John Kerry fired what was widely seen as a frustrated parting shot at Israel amid rising tensions Wednesday, warning, as "a friend," that the country needs to hear some "hard truths" about its settlement policy, which he believes is jeopardizing any hope of a two-state solution. The Wall Street Journal notes that the Kerry speech also appeared to be a warning to the Donald Trump transition team about the danger of breaking with longstanding US policy on working toward a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. Before the speech, Trump tweeted that Israel shouldn't be treated with "such total disdain and disrespect." He urged the country to "stay strong" because Jan. 20 is "fast-approaching." A round-up of coverage:
- Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not welcome the criticism: The Times of Israel reports that he attacked and ridiculed Kerry's speech in Hebrew, then in English. "Is that all he's got?" wondered Netanyahu, slamming Kerry for attacking the "only democracy in the Middle East" and vowing to work with Trump to "repeal" a UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements, which the US, to the fury of Israel, did not veto.
- The Washington Post looks at the background to Obama's decision to abstain instead of vetoing the UN resolution. Its sponsors were determined to call a vote before Obama left office, insiders say—and Obama, with "nothing to lose," decided to take a stand.
- Kerry's remarks were greeted warmly in Europe, the New York Times reports, but they were condemned by US lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. Rep. Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called it "wrong" and said it was painful to watch, while Sen. John McCain said it was "at best a pointless tirade in the waning days of an outgoing administration," and at worst another "dangerous outburst."
- The BBC reports that Kerry's remarks could help "set the scene for future diplomacy," with a peace conference set to take place in France in mid-January, the week before Trump takes office.
- Netanyahu has a lot more than Kerry's remarks on his plate: Reuters reports that Israel's attorney general has ordered a criminal investigation of the prime minister on two unspecified matters.
- At Politico, Gregg Carlstrom warns that while Netanyahu may believe the "partner of his dreams" will soon be leading the US, the relationship with Trump could become a nightmare for him. "Israel is betting all its chips on an unpopular, untested president with no knowledge of the region and a history of breaking his campaign promises," he notes. And if Trump does keep his promises, he will pursue policies unpopular with many Americans, Jews included, that could undermine the longstanding bipartisan consensus on supporting Israel.
- The Guardian reports that while Kerry's remarks were the toughest from the US in years, there is some precedent: Bill Clinton set out some very similar parameters for a two-state solution in a speech in December 2000, a few weeks before leaving office.
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