JERUSALEM — Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday said that the U.S. would not rule out taking steps at the UN to propose a framework for a Palestinian state and condemned Israel’s so-called settlement enterprise as sabotaging the two-state solution.
Addressing the Brookings Institution’s Saban Forum, Kerry warned that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process “is getting worse: things are moving in the wrong direction.”
Contrary to recent reports from U.S. officials that President Barack Obama would not take any last minute measures at the UN, Kerry would not directly confirm that the U.S. would veto any resolution intended to establish a Palestinian state, saying only that the current administration would veto it “if it is a biased, unfair resolution calculated to delegitimize Israel.”
The secretary of state also contradicted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s earlier address at the same forum in which he said that peace with the Palestinians would come once Israel secures peace with the Arab world. Instead, Kerry insisted that securing peace with the Palestinians is a precondition for peace with the Arab world.
“There will be no separate peace between Israel and the Arab world. Let me make that clear to you,” Kerry said. “There will be no advance or separate peace in the Arab world without advancing the Palestinian issue. Everybody needs to understand that. That is a hard reality.”
He also took Netanyahu to task for the prime minister’s claim that the failure to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people is the essential issue, saying that it is the settlements, and not Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, that is to blame for the failure to make peace.
Settlements, Kerry said, “are not the cause of this conflict. But … if you have a whole bunch of people who are strategically locating outposts and settlements in an area so that there will not be a contiguous Palestinian state, they are doing it to be an obstacle to peace.”
He further slammed Netanyahu’s government as having a lack of leadership, citing Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s recent comments that Israel had reached the “end of the two-state solution” as “profoundly disturbing.”
“I cannot accept the notion that [settlements] don’t affect the peace process, that they aren’t a barrier to the ability to create peace,” Kerry contended. “The left in Israel is telling everyone that it is a barrier to peace and the right, which supports it, is openly telling people that they support it because they don’t want peace. They believe in Greater Israel.”
While Israeli politicians on the right have argued that settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem has almost entirely ceased under the Obama administration, Kerry claimed that the settler population had grown by 20,000 since Obama came into office, “narrow[ing] the capacity for peace.”
The secretary of state further noted that “there has simultaneously been a process of demolition of Palestinian homes,” saying that there are currently 11,000 standing demolition orders against Palestinian-constructed buildings in the West Bank.
Kerry also warned that the failure to advance the two-state solution would render Israel’s status as a Jewish and democratic state unsustainable.
“So how does this work?” Kerry asked. “How do you have a one state that is Jewish and democratic and also has provisions in place for Israel’s security?”
“What’s your vision of a unitary state?” he continued. “If Palestinians are a majority, will there be a Palestinian prime minister of Israel?