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John Kerry Defends Two-State Solution, Rebukes Israel Settlements

US Secretary of State John Kerry laid out his vision for peace between Israel and the Palestinians Wednesday. In the more than hour-long address, Kerry criticized Jewish settlements in the West Bank as an impediment to peace.

With his tenure as Secretary of State rapidly pulling to a close, John Kerry made an impassioned defense for a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Wednesday.

Kerry said he is concerned that some Israeli politicians are rejecting it.

"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," said Kerry.

Speaking at the State Department, Kerry sharply criticized the Israeli government's construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. He claimed the policy was dimming the prospect of peace. In the more than hour-long address, Kerry also defended the U.S.'s refusal to block a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements. The resolution led to fierce accusations that the Obama administration had turned against Israel.

"Friends need to tell each other the hard truths, and friendships require mutual respect," Kerry said.

The outgoing Secretary of State also shut down accusations that the U.S. had engineered the U.N. resolution — a theory espoused by Israel's leader Benjamin Netanyahu.

In a speech shortly thereafter, the prime minister called Kerry's speech "a great disappointment." He warned that Kerry's vision could cause "big, big damage" to his country, and said that his speech was "almost as unbalanced" as the United Nations resolution.

When Kerry succeeded Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State in 2013, he had hoped to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by the summer of 2014. But in numerous meetings with Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, negotiations stalled--with the expansion of settlements as a key point of contention.

President-Elect Trump has signaled he'll make significant changes to how the U.S. approaches the conflict. "We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect," he tweeted this morning. His choice for ambassador to Israel, David M. Friedman, has rejected the idea of a two-state solution.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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