Kerry says settlements endanger peace, Israel hits back

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Life inside Israeli settlements
A Jewish man covered in a prayer shawl, prays in the Jewish settler outpost of Amona in the West Bank December 18, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Israeli teenagers rest in a tent as they prepare for an expected eviction of the Jewish settlement outpost of Amona in the West Bank, December 9, 2016 REUTERS/Amir Cohen
A construction site is seen in the Israeli settlement of Givat Zeev, in the occupied West Bank December 22, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Houses are seen in the Jewish settlement of Har Gilo, in the occupied West Bank, December 29, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
Israeli soldiers are seen next to a bus stop covered with posters from the Israeli branch of the U.S. Republican party campaign in favour of Donald Trump, near the West Bank Jewish Settlement of Ariel October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A Palestinian labourer works at a construction site in the Israeli settlement of Efrat, in the occupied West Bank, December 29, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
Houses in the Israeli settlement of Givat Zeev are seen from the Israeli settlement of Givon Ha'hadasha (bottom), in the occupied West Bank, December 29, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
A general view shows a construction site in the Israeli settlement of Efrat, in the occupied West Bank, December 29, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
Israeli youths build a wooden structure in the Jewish settler outpost of Amona, in the West Bank November 29, 2016. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
Palestinian labourers work at a construction site in the Israeli settlement of Efrat, in the occupied West Bank, December 29, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
Students do pull-ups as they train at the Bnei David academy, the first religious military prep school and Jewish seminary, in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Eli, south of Nablus, January 31, 2016. Picture taken on January 31, 2016. To match Special Report ISRAEL-MILITARY/RELIGION REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
A Palestinian labourer walks at a construction site in the Israeli settlement of Efrat, in the occupied West Bank, December 29, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
A man pushes a shopping cart outside Shufersal, Israel's largest supermarket chain, in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Mishor Adumim near Jerusalem May 5, 2013. REUTERS/Ammar Awad/Files Photo
A Palestinian labourer works at a construction site in the Israeli settlement of Efrat, in the occupied West Bank, December 29, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
Houses are seen in the Israeli settlement of Givat Zeev (bottom) with the Palestinian city of Ramallah in the backgraund, in the occupied West Bank, December 29, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
A worker walks on scaffoldings in a construction site at the Israeli settlement of Har Homa, in the occupied West Bank December 28, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
A general view shows a Star of David near buildings in the Israeli settlement of Maale Edumim, in the occupied West Bank December 28, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
Israelis are seen near a construction site in the Israeli settlement of Ramat Shlomo, in the occupied West Bank December 28, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
A Palestinian labourer prays during his lunch break at Aluminum Construction, a factory located in the Industrial Park of the West Bank Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim, near Jerusalem, February 3, 2016. Picture taken February 3, 2016. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
A construction worker labours on a building in the Israeli settlement of Maale Edumim, in the occupied West Bank December 28, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
Bulidings can be seen under construction in the Israeli settlement of Maale Edumim, in the occupied West Bank December 28, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
Bulidings under construction are seen in the Israeli settlement of Maale Edumim, in the occupied West Bank, December 28, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
A Palestinian man rides a donkey near the Israeli settlement of Maale Edumim, in the occupied West Bank, December 28, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
Israeli boys from the Ziv family play outside their home in the Jewish settler outpost of Amona in the West Bank, November 22, 2016. Picture taken November 22, 2016. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
Houses are seen in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim as the Palestinian village of Al-Eizariya is seen in the background May 24, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
An Israeli boy looks through the sight of a weapon during a display of Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) equipment and abilities at the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba, April 23, 2015, during celebrations for Israel's Independence Day, marking the 67th anniversary of the creation of the state. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Elad Ziv prepares food in his home in the Jewish settler outpost of Amona in the West Bank, November 22, 2016. Picture taken November 22, 2016. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
Israeli youths push a water tank as they construct a temporary barrier in the Jewish settler outpost of Amona in the West Bank December 15, 2016. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
Players from Israeli soccer clubs affiliated with Israel Football Association, Ariel Municipal Soccer Club and Maccabi HaSharon Netanya, play against each other at Ariel Municipal Soccer Club's training grounds in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Ariel September 23, 2016. Picture taken September 23, 2016. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
Israeli youths use a tractor as they build wooden structures in the Jewish settler outpost of Amona, in the West Bank November 29, 2016. The sticker on the tractor in Hebrew reads:, "For the second time, Amona will not fall" REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
Israeli teenagers walk on graffiti reading in Hebrew "Soldier, policeman, refuse orders" as they prepare for an expected eviction of the Jewish settlement outpost of Amona in the West Bank, December 9, 2016. REUTERS/Amir Cohen TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Palestinian labourers work at Aluminum Construction, a factory located in the Industrial Park of the West Bank Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim, near Jerusalem, February 3, 2016. Picture taken February 3, 2016. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
Israeli men stand next to a structure with Hebrew graffiti reading "over Judea and Samaria, there will be war" in the early morning in the Jewish settler outpost of Amona in the West Bank December 15, 2016. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
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WASHINGTON, Dec 28 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned on Wednesday that Israel's building of settlements was endangering Middle East peace, expressing unusually frank frustration with the long-time American ally.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shot back at Kerry and accused him of showing bias against the Jewish state.

