Prime Minister Theresa May has distanced herself from US President Barack Obama's stance on Israel and condemned the attack by his secretary of state on the Israeli government.

Downing Street said it was "not appropriate" for John Kerry to brand Benjamin Netanyahu's administration as the "most right wing in history", which saw him accused of bias by the Israeli prime minister.

Kerry made the claim while accusing Netanyahu's government of undermining attempts at a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians by building settlements in the West Bank.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said Obama's administration was the 'greatest friend to Israel' despite its criticism of the Netanyahu government. Credit: PA

The US took the unusual step of abstaining in a United Nations Security Council vote condemning Israeli settlement building in the occupied territories.

Though the UK supported the Council's resolution, Downing Street said it was wrong for the outgoing administration to "negotiate peace" by concentrating on single issues.

The British Government continues to believe that the only way to a lasting peace in the Middle East is through a two-state solution. We continue to believe that the construction of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is illegal, which is why we supported UN Security Council Resolution 2334 last week.

Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman

The US has responded with "surprise" at Mrs May's statement.

The US State Department said: "We are surprised by the UK Prime Minister's office statement given that Secretary Kerry's remarks - which covered the full range of threats to a two state solution, including terrorism, violence, incitement and settlements - were in line with the UK's own long-standing policy and its vote at the United Nations last week."

The spokesman also pointedly mentioned there was wide support for Mr Kerry's comments worldwide, saying: "We are grateful for the strongly supportive statements in response to Secretary Kerry's speech from across the world, including Germany, France, Canada, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and others."

Mrs May's statement came a day after US President-elect Donald Trump chided both the Obama administration and the UN for its stance toward Israel.

Mr Netanyahu thanked Mr Trump for his "clear-cut support" for the Middle Eastern nation.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas meanwhile said he was ready to resume peace talks with Israel, if the country halted settlement construction.