The Latest: Dems offer mixed reactions to Israel speech

AP News
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Posted: Dec 28, 2016 9:58 PM
The Latest: Dems offer mixed reactions to Israel speech

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on United States-Israeli relations (all times local):

9:45 p.m.

Democratic lawmakers are offering mixed reactions to Secretary of State John Kerry's speech deploring Israeli settlement-building and defending the U.S. move not to veto a controversial U.N. resolution.

Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York says his former Senate colleague "seems to have forgotten the history off settlements in Gaza" and warns Kerry's speech may have "emboldened extremists on both sides."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says Kerry reaffirmed America's commitment to Israel. But she also says she opposes U.N. efforts, a reference to the Obama administration's decision on the resolution.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer is also avoiding direct criticism of Kerry. But he says the resolution "will not bring peace closer."

All three Democrats are members of congressional leadership.

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8:45 p.m.

President-elect Donald Trump says Israel is being treated "very, very unfairly," maintaining that countries that are "horrible places" never get reprimanded.

Trump talked to reporters Wednesday in what became his longest question-and-answer session since the election.

He refused to directly answer a question about whether Israel should stop building settlements, saying he is "very, very strong on Israel."

Trump says Israel is "up for 20 reprimands" at the United Nations, whereas nations that are "horrible places, that treat people horribly, haven't even been reprimanded."

Trump's comments follow a decision last week by the United Nations condemning the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Trump tweeted earlier Wednesday that Israel should "stay strong," saying Jan. 20, inauguration day, "is fast approaching!"

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4:45 p.m.

Israel's U.N. ambassador says a Security Council resolution passed last week was an act against Israel, despite Secretary of State John Kerry's claims to the contrary.

Ambassador Danny Danon, in a statement Wednesday, again made the claim that the U.S. worked with Palestinian officials to advance a one-sided resolution against Israel — a claim the Obama administration denies.

Kerry says in a speech Wednesday the U.S. was standing up for a two-state solution when it abstained on the resolution, which declares the settlements on the West Bank and east Jerusalem a violation of international law. He criticized Israel for settlement building, accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of dragging Israel away from democracy.

Danon says speeches won't bring a resolution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

He says: "The only way forward is for the Palestinians to understand that they must condemn terror, end incitement and return to the negotiating table."

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3:25 p.m.

France's foreign minister is hailing Secretary of State John Kerry's speech on Middle East peace.

Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault (zhawn mahrk eh-ROH') called Kerry's speech "clear, courageous and committed" and said France shares Kerry's belief in a two-state solution that envisions Israel and the new nation of Palestine "living side by side in peace and security."

Ayrault says Kerry's speech reinforced "the necessity and the urgency to implement this two-state solution."

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3 p.m.

A senior Israeli Cabinet minister and ally of the West Bank settler movement says John Kerry's Mideast speech was "divorced from reality."

Education Minister Naftali Bennett said the Obama administration's Mideast policy has left the region "in flames." He noted the "genocide" in Syria, said Iran is "racing" toward a nuclear bomb and accused the U.S. of "abandoning" its ally Israel.

He says Israel's withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 had created a Palestinian "terror state."

Bennett says: "We're not prepared to allow a second terror state in the heart of Israel."

Bennett heads the Jewish Home Party, which is affiliated with the West Bank settler movement. He's a key coalition partner for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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2:45 p.m.

Israel's prime minister says he will not be swayed by a "mistaken policy" outlined by Secretary of State John Kerry.

In a late night news conference, Benjamin Netanyahu said in English Wednesday Kerry's vision could cause "big, big damage" to his country.

Netanyahu says Israelis "do not need to be lectured about the importance of peace by foreign leaders."

He says Israel is committed to resolving issues with the Palestinians, but only through direct talks.

He also said Kerry's speech was almost as unbalanced as last week's Security Council resolution that declared Israeli settlements illegal. Netanyahu said it "effectively" calls the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest prayer site, occupied Palestinian territory.

Netanyahu said he was "looking forward" to working with incoming President Donald Trump to mitigate the damage of the Security Council resolution.

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2:30 p.m.

The Palestinian president says he is ready to resume peace talks with Israel if it halts settlement construction.

In his first response to Secretary of State John Kerry's Mideast policy speech, President Mahmoud Abbas (mahk-MOOD' ah-BAHS') said Wednesday that he is ready to resume talks "within a specific time frame and on the basis of international law." He said that would include a reference to the U.N. Security Council resolution passed last week, over Israel's objections, that declared settlement construction illegal.

Abbas' comments reiterated longstanding Palestinian positions and did not address the six principles for peace Kerry outlined in his speech.

The Palestinians object to calls to recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jews, saying it would undermine the rights of Israel's Arab minority and the claims of Palestinian refugees whose families lost properties in what is now Israel.

