Israel’s settlement programme threatens hope for peace: Kerry

WASHINGTON/JERUSALEM: US Secretary of State John Kerry warned on Wednesday that Israel’s settlement building in the West Bank threatens both hope for peace with the Palestinians and the country’s own future as a democracy.
In a major speech setting out his vision of a solution to the conflict, Kerry warned Israel was on a course leading to a “perpetual occupation” of Palestinian-owned land.
“Today, there are a similar number of Jews and Palestinians living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea,” he told an audience of diplomats in Washington.
“They have a choice. They can choose to live together in one state, or they can separate into two states,” he said.
“But here is a fundamental reality: if the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or democratic — it cannot be both — and it won’t ever really be at peace.”
Explaining the US decision last week not to veto a UN Security Council vote to condemn Israeli settlement building, Kerry said: “The vote in the UN was about preserving the two-state solution.
“That’s what we were standing up for: Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, living side by side in peace and security with its neighbours,” he said.
“The two-state solution is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” Kerry said, warning that such a solution was now in “serious jeopardy.”
Meanwhile, an Israeli committee on Wednesday approved a four-storey building for settlers in an east Jerusalem Palestinian neighbourhood, an NGO said, ahead of a speech by John Kerry.
While a Jerusalem planning committee postponed requests for building permits for nearly 500 homes in east Jerusalem, it did approve the building in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan, according to the Ir Amim NGO which monitors settlement activity.
Ir Amim said the request for the building had been put forward by members of Ateret Cohanim, an organisation that pushes for Israeli settlement expansion in east Jerusalem.
Silwan is next to Jerusalem’s Old City and is the site of a long campaign by pro-settlement groups to expand the Israeli presence there. — AFP