John Kerry: Unfiltered In His Own Words

by James M. Wall

US State DepartJohn Kerry took the unusual step of agreeing to a November 6, Jerusalem television interview with two reporters, an Israeli and a Palestinian.

He did so in order to send a public message to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

An Israeli writer for the right-wing Jerusalem web site, Times of Israel, got the message. He did not, however, like what he heard. He relayed his negative reaction in his story:

For the first time since he managed to restart the [Israel-Palestine peace] talks in July, Kerry dropped his statesman-like public impartiality, and clearly spoke from the heart — and what emerged were a series of accusations that amounted to a forceful slap in the face for Netanyahu. It was a rhetorical onslaught that the prime minister cannot have expected and one he will not quickly forget. (emphasis added by blogger)

The writer with that perspective is Raphael Ahren, diplomatic correspondent for the Times of Israel, a Web-only, English-language Israeli newspaper, launched in February earlier this year by Seth Klarman, a wealthy American Jewish investor.

Klarman, according to Wikipedia, has also been the longtime chairman and a financial supporter of The David Project, a Boston-based group which sponsors pro-Israel advocacy programs on American college campuses.

Using words from Kerry’s TV interview, and then filtering them through the Times‘ right-wing perspective, Ahren continues:

A very frustrated Kerry basically blamed the Israeli government for stealing the Palestinians’ land and the Israeli public for living in [a] bubble that prevents them from caring much about it. If that wasn’t enough, he railed against the untenability of the Israel Defense Forces staying “perpetually” in the West Bank.

In warning that a violent Palestinian leadership might supplant Mahmoud Abbas if there was not sufficient progress at the peace table, he appeared to come perilously close to empathizing with potential Palestinian aggression against Israel.

As to tone and intent, Ahren got it about right. The problem is, what he heard as a “slap in the face” were words intended not as an insult, but as a wake-up call.

Kerry spoke as a friend of the state of Israel, but more importantly, he warned Netanyahu that his adamancy was damaging the chance for peace in the region.

In his Times story, Ahren focused on Kerry’s responses that clearly disturbed Ahren.

If we do not resolve the question of settlements, [Kerry] continued more dramatically, “and the question of who lives where and how and what rights they have; if we don’t end the presence of Israeli soldiers perpetually within the West Bank, then there will be an increasing feeling that if we cannot get peace with a leadership that is committed to non-violence, you may wind up with leadership that is committed to violence.”

He later elaborated, expressing apparently growing dismay over continued Israeli settlement expansion:

“How, if you say you’re working for peace and you want peace, and a Palestine that is a whole Palestine that belongs to the people who live there, how can you say we’re planning to build in a place that will eventually be Palestine? So it sends a message that perhaps you’re not really serious.”

The New York Times juggled two Netanyahu stories simultaneously, the Prime Minister’s response to Kerry’s interview, and his attack on the carefully constructed Iranian nuclear agreement.

Responding to Kerry’s interview in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said “pressure has to be put where it belongs, that is, on the Palestinians who refuse to budge.” The Times adds that Netanyahu “was in no mood to compromise”.

The Times asked Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, for her reaction to Netanyahu’s attack on Kerry’s efforts to reach a nuclear agreement with Iran.

Ashrawi “denounced Mr. Netanyahu’s statements on Iran as ‘arrogant,’ ‘childish” and ‘an insult’ to Mr. Kerry, and said they reflected a relentless focus on Israel’s security that has prevented progress in the peace talks.

“His temper tantrum response to an Iran agreement is just an extension of that mentality,” Ms. Ashrawi said. “I want to do what I want to do, I want to get away with everything, and I want to dictate to everyone, including the U.S., how they should behave regarding Israel’s security the way Israel exclusively defines it.”

Many other U.S. media outlets, including National Public Radio, relied on the Associated Press story of Kerry’s interview by Matthew Fox. The AP story went with the heading, “Kerry Warns Of Violence If Peace Talks Fail”. That heading stayed with the story in its many incarnations. It began:

 U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry issued a stark warning to Israel on Thursday, saying it faces international isolation and a possible explosion of violence if it does not make progress in peace efforts with the Palestinians.

