(JTA) – The British government in an unusual move criticized U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for focusing on Israeli settlements and commenting on the makeup of the Israeli Cabinet in a speech critical of Israeli policies. A spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said Dec. 29 that it was inappropriate of Kerry to attack the makeup of the democratically elected Israeli government – a key ally of both the United States and Britain, the Daily Mail reported. “We do not … believe that the way to negotiate peace is by focusing on only one issue, in this case the construction of settlements, when clearly the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians is so deeply complex,” the unnamed spokesman was quoted as saying. “And we do not believe that it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically elected government of an ally.” The British government, the spokesman added, “believes that negotiations will only succeed when they are conducted between the two parties supported by the international community.”
Kerry’s hourlong address, which Netanyahu called a “major disappointment,” followed harsh criticism by Israel on the U.S. abstention of a United Nations Security Council resolution passed last week criticizing settlements. Britain backed the resolution calling for an end to Israel’s construction of settlements in the disputed territories of the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem. Netanyahu has canceled a meeting with May over the vote as part of a series of steps designed to either punish the 14 out of 15 Security Council member states that voted in favor of the resolution or express Israel’s displeasure at their votes.