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30 Dec, 2016 10:46

Theresa May attacks John Kerry’s Israel speech in bid to please Trump team

Theresa May attacks John Kerry’s Israel speech in bid to please Trump team

In what appears to be an attempt to woo Donald Trump’s incoming administration, British Prime Minister Theresa May has rebuked outgoing US Secretary of State John Kerry for condemning Israel.

Kerry accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government of being “the most right-wing in Israeli history,” claiming the rapid expansion of settlements in the occupied territories shows that “the status quo is leading toward one state and perpetual occupation.”

May’s spokesman said the PM thought it was inappropriate to make such a strongly worded attack on the makeup of a democratically elected government. 

“We do not believe that it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically elected government of an ally,” the spokesman said, adding “the government believes that negotiations will only succeed when they are conducted between the two parties, supported by the international community.” 

Kerry’s remarks added further strain to relations between Israel’s coalition government and the outgoing Obama administration, which were rocked just last week, when the US cleared the way for the passage of a UN resolution which demands that an end be put to Israeli settlement building.

Although the UK backed the UN resolution, May’s spokesman said she was concerned about the language used by Kerry.

“We continue to believe that the construction of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is illegal, which is why we supported UN security council resolution 2334 last week.

“But we are also clear that the settlements are far from the only problem in this conflict. In particular, the people of Israel deserve to live free from the threat of terrorism, with which they have had to cope for too long,” the spokesman said.

According to the Guardian, the US State Department reacted to May’s statement with bluntness.

“We are surprised by the UK Prime Minister’s office 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 State Department said in a statement.

It went on to say: “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.”

Tory chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee Crispin Blunt has also questioned May’s criticism. 

He told the BBC that May was focusing on a “narrow point” and expressed concerns she was doubting Kerry’s analysis, which he described as “completely on the money.”

“I have absolutely no idea what was behind No 10 briefing in the way that they did.”

Trump, who took a staunchly pro-Israeli line during his election campaign, openly lobbied against the UN resolution. 

“The big loss for Israel in the United Nations will make it much harder to negotiate peace. Too bad, but we will get it done anyway!” Trump said.

May reportedly wants to forge a close relationship with the Trump team.

UK Ambassador Sir Kim Darroch said on Tuesday that there are hopes their relationship can be similar to that of Margaret Thatcher and her US counterpart, Ronald Reagan.