Kerry issued the blunt remarks in a joint interview with Israeli and Palestinian television channels, ensuring the message would reach its intended audience.

“The alternative to getting back to the talks is the potential of chaos. I mean does Israel want a third intifada?” Kerry said, using the term for past Palestinian uprisings against Israeli occupation.

The settlements and a warning to Israel that a peace agreement will not wait forever, were not the only highlights of Kerry’s Jerusalem television interview with the two journalists, Udi Segal of Israeli Channel 2 and Maher Shalabi of Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation.

To move beyond the “stark warning” and pending “violence”, the full text of the interview is available here. It is posted by the U.S. State Department website, which also sent out the picture of Kerry and his two interviewers.

Selected highlights of the interview, separated by topics, and gleaned from the State Department text, are below for those who wish to have an upclose and personal view of what upset Benjamin Netanyahu. Other highlights will emerge upon close reading.

“Warning” and “violence” are not words that dominate the interview.

On the demonization of Israel

SECRETARY KERRY: I believe that if we do not resolve the issues between Palestinians and Israelis, if we do not find a way to find peace, there will be an increasing isolation of Israel, there will be an increasing campaign of de-legitimization of Israel that’s been taking place in an international basis, that we if we don’t resolve the question of settlements and the question of who lives where and how and what rights they have, if we don’t end the presence of Israeli soldiers perpetually within the West Bank, then there will be an increasing feeling that if we cannot get peace with a leadership that is committed to nonviolence, you may wind up with leadership that is committed to violence.

MR SEGAL (Israeli Channel 2): Mr. Secretary, you spoke about what signaling does those things send. So let me ask you this. How do you think a picture of Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, hugging murderers that killed children 20 or 30 years ago and say that they’re heroes of the Palestinian people – what kind of message do you think this is sent about peace process or peace atmosphere to the Israeli people?

SECRETARY KERRY: It’s very difficult. I have no illusions. I know that the vast majority of the people in Israel are opposed. I understand that. Prime Minister Netanyahu understands that, and it is a sign of his seriousness that he was willing to make this decision. The alternative to getting back to the talks is the potential of chaos. I mean, does Israel want a third intifada? .  .  .

I know there are people who have grown used to this. And particularly in Israel – Israel says oh, we feel safe today, we have a wall, we’re not in a day-to-day conflict, we’re doing pretty well economically. Well, I’ve got news for you. Today’s status quo will not be tomorrow’s or next year’s. Because if we don’t resolve this issue, the Arab world, the Palestinians, neighbors, others are going to begin again to push in a different way. And the last thing Israel wants to see is a return to violence.

Palestinian Economic Plan

SECRETARY KERRY: . . . . if you want to make peace with people, if you want people to believe in the possibilities of peace and the benefits of peace, you need to show them the benefits. If the life of Palestinians continues to not have opportunity, not see economic opportunity, not find jobs, not improve their lives, it’s hard for them to believe in the government, it’s hard for them to believe anything anybody says. But if their lives are beginning to improve, then they have a stake in the future, and they begin to believe in the possibilities of peace. And you have a better chance of making peace if life is improving and things are happening on the ground. .  .  .

We’re trying to help prove that there can be improved living conditions. More water is coming into the West Bank on a daily basis. We’re improving the Allenby Bridge movement. We’re improving the number of work permits so that more Palestinians will be able to come into Israel and be able to work. I mean, these are the ways in which you break down the barriers and you begin to show people what peace could possibly look like.

Recent agreement on prisoners and settlements

MR. SEGAL: Can you confirm that the two sides – Israeli [and] Palestinian – agreed to free murders [sic] versus building in the settlement deal as part of the resumption of the negotiation, i.e., every time that Israel will release the prisoner, there will be a wave of construction?

SECRETARY KERRY: No, I cannot confirm that, because that is not true. . . . The agreement specifically was that there would be a release of the pre-Oslo prisoners, 104, who have been in prison now for many, many years, who would be released in exchange for the Palestinian Authority not proceeding to the UN during that period of time.

