Netanyahu’s Response to Kerry: ‘Israelis Do Not Need to be Lectured About the Importance of Peace by Foreign Leaders’

Patrick Goodenough | December 28, 2016 | 6:00pm EST
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Secretary of State John Kerry and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. (AP Photo/Brendan Smialowski, File)

( – Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday slammed Secretary of State John Kerry for a speech he described as “almost as unbalanced” as last Friday’s U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israel, which passed after the Obama administration chose to abstain rather than veto the measure.

“Israelis do not need to be lectured about the importance of peace by foreign leaders,” Netanyahu said in a televised statement. “Israel’s hand has been extended in peace to its neighbors from day one, from its very first day. We’ve prayed for peace, we’ve work for it every day since then.”

Kerry’s 70-minute speech at the State Department focused largely on blaming Israeli settlements for the failure of peace efforts. Netanyahu countered that the root of the conflict remains “the persistent Palestinian refusal to recognize a Jewish state.”

He also suggested that Kerry’s scant references to violence and terrorism targeting Israel were “throwaway lines” and amounted to “lip service.”

(Roughly 350 words in Kerry’s speech of some 9,490 words touched on violence, terrorism and incitement against Israel.)

“In a speech ostensibly about peace between Israelis and Palestinians, Secretary Kerry paid lip service to the unremitting campaign of terrorism that has been waged by the Palestinians against the Jewish state for nearly a century,” Netanyahu said.

“What he did was spend most of his speech blaming Israel for the lack of peace, by passionately condemning a policy of enabling Jews to live in their history homeland, and in their eternal capital, Jerusalem,” he added.

“Hundreds of suicide bombings, thousands – tens of thousands of rockets, millions of Israelis in bomb shelters – are not throwaway lines in a speech. They are the realities that the people of Israel had to endure because of mistaken policies, policies that at the time won the thunderous applause of the world.”

In his speech Kerry explained why the U.S. had abstained rather than veto last Friday’s Security Council resolution. The measure condemned Israeli presence in disputed territories, including eastern Jerusalem, an area that includes Judaism’s holiest site. The resolution declared those areas to be “Palestinian territory.”

Kerry said it has been longstanding U.S. policy to oppose Israeli settlements, and “it is certainly not the role of any country to vote against its own policies.”

But Netanyahu said it had always been Israel – and America’s – policy that only direct negotiations would deliver a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

He quoted President Obama as saying at the U.N. in 2011 that “peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations; if it were that easy it would have been accomplished by now.”

“Until last week,” Netanyahu continued, “ this was repeated over and over again as American policy. Secretary Kerry said [in Wednesday’s speech] that the United States cannot ‘vote against its own policies.’ But’s that’s exactly what it did at the U.N.”

He said Israel looked forward to working with President-elect Donald Trump and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to mitigate the damage caused by the resolution, and ultimately have it rescinded.

Netanyahu began his statement by expressing appreciation for many decades of U.S. support – from successive administrations, Congress and the American people – for Israel.

“Our alliance is based on shared values, shared interests, a sense of shared destiny – and a partnership that has endured differences of opinions between our two governments over the best way to advance peace and stability in the Middle East,” he said.

“I have no doubt that our alliance will endure the profound disagreement we have had with the Obama administration, and will become even stronger in the future.”

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