Kerry to lay out vision for Israeli-Palestinian peace
Israel fears US Secretary of State—believed to have had a direct hand in UN anti-settlement resolution—could use his speech to deliver a final blow to Netanyahu by setting out final peace parameters to solicit further international pressure on Israel as he bids farewell to the White House.
US Secretary of State John Kerry will lay out his vision for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a speech on Wednesday, days after the United States cleared the way for a UN resolution calling for an end to settlement construction while simultaneously declaring them illegal.
The speech, less than a month before President Barack Obama leaves office, is expected to be the administration's last word on a decades-old dispute that Kerry had hoped to resolve during his four years as America's top diplomat.
It could also be seen in Israel as another parting shot at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has had an especially acrimonious relationship with Obama since they both took office in 2009.
The United States on Friday broke with a longstanding approach of diplomatically shielding Israel and abstained on a United Nations Security Council resolution that passed with 14 countries in favor and none against.
Kerry will discuss the abstention when he speaks at the State Department at 11am ET (6pm, Israel Time), a senior State Department official told reporters.
"We believe that with the two-state solution in peril, it is important to share the deeper understanding we have developed of both sides' bottom lines during intensive consultations in recent years," the official said.
The speech will also address what the official called "misleading" accusations by Israeli officials that the Obama administration drafted and forced the resolution to a vote.
Despite attempts to refute these allegations, Egyptian news website Al-Youm al-Saba'a—which is considered to be Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's mouth piece—published a supposed protocol on Tuesday of a meeting that was held in Washington on December 12 between US Secretary of State John Kerry and US National Security Advisor Susan Rice and a Palestinian delegation headed by senior Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) member Saeb Erekat corroborating that the Obama administration had a hand in the resolution.
Undeterred by the UN resolution, Israel's Jerusalem municipality is due to consider on Wednesday requests for construction permits for hundreds of new homes for Israelis in areas captured in 1967 Six-Day defensive war and annexed to the city.
'Shameful' decision, Israel says
Israeli officials described the abstention as a "shameful" decision. President-elect Donald Trump, who urged the White House to veto the resolution, chided the world body as "just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time."
State Department spokesman Mark Toner on Tuesday said the United States hoped the UN vote would serve as a "wake-up call" that settlements are a detriment to a two-state solution.
Toner rejected claims that the Obama administration had pushed for a United Nations Security Council resolution on Friday demanding an end to Israeli settlement building, calling it "just not true."
Most countries view the settlements as an obstacle to peace. Israel disagrees, citing a biblical, historical and political connection to the land, as well as security interests. Washington considers the settlement activity illegitimate.
Since learning last week of Kerry's planned speech, Israeli officials have been concerned he might use the address to lay out parameters for a Middle East peace deal.
Netanyahu's aides are confident the Trump administration will likely ignore any Obama principles and pay no heed to the UN resolution, but they fear Kerry's remarks will put Israel on the defensive and prompt other countries to apply pressure.
Kerry previously failed to bring about a diplomatic resolution to the conflict in talks that froze in 2014. US officials left little doubt they put much of the blame on Netanyahu's stance on settlements.