Diplomacy

In Unprecedented Rebuke, UK Government Harshly Criticizes Kerry’s Israel Speech

In what been described as an “unprecedented” public rebuke of a close ally, the British government released a statement on Thursday harshly criticizing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry after his speech about Israeli-Palestinian peace on Wednesday.

“We do not believe that the way to negotiate peace is by focusing on only one issue, in this cases the construction of settlements, when clearly the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians is so deeply complex,” a spokesperson for British Prime Minister Theresa May told the Jewish News. “And we do not believe that it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically-elected government of an ally. The Government believes that negotiations will only succeed when they are conducted between the two parties, supported by the international community.”

Kerry’s speech, which laid out what he believes are principles necessary for a permanent solution to the Israeli-Palestinian question, was also criticized by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for, among other things, drawing a “false moral equivalence” between Palestinian terror attacks and Israeli construction in eastern Jerusalem.

The United Kingdom voted in favor of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 last Friday, which criticized Israeli activity in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem. The British spokesperson clarified in the same statement that London “continue[s] to believe that the construction of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is illegal, which is why we supported UN Security Council Resolution 2334 last week. But we are also clear that the settlements are far from the only problem in this conflict. In particular, the people of Israel deserve to live free from the threat of terrorism, with which they have had to cope for too long.”

(The United States could have vetoed the resolution, but instead chose to abstain, a move that received heavy criticism from members of Congress from both political parties.)

Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren warned in Newsweek on Wednesday that the resolution endangered Israel by denying the Jewish connection to Jerusalem, harmed the Palestinians by perpetuating their statelessness, and damaged American credibility throughout the Middle East by reversing its longstanding guarantee to protect Israel from one-sided UN resolutions.

[Photo: Maurice / flickr ]