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Netanyahu slams Kerry speech as biased against Israel

Netanyahu slams Kerry speech as biased against Israel

Jerusalem (AFP) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned a speech by US Secretary of State John Kerry on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Wednesday as biased against Israel and more focused on settlements than Palestinian violence.

Speaking from his office following Kerry's speech in Washington, Netanyahu said the outgoing secretary of state paid only "lip service" to Palestinian violence against Israelis.

"What he did was he spent most of his speech blaming Israel for the lack of peace," Netanyahu said.

He added later that "Israelis do not need to be lectured about the importance of peace by foreign leaders".

In an earlier statement from Netanyahu's office, the premier said "like the Security Council resolution that Secretary Kerry advanced in the UN, his speech tonight was skewed against Israel".

"For over an hour, Kerry obsessively dealt with settlements and barely touched upon the root of the conflict -- Palestinian opposition to a Jewish state in any boundaries."

The speech included sharp criticism of Israeli settlement building and came after last week's UN Security Council resolution calling for an end to such activity.

The United States abstained at the Security Council, allowing the resolution to pass 14-0.

Netanyahu has accused US President Barack Obama's administration of being behind the resolution, which it denies, and vowed to defy it.

Netanyahu said Wednesday it "reflects a radical shift in US policy towards the Palestinians on final status issues, those issues that we always agreed, the US and Israel, have to be negotiated directly face to face without preconditions".

The United States and others say continued settlement building is steadily eating away at the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Settlements are built on land the Palestinians view as part of their future state, and are seen as illegal under international law.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog, who heads the Labour party, told public radio Kerry's speech "expressed a real concern for the security and future of Israel".

MP Zehava Galon, of the leftist Meretz party, compared Israel's settlement policy to "an explosive device that can only sabotage any agreement on a two-state solution" to the conflict.

Peace Now, an Israeli group that campaigns against settlements, urged Netanyahu to adopt Kerry's parameters for peace.

"Netanyahu must adopt the parameters presented by Kerry instead of yielding to the most extremist forces in his coalition," it said.

"He must freeze the expansion of settlements (and) cancel the law legalising settlements built on private Palestinian land."