US Secretary of State John Kerry will make a last attempt to save the Israeli-Palestinian accord before President-elect Donald Trump assumes office on 20 January. Kerry, who will be leaving his post in less than a month, will outline in a speech on Wednesday (28 December) the Obama administration's vision for the peace talks.
"What Secretary Kerry will be doing is he will give a speech in which he lays out a comprehensive vision for how we see the conflictt being resolved—where we see things in 2016 as we unfortunately conclude our term in office without there being significant progress toward peace," Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser, told Israel's Channel 2.
A senior State Department official told The New York Times that Kerry will take aim against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has accused Obama of "colluding" with the United Nations to orchestrate the UN Security Council resolution condemning illegal Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory.
Netanyahu was infuriated by the Friday (23 December) 14-0 vote by the council, especially in light of the decision of the Obama administration to abstain from the resolution. In response, the prime minister called the ambassadors of the US and the UK and reduced ties with 12 of the Security Council members. The other two countries, Venezuela and Malaysia, do not have diplomatic relations with Israel.
According to the Times, Kerry's speech aims to argue that "the vote was not unprecedented" and that Obama's decision "did not blindside Israel". The official said that Kerry would bring up examples of previous US presidents allowing similar votes. Kerry will reportedly argue that there is also a "complete international consensus" against continued settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The outline in Kerry's speech is expected to receive international endorsement at a 15 January meeting of foreign ministers, The Guardian reported. The meeting will reportedly reinforce a strategy of isolating Netanyahu in order to push him towards reigniting the negotiations with the Palestinians. Israel does not plan to attend the meeting.
The secretary of state has long wanted to give this speech, the official said, but was prevented from doing so by White House officials. However, that no longer became an issue after Obama and Kerry agreed to abstain on the UN resolution.
The Times reported that Kerry planned to give the speech on Thursday (22 December) but held back when Egypt postponed voting on the resolution after being pressured by Netanyahu. The resolution was then taken up by four other nations that were led by New Zealand.
The last push for renewed peace talks and a two-state solution will likely be shelved by the Trump administration. The president-elect has criticised the UN, the Security Council's resolution and has vowed that things will be different after he is sworn to office. Trump also announced he plans to nominate David M Friendman, who is against the idea of a two-state solution, as the US ambassador to Israel.