Secretary of State John Kerry gestures during a news conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Dec. 18, 2016. Reuters

Secretary of State John Kerry announced Wednesday his plan to resume Middle East peace talks between Israel and Palestine in the final days of President Barack Obama's administration.

Kerry's highly anticipated speech reiterated the Obama administration's support for Israel's security and urged both sides to once again come to the table after talks last broke down in 2014. Kerry also responded to Israeli criticism after the U.S. abstained from a U.N. resolution condemning Tel Aviv's policy of illegal settlement building on Palestinian territory. The secretary of state said this decision was made to ensure "Israel's future as a Jewish and democratic state" and the viability of a two-state solution.

“The two-state solution is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace for Israelis and Palestinians,” Kerry said. "Friends must tell each other the hard truths," he added, referring to the alliance between Washington and Tel Aviv.

The two-state solution refers to achieving peace in the conflict between Israel and Palestine by establishing two independent states. The internationally recognized Israeli-Palestinian borders were established in 1949 a year after Israel's establishment on what was previously British-administered Palestine. Since the Six Day War in 1967, Israel has expanded its territory beyond these borders despite agreeing to United Nations Resolution 242, calling for its withdrawal.

Israel's support for these tens of thousands of outposts outside of the 1967 borders has led to international criticism, even by its greatest ally, the U.S. Tel Aviv's refusal to stop this practice has also been cited as a major reason diplomatic efforts such as the 1991 Madrid Conference, the 1993 Oslo Accords and the 2000 Camp David Summit were unable to end the conflict.

The U.S. also blames Palestinian leadership for what Washington considers the glorification of violence and inciting armed resistance instead of inspiring political solutions. A recent Palestinian poll showed that nearly two-thirds of Palestinians now rejected a two-state solution, expressing frustration with Israel's occupation policies as well as a perceived lack of commitment on the part of both Israeli and Palestinian governments. Disillusionment with the peace process has caused both Tel Aviv and Ramallah to retreat from negotiations.

In his speech Wednesday, Kerry asked Israel to end the construction of internationally unrecognized settlements and urged Palestine to reject violence and extremism. He asked each side not to wait for the other to take action and called for both to return to peace talks that should ultimately turn into a two-state solution. In the face of Israeli and Palestinian doubts, Kerry said the countries still support the two-state solution, in theory, "They just don't believe it can happen," and that "there is no viable alternative."

Currently, the State of Israel is recognized by 162 nations, while the State of Palestine is recognized by 136, not including the U.S.