By Ron Kampeas
WASHINGTON (JTA) — Joe Biden and John Kerry said the Obama administration remained committed to advancing a two-state solution and criticized Israel and the Palestinians for obstructing its path.
Biden, the vice president, and Kerry, the secretary of state, addressed J Street’s annual gala and lavished praise on the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group for embracing the Obama administration’s push last year for a nuclear deal with Iran in the face of opposition from centrist pro-Israel sentiment.
Each speaker emphasized that the Obama administration had not given up on the two-state solution, although Kerry’s 2013-2014 efforts collapsed into mutual recriminations between Israel and the Palestinians, and Israel and the United States.
“We continue to advance a two-state solution as the only solution because anything else will not be Jewish and will not be democratic,” Kerry said.
“For the next nine months we will not stop working to find” a solution, he said to applause.
There has been speculation in the media that the Obama administration will outline the contours of a final status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians before it leaves office in January, although both the Israelis and the Palestinians are wary of any such move. Neither Biden or Kerry offered specifics of how President Barack Obama planned to advance peace talks.
Biden was especially pointed in his criticisms of the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, although he also criticized the Palestinians for seeking statehood recognition outside the parameters of talks with Israel and for not robustly condemning terrorism.
“There is no political will among Israelis or Palestinians to move forward,” he said.
Israel’s settlement activity, he said, was moving Israel in the “wrong direction.”
“Those are damaging moves that will only take us further from the path to peace,” Biden said.
Biden had delivered similar impressions last month addressing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, although in that instance, a greater proportion of his speech was devoted to defending Obama’s Israel record.
In an extraordinary moment, Biden asked opposition Zionist Union Member of Knesset Stav Shaffir, who had earlier in the evening lacerated Netanyahu’s peace policies, to stand up.
“May your views once again become the majority in the Israeli Knesset,” he said.
Biden and Kerry as well as J Street separately and strongly condemned the terrorist attack in Jerusalem on Monday, in which a bus bombing injured at least 21 people.