British PM Theresa May (AP/Alastair Grant) (AP/Alastair Grant)
Theresa May

UK leader Theresa May is moving closer to Trump’s foreign policy on the Arab-Israeli conflict, publicly criticizing Kerry for his unbalanced approach.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, moving more in line with the incoming Trump administration on Middle East policy, took the unprecedented step of publicly distancing the UK from Secretary of State John Kerry’s condemnation of Israel earlier in the week.

A spokesman for May stated, “We do not believe that the way to negotiate peace is by focusing on only one issue, in this case the construction of settlements [Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria], when clearly the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians is so deeply complex.”

May was echoing criticism Kerry has received for using the terms “settlements” and “settlers” 62 times in his 72-minute speech Wednesday while referring to “terror” and “terrorism” only 14 times.

Concerted US Effort to Oust Netanyahu

The spokesman added, “The settlements are far from the only problem in this conflict. In particular, the people of Israel deserve to live free from the threat of terrorism, with which they have had to cope for too long.”

May’s spokesman also distinguished the UK’s approach to Israel’s internal political process. “We do not believe that it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically elected government of an ally,” she stated.

This was a direct rebuke of Kerry’s attempt to push Israel, a key ally of both the US and Britain, to change the make-up of his governing coalition. Kerry had decried Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for choosing coalition partners who did not agree with the Obama administration’s approach to Israel’s borders.

Kerry’s statement came on the heels of a stunning finding by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations’ bipartisan staff report that the Obama administration actually paid $350,000 in taxpayer grants to OneVoice, a left-wing Israeli organization that used the money to build a campaign to oust Netanyahu from power in the 2015 elections by building an anti-Netanyahu voter database, training activists and hiring a political consulting firm with ties to the Obama campaign.

The subcommittee reported that OneVoice explicitly told the Obama administration’s top diplomat in Jerusalem, in an email, of its plans to use the money to oust Netanyahu . The official, Consul General Michael Ratney, claimed to have deleted the message without reading it, itself a violation of America’s open-records laws.

Obama’s Claim of Russian Interference

May put a spotlight on Obama’s interference in Israeli elections on the same day that Obama announced sanctions against Russia for allegedly intervening in the US elections. Obama’s formal statement read,

“All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions. In October, my Administration publicized our assessment that Russia took actions intended to interfere with the US election process. Today, I have ordered a number of actions in response.”

In the most far-reaching sanctions against Russia since the end of the Cold War, Obama ordered 35 Russian operatives to leave the United States and is shutting down several Russian-owned facilities in the country.

Netanyahu’s Diplomatic Success

Britain’s turn toward Israel is the first sign that Netanyahu’s intensive efforts against Obama’s end-of-term moves may be paying off.

Netanyahu canceled a meeting with May over Britain’s backing of last week’s anti-Israel resolution at the UN. The cancellation, criticized by Israel’s opposition, was part of a series of steps designed to express Israel’s displeasure with the Security Council member states that voted against Israel.

Netanyahu also turned to Trump for assistance, and Trump was forthcoming, commenting on Kerry’s speech, “It’s pretty obvious. We have different views.”

Hours later, the British prime minister released her statement distancing the UK from Kerry’s words.

By: United with Israel Staff

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