US offers blunt response to Theresa May's criticism of John Kerry over Israel

Washington says it is 'surprised' at PM's criticism as it is in line with the UK's own support for a UN resolution condemning settlement activity in the West Bank

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Washington has hit back at Theresa May’s criticism of John Kerry's condemnation of Israel, expressing “surprise” at the UK’s response as it was at odds with their vote in favour of a UN declaration condemning increased settlement activity in the occupied territories.

Theresa May had distanced herself from Mr Kerry's comments in a move which has been interpreted as a sop to the incoming Trump administration.

Mr Kerry attacked the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the “most right-wing coalition in Israeli history” and warned that the increased building of settlements in the West Bank means “the status quo is leading towards one state and perpetual occupation”.

A No 10 spokesman said the Prime Minister did not think it was appropriate to focus solely on the issue of the settlements or use such strong words against a foreign government.

He said: “We do not believe that it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically elected government of an ally. 

“The Government believes that negotiations will only succeed when they are conducted between the two parties, supported by the international community.”

But the US hit back with a statement:  “We are surprised by the UK Prime Minister’s office statement given that Secretary Kerry’s remarks — which covered the full range of threats to a two state solution, including terrorism, violence, incitement and settlements — were in-line with the UK’s own longstanding policy and its vote at the United Nations last week.

“We are grateful for the strongly supportive statements in response to Secretary Kerry’s speech from across the world, including Germany, France, Canada, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and others.”

Mr Kerry accused the Israeli government of undermining attempts to produce a two-state solution and bring about a solution to the conflict, which has plagued the region for half a century.

Earlier this week, the UK backed a UN resolution condemning the continued expansion of the settlements while the US took the unusual step of abstaining rather than using its veto.

The move is seen as an attempt to reign in Israel’s settlement activity, which has increased in recent years, before the arrival of the Trump administration, which has vowed to protect and reinforce Israel’s interests. 

Donald Trump has indicated that he may move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in what could be interpreted as unofficial recognition of Israel’s claim that the city is their capital. 

In contrast, the Palestinians say East Jerusalem, which was captured along with the West Bank back in the 1960s, is part of territory they would want for a possible future state. 

Washington has previously followed the international line that the city’s status should be determined at peace talks.

Additional reporting by agencies