Tension between the United Sates and Israel has been ratcheting up steadily for days, and Secretary of State John Kerry's harsh speech Wednesday isn't likely to calm things down.
The U.S. cannot "allow a viable two-state solution to be destroyed before our eyes," said Kerry, in one of his final addresses as secretary. Last week, the United States refused to veto a United Nations resolution condemning Israel's settlements in Palestinian territory. Kerry stressed that decision was in accordance with U.S. values and its history of support for Israel. "Friends need to tell each other the hard truth," he said.
"Regrettably, people think that the U.S. must accept any policy, even after urging again and again that the policy must change," Kerry said in response to criticism of their decision, adding that the Obama administration has done more to support Israel than any other U.S. administration.
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Since Kerry became secretary of state nearly four years ago, he's devoted himself to the Israel-Palestine conflict with fervor, meeting frequently with leaders on both sides in an attempt to hammer out a solution that would include statehood for Palestine, a position supported by President Obama and presidents Bush and Clinton before him.
The speech came days after the landmark United States Security Council's resolution to stop Israel from building settlements in the occupied territories, calling them a violation of international law. Breaking with tradition, the U.S. abstained their veto, allowing the resolution to pass. Though most countries consider the settlements illegal, this was the first time in 36 years that the committee was able to pass a resolution condemning them.
Israel responded swiftly and furiously to the resolution. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has lashed out at other countries who supported the resolution (in one case reportedly calling it a "declaration of war") and accused the Obama administration of plotting the resolution with Palestinians. "The U.S. administration secretly cooked up with the Palestinians an extreme anti-Israeli resolution behind Israel's back which would be a tailwind for terror and boycotts and effectively make the Western Wall occupied Palestinian territory," An Israeli official who spoke to the New York Times said.
With only three weeks left in office, Kerry's speech seems to be a symbolic nod towards peace, rather than concrete steps towards it, as the resolution will likely be ignored by president-elect Donald Trump. On Wednesday morning, before the speech, Trump tweeted his condemnation for Obama's decision adding that things will change once he's in office.