John Kerry’s Speech on Israel Draws Criticisms from Democrats and Republicans

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John Kerry’s speech defending the United States’ abstention from a United Nations vote that condemned Israel’s building of settlements in Palestinian-claimed lands was met with swift denunciation by Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Per The New York Times, congresspeople from both sides of the political aisle have also come out to criticize the speech to varying degrees, while European leaders praised it and Middle Eastern analysts were unimpressed.

Democrats offered tempered criticisms of Kerry’s position on the U.N. resolution. Senator Chuck Schumer said, “While he may not have intended it, I fear Secretary Kerry, in his speech and action at the U.N., has emboldened extremists on both sides.” Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland echoed Kerry’s concerns “with the lack of forward progress on a two-state solution” but said he wished President Obama had vetoed the resolution and that he would “explore congressional action that can mitigate the negative implications” of it. Though there were Democrats who didn’t mince their words, like Representative Eliot Engel of New York, who called the speech “gratuitous” and “wrong,” and condemned the resolution as without a purpose “other than to embarrass Israel.”

Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona took a harder stance, saying, “Secretary Kerry’s speech today was at best a pointless tirade in the waning days of an outgoing administration. At worst, it was another dangerous outburst that will further Israel’s diplomatic isolation and embolden its enemies.”

European politicians, on the other hand, have praised the speech. French Senator Nathalie Goulet said Kerry “is absolutely right. The more there are settlements, the less it is likely there will be a two-state solution. But nobody ever dares condemn Israel. There is a double standard that nourishes the propaganda of the terrorists.” German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a statement that Kerry’s speech was “passionate and deeply convincing” for “the only credible way” to solve the issue. The New York Times cites unnamed “British officials” as saying that Kerry’s speech was a “thoughtful summary of longstanding British and European concerns about the direction of Israeli politics.”

For the generally anti-Israel Middle East, political analysts saw the speech as too little, too late. Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a professor of political science in the United Arab Emirates, said, “At the last five minutes of the hour, apparently Kerry and Obama are showing some courage to stand up to Israel, but it is coming too late in the game. It is after the fact. They should have shown this amount of political courage four years ago, if not eight years ago.” Ziad A. Akl, a senior researcher at the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, echoed thoughts that the Palestine-Israel conflict was no longer the central issue in the Middle East, saying, “Arab countries have sociopolitical problems that trump the Palestinian cause.”

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