John Kerry Defends U.S. Abstention from U.N. Vote on Israel, Israeli Prime Minister Calls His Speech “Skewed”

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The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously last week to condemn settlements being built by Israel in lands in the West Bank and East Jerusalem claimed by Palestine, but the United States abstained from voting. The abstention drew harsh criticisms from pro-Israel leaders including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump, who wanted the United States to veto the resolution. Per Politico, Secretary of State John Kerry responded to those criticisms in a speech today, saying, “Friends need to tell each other the hard truths, and friendships require mutual respect.”

Kerry defended the decision to abstain from voting: “Regrettably, some seem to believe that the U.S. friendship means the U.S. must accept any policy regardless of our own interests, our own positions, our own words, our own principles, even after urging again and again that the policy must change.” He added, ”[If] we were to stand idly by and know that in doing so, we are allowing a dangerous dynamic to take hold, which promises greater conflict and instability to a region in which we have vital interests, we would be derelict in our own responsibilities.”

Donald Trump condemned the U.N. vote, tweeting, “We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect. They used to have a great friend in the U.S.,” then, “The beginning of the end was the horrible Iran deal, and now this (U.N.)! Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!” In response, Netanyahu tweeted at Trump, saying, “President-elect Trump, thank you for your warm friendship and your clear-cut support for Israel!”

Responding to Kerry’s speech, Netanyahu’s office issued a statement, per The Hill, saying:

Like the resolution that John Kerry advanced at the [United Nations], John Kerry gave a skewed speech against Israel. For over an hour, Kerry dealt obsessively with the settlements and almost didn’t touch on the root of the conflict — the Palestinian opposition to a Jewish state in any boundaries.

Netanyahu is expected to make a speech in response to Kerry’s, and Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., claimed to NPR that “the U.S. helped orchestrate behind the scenes” the U.N. resolution condemning Israel’s actions, and that they would present evidence “in the appropriate channels to the new administration.”

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