AFP Washington, DC, United States
Dec 28, 2016, 04.38 PM
US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday that the only way to secure a lasting peace between Israel and Palestinians is to negotiate a two-state solution to their conflict.
"Today, there are a similar number of Jews and Palestinians living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. They have a choice. They can choose to live together in one state, or they can separate into two states," he told an audience of diplomats in Washington.
"But here is a fundamental reality: 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 was explaining the US witholding its UN Security Council veto in the 14-0 vote that called for a halt to Israeli settlement building in the occupied territories.
"The vote in the UN was about preserving the two-state solution.
"That's what we were standing up for: Israel's future as a Jewish and democratic state, living side by side in peace and security with its neighbors," he said.
The US secretary of state explained the US vision for a solution to the conflict and warned Israel was on a course leading to a "perpetual occupation" of Palestinian-owned land.
"The two-state solution is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians," Kerry said, but warned that solution was in "serious jeopardy."
He also warned that Israel's "settler agenda" was determining its policy in the West Bank and imperiling peace with the Palestinians.
"The settler agenda is defining the future in Israel. And their stated purpose is clear: They believe in one state: greater Israel."
However, it is not clear whether the obama administration's roadmap for a solution to the conflict will taken forward by US President-elect Donald Trump.
Trump made his pro-Israel stand clear on Twitter on Wednesday morning ahead of Kerry's speech, saying the US could not continue to treat Israel with "such total disdain and disrespect." He promised Israel he would improve ties between the two nations after taking charge on January 20.
We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect. They used to have a great friend in the U.S., but.......
Israel meanwhile asked Jerusalem's city hall to delay a vote on new settlements for Israelis in East Jerusalem. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took the decision the same day that Kerry was to make his speech.
But while a Jerusalem planning committee postponed the request for building permits for nearly 500 homes, it did grant approval for a highly controversial settler building in east Jerusalem, AFP quoted an NGO as saying.