In a long and winding farewell speech Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry defended a United Nations Security Council resolution that declared all West Bank settlements illegal.
There are about 400,000 Israeli settlers living in 125 settlements and 100 outposts in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, according to The Washington Post.
“[Israel] can be Jewish or it can be democratic. It cannot be both.”
Kerry said the U.N. resolution was in U.S. interests.
“The two-state solution is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” Kerry said. “It is the only way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state living in peace and security with its neighbors.”
Friday’s U.N. resolution was expected to be vetoed by the United States, which would have killed it. But the United States chose instead to abstain, allowing the resolution to pass.
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was stunned, as were many supporters of Israel in the United States. The Obama administration seemed surprised by the response. The United States usually vetoes U.N. resolutions condemning Israel.
John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said the resolution was meant to tip future negotiations toward the Palestinians.
As for Kerry, it promises to stain his four-year tenure as the nation’s chief diplomat. Most of the time in his career as secretary of state, the former Massachusetts senator did not produce significant solutions to problems with Russia, Syria, or China.
So in his farewell speech, Kerry said the United States knew about the resolution, and made it clear to the drafters that it would not veto the resolution if the text was acceptable.
That’s a key concession, as Israel has charged that the United States conspired to create the resolution condemning settlements in the West Bank.
“The United States did in fact vote in accordance with our values, just as previous administrations have done,” Kerry said at the State Department. “The vote in the United Nations was about preserving the two-state solution. That’s what we were standing up for.”
Kerry also listed the abusive policies of Palestinian leaders, such as naming streets after terrorists who kill Israelis. Kerry noted official discontent over both sides’ actions.
But most of the speech was aimed at defending the resolution and flaying Israel’s settlement policy. Kerry said Israel needs to decide on being the dominant state or a democratic partner.
“It can be Jewish or it can be democratic,” Kerry said. “It cannot be both.”
Kerry accused Israel of placing 100 outposts in the West Bank that will make a two-state solution impossible. He said Israel wants to apply domestic law in these settlements, which would annex those lands in violation of the spirit of the two-state solution.
He said such actions would destroy international efforts to create two states.
“My job is to defend the United States of America,” Kerry said. “We … did vote in accordance with our values.”