SEE ALSO: Netanyahu: Kerry's speech 'skewed against Israel'

In a 70-minute speech just weeks before the Obama administration hands over to President-elect Donald Trump, Kerry said Israel "will never have true peace" with the Arab world if it does not reach an accord based on Israelis and Palestinians living in their own states.

His remarks added to strain in the U.S.-Israeli relationship -- characterized by personal acrimony between President Barack Obama and Netanyahu -- after the United States cleared the way for a U.N. resolution last week that demanded an end to Israeli settlement building.

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

"The truth is that trends on the ground - violence, terrorism, incitement, settlement expansion and the seemingly endless occupation - are destroying hopes for peace on both sides and increasingly cementing an irreversible one-state reality that most people do not actually want."

Kerry condemned Palestinian violence which he said included "hundreds of terrorist attacks in the past year."

His parting words are unlikely to change anything on the ground between Israel and the Palestinians or salvage the Obama administration's record of failed Middle East peace efforts.

In a statement, Netanyahu said Kerry's speech "was skewed against Israel." The Israeli leader said Kerry "obsessively dealt with settlements" and barely touched on "the root of the conflict - Palestinian opposition to a Jewish state in any boundaries."

The Israelis are looking past Obama and expect they will receive more favorable treatment from Trump, who takes office on Jan. 20. The Republican used his Twitter account on Wednesday to denounce the Obama administration, including its U.N. vote and the nuclear accord it reached with Iran last year.

"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 not anymore," Trump said in a series of tweets. "Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!"

Trump had openly lobbied against the U.N. resolution and would be expected to veto any further ones deemed anti-Israel.

He has vowed to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and has appointed as ambassador a lawyer who raised money for a major Jewish settlement, has cast doubt on the idea of a two-state solution and even advocated for Israel's annexation of the West Bank, a notion even further to the right than Netanyahu's own stance.

IMPASSIONED SPEECH

Kerry's speech provided some insights into an issue that he personally feels passionate about and had hoped to resolve during his years as secretary of state.

He defended the U.S. decision to allow the passage of a U.N. resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlements, saying it was intended to preserve the possibility of a two-state solution.

The United States abstained in the Dec. 23 U.N. resolution, in what many see as a parting shot by Obama who had an acrimonious relationship with Netanyahu.

Kerry vigorously defended the U.N. resolution and rejected criticism "that this vote abandons Israel."

"It is not this resolution that is isolating Israel. It is the permanent policy of settlement construction that risks making peace impossible."

In a pointed reply to Netanyahu who said last week that "Friends don't take friends to the Security Council," and who has insisted the Obama administration had orchestrated the resolution, Kerry hit back, saying: "Friends need to tell each other the hard truths, and friendships require mutual respect."

Kerry defended Obama's commitment to Israel's security and U.S. support for Israel in international platforms. Earlier this year, the United States and Israel agreed a $38 billion in military assistance over the next decade.

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