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2:10 p.m.

Israel's prime minister is calling Secretary of State John Kerry's Mideast policy speech a "great disappointment."

In live broadcast on Israeli TV, Benjamin Netanyahu criticized Kerry for a speech highly critical of Israel at a time when he said the region is "going up in flames."

Netanyahu in Hebrew says: "For a full hour, the secretary of state attacked the only democracy in the Middle East.".

He accused Kerry of focusing heavily on Israeli settlements, while paying little attention to Palestinian incitement and violence.

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1:35 p.m.

A top official in the West Bank settler movement has dismissed John Kerry's Mideast speech as a "eulogy to the two-state solution."

Oded Revivi, the chief foreign envoy of the Yesha (YEH'-shah) settlers' council, says Kerry's address had no new ideas and was a "self-serving legacy speech" that ignored Israeli security needs.

Revivi says: "There is no moral equivalence between Israeli building and Arab bombing. Israeli homes do not pose a threat to peace, Palestinian terror does."

He says Israel cannot allow a "potential terror state" to be established on its front step.

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1:25 p.m.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office is denouncing Secretary of State John Kerry's Mideast policy speech, saying it was "skewed against Israel" and "obsessively" focuses on Israeli settlements.

In a statement, Netanyahu's office says the speech "barely touched upon the root of the conflict — Palestinian opposition to a Jewish state in any boundaries."

In his speech, Kerry warned that Israel's continued construction of settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem are undermining hopes for the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Netanyahu is to make a televised statement later Wednesday.

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1:15 p.m.

A prominent Israeli opposition politician has given a warm reception to John Kerry's Mideast policy speech.

Yaakov Peri, a former chief of Israel's Shin Bet security agency, on Wednesday praised what he called Kerry's "balanced speech, based on reality and facts."

Peri says the secretary of state drew attention to the "harsh and dramatic consequences" of a single binational state.

Peri is a member of the centrist Yesh Atid (yesh ah-TIHD') party, which sits in the opposition. But his words carry significant weight given his experience battling Palestinian militants.

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12:55 p.m.

Secretary of State John Kerry has outlined a series of principles he says could form the basis of a future peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians, with the likely participation of the United States.

Kerry says that there must be a two-state solution that includes a "secure and recognized border" between Israel and the new nation of Palestine. He also says an agreement must help Palestinian refugees, designate Jerusalem as a capital for both states and satisfy Israel's security needs.

Kerry is leaving office next month along with President Barack Obama and made the proposals as part of a farewell speech at the State Department on Wednesday.

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12:15 p.m.

Secretary of State John Kerry is rejecting criticism that the recent U.S. vote in the United Nations Security Council abandons Israel, as some Israeli leaders have charged. Kerry says Israel's policy allowing permanent construction of settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem that risks isolating Israel from other nations.

Kerry also says the United States "did not draft or originate" the UN resolution condemning the settlements, "nor did we put it forward" in the UN.

His comments came in a policy speech on Wednesday at the State Department.

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11:55 a.m.

Secretary of State John Kerry says expanding Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem are leading to an "irreversible one-state reality."

Kerry says this is happening despite polls showing that most Israelis support the creation of a separate Palestinian state.

Kerry is delivering a speech Wednesday that outlines his proposals for a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. His speech comes days after the U.S. declined to veto a United Nations Security Council resolution that called Israeli settlements a violation of international law.

Kerry says most people in Israel don't know how systematic the settlement process has become in recent years, with tens of thousands of Israelis moving into the middle of Palestinian territories.

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11:45 a.m.

Secretary of State John Kerry says that if Israel rejects a two-state solution for peace with the Palestinian people, "it can be Jewish or it can be democratic."

Kerry was responding to withering Israeli criticism of the United States' abstention from a vote condemning Israeli settlement construction. He reiterated the American position that a two-state solution giving both Israelis and Palestinians a home state is the best roadmap to peace. He also made it clear that despite recent differences in policy, the United States continues to be Israel's closest ally.

Israel has been furious at the United States since the UN vote late last week. But Kerry said in a farewell speech at the State Department on Wednesday that the vote was "in keeping with" American values for democracy.

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10:50 a.m.

Secretary of State John Kerry is delivering a farewell speech to outline his proposals for a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Kerry's speech comes days after the U.S. refused to veto a United Nations Security Council resolution that called Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem a violation of international law. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has slammed the resolution and accused the U.S. of colluding with the Palestinians in drawing it up.

A senior Israeli Cabinet minister, Gilad Erdan (gih-LAD' EHR'-dahn), on Wednesday called Kerry's speech a "pathetic step," further heightening tensions between the two close allies as President Barack Obama prepares to leave office.

Israeli leaders have made no secret they are counting on President-elect Donald Trump to change U.S. policy.