The Palestinian leadership made it absolutely clear they believe the settlements are illegal, they object to the settlements, and they are in no way condoning the settlements. But they knew that Israel would make some announcements. They knew it, but they don’t agree with it, and they don’t support it. . …

We do not think you [Israel] should be doing settlements. We, the United States, say the same thing. We do not believe the settlements are legitimate. We think they’re illegitimate. And we believe that the entire peace process would, in fact, be easier if these settlements were not taking place. Now, that’s our position. . . .The United States policy has always been that the settlements are illegitimate, and we believe this process would be much easier if we didn’t have the tension that is created by settlements.

One state versus two states

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, there is no one-state solution. There’s no such thing as a one-state solution. You cannot have peace on any one side with the concept of a one-state solution. It just won’t happen. You can’t subsume other people into one state against their will. And it simply is not a reality. And anybody who’s talking about it doesn’t know really what – it’s just not possible. So you’ll have a perpetual state of conflict if somebody tries to achieve that. . . .

Importance of non-violence

MR. SHALABI (Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation): Maybe you know, Mr. Secretary, that in 2012 not one —

SECRETARY KERRY: I do know that. Not one Israeli in 2012 was killed in the West Bank. And that’s a huge step forward. And the reason I’m so urgent about this is because the Palestinians and President Abbas have committed themselves to nonviolence. So it is important for Israel to strengthen them, to help provide this peace so that the nonviolence is rewarded. Because if nonviolence is not rewarded, the alternative will be that people go back to the other.

You need to provide the security for Israel and you need to provide certainties about certain things, what happens with refugees, how you deal with the land.

The Palestinians need to know that they will have a real state, not a Swiss cheese, but a state that is contiguous, that allows them the opportunity to be able to have their sovereignty respected.

Kerry’s final two paragraphs have been highlighted because I believe they offer the essence of the Secretary’s goal for Israel and Palestine.  He cannot achieve that goal alone.  Remember his words, “a real state, not a Swiss cheese”.

A real contiguous state with respected sovereignty, is a goal that demands patience and hard work. 

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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19 Responses to John Kerry: Unfiltered In His Own Words

  1. AWAD PAUL SIFRI says:

    Thank you, Jim, for giving those of us who desire “peace-with-justice” some hope that the US is not totally under the evil potion of justifiable Israeli occupation.

    It will be interesting to note to what extent President Obama, key Administration figures, and Congress will support Secretary of State John Kerry’s bold position for American interests – not exclusively Israel’s.

    Notice how Zionist psychological pressures on America bluff us to think that the US “dares” show “boldness”. The US has all the cards; it is the world’s only super power, yet its government cowers when it comes to Israel. So, yes, Kerry appears to move in a bold manner. And I, for one, am delighted to see that breath of fresh air.

    Mr. Kerry is absolutely right. If Israel sticks to its expansionist position of retaining its settlements in Jerusalem and West Bank, and building settlements and expanding them, then there will be no credibility whatsoever for a peace plan. On the contrary, it will ignite a very different type of Intifada that will spread in the entire region.

    After all, Iraq and Syria have been destroyed and Egypt is in turmoil. This means that they have become, “Burned ground”. There are no longer any ‘inhibitions’ and the masses will be much more ready to fight for their RIGHTS and for FREEDOM and JUSTICE.

    Israel’s ultra extremist leadership are in a bubble and they think – like their counterparts in World war II Germany – that they can expand and occupy forever, with no one to stop them. Israel’s leaders ought to learn the lessons of World War II and come to their senses right now, not tomorrow..

  2. Charlton Price says:

    These unusually forthright words from Secretary Kerry will be truly credible if they are backed up with comparable statements from the White House and Congress, plus concurrence and support Europe and other continents..

  3. Peace with Justice for the Palestinians says:

    Thanks Jim for sharing Secretary of State John Kerry strong stand on the
    Peace negotiations between The Palestinians and Israelis.

