Just a few weeks before he goes out of office, US Secretary of State John Kerry has launched a forceful defence of the Obama administration’s approach to Israel, warning that a two-state solution is “in jeopardy.”
In his latest speech, Mr Kerry continues to hold out hopes for a peace settlement after his considerable personal efforts in 2013 and 2014 failed.
His remarks come amid heightened tensions between the US and Israel after the US abstained in a UN Security Council resolution calling for Israel to give up its settlements on the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
In a separate development, Jerusalem’s Municipal Planning and Construction Committee postponed a vote to authorise construction of nearly 500 new homes in East Jerusalem.
This followed an instruction by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an apparent attempt to soothe relations with the US.
Mr. Kerry says the US decision to abstain from the Security Council vote rather than use its veto – the first time it has done so for an anti-Israeli resolution – was “in accordance with our values.”
Conditions on the ground such as “violence, terrorism, incitement, settlement expansion and the seemingly endless occupation…are combining to destroy hopes for peace on both sides and increasingly cementing an irreversible one-state reality that most people do not actually want.”
Meanwhile, Mr Netanyahu has a strong ally in President-elect Donald Trump, who has harshly criticised the decision to abstain and urges Israel to “stay strong” until January 2, when he takes office.
“They [Israel] used to have a great friend in the US but not anymore. The beginning of the end was the horrible Iran deal and now this!” Mr Trump tweeted.
Kissinger tipped for Trump
On another foreign policy front, Mr Trump is poised to reverse US relations with Russia.
The Times has reported he has consulted former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, 93, who proposes a plan to end sanctions on Moscow that would “recognise Russia’s dominance” in the former Soviet states of Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia and Kazakhstan.
Russia would withdraw from the east of Ukraine in exchange for the West being “no longer bothered about the Crimea issue.”
Mr Kissinger, who was national security adviser under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, first encountered Russian President Vladimir Putin in the 1990s and has visited him several times, including as recently as February.
Such a diplomatic outreach would counteract another Obama administration initiative to punish Russia for meddling in the presidential election through the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and the release of emails that compromised candidate Hillary Clinton.
The Washington Post reports that US is planning more sanctions against Mr Putin and the Russian government for their cyber attacks, which have been confirmed by both the CIA and the FBI.
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