline the proposals on Wednesday, at a time when US-Israeli relations have reached their lowest point in decades. The government of the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has accused Washington of conspiring against it when a UN security council vote on Friday demanded an end to settlement building in the West Bank.

The Kerry speech at the State Department at 11am (4pm GMT) is expected to restate the Obama administration’s continued faith in a two-state solution to the chronic impasse. It is a parting shot after eight years in office, during which there has been a dearth of diplomatic progress. It is not expected to lead to any new initiative but rather lay down a marker on a longstanding US and international approach to the region before the US president-elect, whose commitment to such a solution is in doubt, assumes office.

“What secretary Kerry will be doing is he will give a speech in which he lays out a comprehensive vision for how we see the conflict being resolved – where we see things in 2016 as we unfortunately conclude our term in office without there being significant progress toward peace,” the deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, told Israel’s Channel 2 television.

The parameters outlined by Kerry are expected to draw international endorsement at a meeting of foreign ministers on 15 January, just five days before Trump moves into the White House. The meeting is supposed to reinforce a strategy of isolating Netanyahu in the hope it will push him towards reviving stalled negotiations with the Palestinians. Netanyahu has said his government will not attend.

In expectation of a more supportive administration in Washington next month, Netanyahu has reacted to the diplomatic manoeuvring in the last week’s of Obama’s term with defiance.

Israel responded furiously to the UN security council resolution passed on Friday that demanded an end to settlement building, threatening diplomatic reprisals against the countries that voted in favour.

Jerusalem authorities had been expected to discuss the issue of more than 600 building permits for settlements in historically Palestinian east Jerusalem on Wednesday, but the planned vote was cancelled. Hanan Rubin, a member of Jerusalem’s Planning and Housing Committee, told Reuters the request to put off the vote came from Netanyahu.

Netanyahu has vowed to resist a peace framework imposed on his government, and observers warn that a threatened Israeli backlash in the form of thousands of new settler homes in east Jerusalem, combined with Trump’s plan to move the US embassy to the disputed city, could trigger a fresh wave of violence.

The Israeli government is reportedly fearful that any guidelines agreed in Paris would be turned into another UN resolution before Trump’s inauguration, and it has ratcheted up its rhetoric, presenting itself as the victim of an international conspiracy.

A spokesman for Netanyahu claimed to have “ironclad evidence” that the Obama administration had plotted behind the scenes to promote the UN resolution. Israel has said it will present evidence against the Obama administration to the incoming Trump team.

On Tuesday, Egyptian media published a document purporting to be a transcript of a meeting in which Kerry and the US national security adviser, Susan Rice, discussed the UN resolution and US proposals with Palestinian officials, who agreed to give the Kerry framework immediate support. The State Department spokesman, John Kirby, said no such meeting took place.

Meanwhile, Israel’s defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman, portrayed the Paris conference as a new “Dreyfus trial”, referring to an outburst of French antisemitism more than a century ago, and urged French Jews to move to Israel.

On Tuesday a French official denied there was any intention to pass a new security council resolution on the basis of the Paris conference. A foreign ministry spokesperson said the meeting would “give the participants an opportunity to present a comprehensive incentive package to encourage the resumption of negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. Only they will be able to conclude a peace deal directly.”

Palestinian leaders hope the UN resolution and the Paris conference will offer some degree of international protection against the encroachment of settlements in the Trump era.

The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, said he hoped the Paris meeting would establish an international mechanism to end Israeli settlement building.

Trump criticised Friday’s UN resolution, saying it would make it harder to negotiate a peace agreement. In a tweet on Monday, he described the UN as “just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time”. Trump’s designated ambassador to Israel, his own bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman, has actively supported settlement building.

Aaron David Miller, a former US negotiator on the Middle East and now a scholar at the Wilson Centre thinktank, said Obama’s 11th-hour attempt at legacy building on the Israeli-Palestinian issue could trigger a backlash. “It risks the incoming administration walking away from whatever has transpired in December and early January, and not just walking away from [but] sending unmistakable signals to the Israelis that it would support and favour acts on the ground that go beyond what we’ve seen,” Miller said.

“The odds that Netanyahu will now press and Trump will respond positively to a move to push the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, I think have gone up.”

He said that if the highly emotive issue of Jerusalem’s status became the focal point of Israeli-Palestinian friction once more, “then I think the prospects for a serious, significant confrontation are high”.

Amir Oren, a liberal Israeli commentator, argued that the UN resolution could save the government from itself by bringing closer an end to settlement construction.

“Santa Obama delivered a wonderful Christmas present to Israel when the United States opted not to veto Friday’s United Nations security council vote condemning settlement policy,” he wrote in Haaretz. “The passage of the resolution won’t result in the immediate dismantling of any West Bank settlements, but the world is beginning to come to the rescue and try to save Israel from itself.”

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