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Jewish Lawmakers Split on John Kerry Speech on Mideast Peace

(JTA) — Responding to Secretary of State John Kerry’s address on making peace between Israel and the Palestinians, many U.S. lawmakers said they were disappointed by the Obama administration’s decision to abstain on the vote in the U.N. Security Council of a resolution criticizing Israel for settlement building.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., the incoming Senate minority leader, said in a statement that Kerry “has emboldened extremists on both sides.”

“While Secretary Kerry mentioned Gaza in his speech, he seems to have forgotten the history of the settlements in Gaza, where the Israeli government forced settlers to withdraw from all settlements and the Palestinians responded by sending rockets into Israel,” Schumer said. “This is something that people of all political stripes in Israel vividly remember.”

Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the House Democratic whip, said he was “reassured” that Kerry did not call for further action by the United Nations Security Council while criticizing the U.S. abstention in the Security Council.

Hoyer said that Kerry’s speech “outlined longstanding American principles” vis-a-vis the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

“The United States will have a role to play in helping both parties reach the goal of lasting peace, even if that involves highlighting uncomfortable facts on the ground, as Secretary Kerry did. Nonetheless, I continue to believe that the U.N. Security Council is the wrong forum for critiquing Israeli policies,” he said. “As I have said many times, no solution should be imposed from outside, nor should the United States, the United Nations, or any other nation or international organization seek to prejudge any formulation for a final settlement, which must be worked out by the parties themselves.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., tweeted: “Bold speech by Secretary Kerry. Security for Israel can only be achieved through peace. A two-state solution offers the only path forward.”

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in a statement released after the speech called for direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, “not through efforts dictated by the United Nations, which I have opposed.”

She added: “Today’s remarks by Secretary Kerry were a reaffirmation of America’s commitment to a secure, Jewish and democratic Israel, and a state for the Palestinians.”

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the speaker of the House, criticized Kerry’s speech in a tweet.

“After allowing this anti-Israel resolution to pass the UN, Secretary Kerry has no credibility to speak on Israeli-Palestinian peace,” he wrote.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, called the abstention and the speech in a statement “shameful” and “designed to weaken and marginalize Israel, and to embolden its enemies.”

“Kerry’s central conclusion, that ‘Israel can either be Jewish or democratic, it cannot be both,’ is an inanity that passes as profound only in Ivory Tower faculty lounges,” Cruz said. “There are roughly 50 majority-Muslim countries in the world. There is one — only one — Jewish state. And yet, for Kerry and Obama, that is too much.”

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement that he “welcome(s) Secretary Kerry’s articulation of six principles that should guide direct negotiations between the parties for a secure, just, and realistic two-state solution.”

He also said that he was “disappointed” in the U.S. abstention in the United Nations and that last week’s resolution “makes direct negotiations more, not less, challenging.”


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