Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has condemned as biased a speech by outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry on Israeli-Palestinian issues.
John Kerry said the prospect of a peace deal based on a two-state solution was in grave jeopardy as Israeli settlement building on occupied land was a major problem.
PM Benjamin Netanyahu said he was disappointed with the speech, which he said was “unbalanced” and “obsessively focused” on settlements.
John Kerry had “paid lip service to the unremitting Palestinian campaign of terrorism” against Israel, he said.
He added that the conflict centered on the Palestinians’ refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist, but John Kerry “does not see the simple truth”.
Earlier, President-elect Donald Trump tweeted in support of Israel, saying he would not allow it to be treated with “disdain and disrespect”.
He urged Israel to “stay strong” until he assumed office next month.
France, which will host an international conference to lay down the framework for a future peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians in Paris in January, indicated support for John Kerry’s position.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said John Kerry’s speech was “clear, committed and courageous”.
Following the speech, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas suggested he was ready to resume peace negotiations if Israel stopped activity within its settlements.
The chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said President Mahmoud Abbas was “fully confident” that a “just, comprehensive, and lasting solution” could be reached.
He said: “If the Israeli Government agrees to cease settlement activity, including in East Jerusalem, and to implement the agreements signed by the two sides, the Palestinian leadership will be willing to resume negotiations.”
Last week, the United States chose not to veto a UN Security Council resolution calling for an end to Israeli settlement construction, leading to an angry response from Israel.
The issue of Jewish settlements is one of the most contentious between Israel and the Palestinians, who see them as an obstacle to peace and the creation of a viable Palestinian state.
More than 500,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Jewish settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.
In his speech, John Kerry said that despite Israeli claims to the contrary, UN condemnation of illegal Jewish settlements on occupied land was in line with American values.
John Kerry said: “The two-state solution is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. It is the only way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state. That future is now in jeopardy.
“The Israeli prime minister publicly supports a two-state solution, but his current coalition is the most right-wing in Israeli history with an agenda driven by the most extreme elements.
“The result is that policies of this government, which the prime minister himself just described as more committed to settlements than any Israel’s history, are leading in the opposite direction. They are leading towards one state.”