    What Secretary Kerry did and said, is a proof, that the US, cannot tolerate the Bibi Nat. or his right wing group, dictates to a Super Power, and take
    their friendship for granted. The Secretary is looking for our stand and posture around the world, and in the Middle East in particular. The Zionists
    want the world to listen to their demands, of making wars with Iran, in order to divert the attention from their military occupation of Palestine.

    Every time an Iranian breathes with a positive gesture towards the US, Bibi raises the flag of pessimism and speaks about a war with Iran to save Israel. As if Iran had invaded Israel before, as Israel had done to its Arab neighbors.
    Israel’s arsenal of nuclear weapons can destroy not Iran only, but the world manifolds. And yet Israel acts as a state that wants peace. Israel wants every
    PIECE of the Arab land and the Middle East to be under their manipulative
    hands. And is doing so 24/7 to undermine the world opinion of it.

    The US Secretary of State is an honest broker, and he not only wants to give
    peace a chance, but to have a LASTING PEACE with a viable Palestinian
    State equal in rights and security as Israel and the rest of the Arab States.
    Our balanced friendship with the Arab States should not be compromised nor
    should we take dictates from anyone. Our strength at home is a mirror of
    our strength beyond the oceans. After all we need to think of America First.

  4. Norman Frank says:

    Secretary Kerry: Thank you for taking a stand for justice for the Palestinian people

  5. Jim, I open to each of your weekly postings as soon as I find it, and this one typically does not disappoint. Thank you.

    This Kerry quote, which I found twice above, struck me: “…there will be an increasing feeling that if we cannot get peace with a leadership that is committed to non-violence, you may wind up with leadership that is committed to violence.” I believe that Kerry omitted a third option for Palestinian leadership (I don’t know if the omission was deliberate, or if, as I suspect, Kerry is simply not a very deep thinker as he toils on behalf of the Zionists always at his heels to make the “process” ultimately ‘advantage: Israel’). Here’s my candidate for a third option: “you (Zionist Israel) may wind up with a Palestinian leadership that is committed to justice and only justice.”

    I am drawn to this third option because of the seriously justice-oriented words of Palestinian negotiator Mohammed Shtayyeh in this article: .

    I decided to pursue some information about Mr. Shtayyeh, whose name was new to me. I was advised on trusted authority: “Mr. Shtayyeh is a good man…Some people mention him as a potential future president (of Palestine).”

    Call me starry eyed, but I’m increasingly hopeful (as I’ve been informed “between the lines” for at least two years now) that a younger, media-savvy, intelligent and committed Palestinian leadership —
    (i) has come to detest the quisling and personally avaricious likes of M. Abbas;
    (ii) is waiting for the opportunity take the reins of Palestinian leadership and then to assert itself via principled, focused resistance to the Zionist occupier; and (despite inevitably violent reaction by the USrael evil alliance)
    (iii) will raise on-the-ground non-violent resistance by Palestinian citizens to new, coordinated and highly visible/publicized levels while resolutely pursuing international initiatives designed to smash the Zionist narrative and bring to closure this ugly chapter of an indescribably criminal-psychosis-driven frenzy, with full justice on behalf of all Palestinians, everywhere.

    If the scenario I outline should come to pass and become known historically as Intifada III, so be it and hallelujah!

    Viva Palestine!

  6. Fred says:

    Israel has been deceiving the world for decades on peace. It talks peace and builds settlements and evicts non Jews from their houses and land. The Israeli propaganda machine in the US censors the news for Israel.

    Th Palestinians never had a partner for peace in Israel. but the Big Lie went around that Israel had no partner.

    The settlements show that Israel has no interest in a political solution or in equal rights in Israel/Palestine for those who are not Jewish. It has been a deception of monumental proportions that the US government has supported.

