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.
The Israeli–Palestinian conflict intensifies
The Israeli–Palestinian conflict intensifies
Medics evacuate a wounded man from the scene of an attack in Jerusalem. A Palestinian rammed a vehicle into a bus stop then got out and started stabbing people before he was shot dead
Israeli ZAKA emergency response members carry the body of an Israeli at the scene of a shooting attack in Jerusalem. A pair of Palestinian men boarded a bus in Jerusalem and began shooting and stabbing passengers, while another assailant rammed a car into a bus station before stabbing bystanders, in near-simultaneous attacks that escalated a month long wave of violence
Palestinians throw molotov cocktail during clashes with Israeli troops near Ramallah, West Bank. Recent days have seen a series of stabbing attacks in Israel and the West Bank that have wounded several Israelis
Women cry during the funeral of Palestinian teenager Ahmad Sharaka, 13, who was shot dead by Israeli forces during clashes at a checkpoint near Ramallah, at the family house in the Palestinian West Bank refugee camp of Jalazoun, Ramallah
A wounded Palestinian boy and his father hold hands at a hospital after their house was brought down by an Israeli air strike in Gaza
Palestinians look on after a protester is shot by Israelis soldiers during clashes at the Howara checkpoint near the West Bank city of Nablus
A lawyer wearing his official robes kicks a tear gas canister back toward Israeli soldiers during a demonstration by scores of Palestinian lawyers called for by the Palestinian Bar Association in solidarity with protesters at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City, near Ramallah, West Bank
Undercover Israeli soldiers detain a Palestinian in Ramallah
Palestinian youth burn tyres during clashes with Israeli soldiers close to the Jewish settlement of Bet El, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, after Israel barred Palestinians from Jerusalem's Old City as tensions mounted following attacks that killed two Israelis and wounded a child
“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