  7. Jack Graham says:

    Thanks, Jim. These comments by John Kerry shows that the man is maturing into a statesman. Obama has turned out worse than I feared he would be; but, if the Democrats nominate Kerry next time, I will vote for him. In 2004, I confess I voted for Bush, even though I opposed the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq up to the last hour, and I did so because Bush at least tried to make peace at Aqaba where the conference failed because Rantisi and Arafat irresponsibly torpedoed any chance of success. I voted for Bush in 2004, also because the comments of Kerry to AIPAC were without doubt the most servile pro-Israel remarks of any President or major Presidential candidate since 1948. Israel is not our friend and ally, but part of a problem, not the whole problem, not at all, but a large part of it, and our blind pro-Israel policy has injured both them and us. It’s time to cut it out. And, as far as the Bible is concerned, we have no duty to help the Jews rebuild a third temple so Jesus can come again. We have a duty, as set forth in the first chapter of Isaiah, to seek justice, which God wants, not sacrifice, which God does not need.

    I rejoice that Kerry is starting to talk and act like an American hero. And for that I will forgive him of every error he ever made previously, and bless him with my support in 2016. I will even forgive him for his stupid behavior on Syria. The United States are now in rapid decline. And, if we have one more circus clown President, we will be finished, and it would be better for the American people, and for mankind, if the United States collapsed as did the Soviet Union. We cannot have another Obama, not another Hillary, not another McCain, nothing remotely like those nightmare characters. We need somebody who is a statesman, who sees the need to reduce out military spending and return to a peace footing so we can compete in the markets of the world, to protect American industry and agriculture, to make higher education affordable to the middle class, to replace the Fed with a real public monetary authority unsubverted by corrupt fatcats on Wall Street, to make good basic medicine available at an affordable cost to our people, to rein in the NSA and the CIA, and, yes, to institute a foreign policy in the Middle East which shows friendly neutrality to responsible Arabs and Jews. There is no such thing as peace without justice. Politicians like Netanyahu in Jersualem and Graham in Washington D. C. have no place in the world of power, They are unfit for it. And the way to become a statesman is to make mistakes and see them clearly, as I think Kerry is beginning to do, — John Remington Graham of the Minnesota Bar (#3664X). .

  8. Finally. Sec. Kerry abandoned the Potomac Two-Step and stated, with some mistakes (it’s not for the most part an international campaign to de-legitimize Israel), the honest truth. Netanyahu’s infantile reaction, only reinformces that it was in fact the truth – as they say here in the South, “a hit dog hollers”.

  9. Pauline Coffman says:

    Jim, Thank you for setting the record straight on what Mr. Kerry did and did not say! After reading the New York Times, I had a different impression. I have little hope for a just peace, but Mr. Kerry is doing his level best to make it happen. I hope he proves me wrong.

  10. Don Wolf says:

    At last a senior American official tells the truth relative to Israel. But, can we trust what a he is saying when his boss is the number one liar in the world?

  11. Samia Khoury says:

    At long last when we have given up on Kerry and thought he was like his predecessors shuttling back and forth, at least he said it outright. As we say in Arabic “He spit the stone out ” However we should not be over optimistic and the realities on the ground make it very difficult to believe that there is any hope for peace or for the end of occupation.

  12. Paul McCleary says:

    Thanks for the Kerry story! I have not seen anything of it here in the press or TV. I can only say that he is finally telling it like it is. It is unfortunate that for the last decades we have mislead Israel – allowing it to assume it could do as it wished and we would follow along.

    I am assuming that Obama was aware of this position by Kerry and that the Administration is prepared to stand up to the Israeli lobby.

    One hopeful outcome is that this split the Israeli lobby into at least two factions: those who are willing to agree with Kerry and those who are hardliners and will never change.

    I hope we can hear Europe’s reaction to this. They need to get over the guilt of the holocaust and join the real world also.

    I am sure the message will be rattling around the U.N. corridors. The countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America need to know where the US is coming from and what it is prepared to do.

    At last we have an authoritative voice offering a will-defined paradigm to the one we have had to deal with for decades.



  13. The Israeli writer for the right-wing Jerusalem web site, Times of Israel, told the big lie right at the beginning:

    “For the first time since he managed to restart the [Israel-Palestine peace] talks. . .”

    No one could possibly restart these so-called peace talks. They were never meant to get anywhere Ever. They were only designed to make stupid people think that the Israeli side was sincere about peace, which they are not and never have been.

    Anthony Lawson

  14. Ha! A “de-legitimizing” of Israel? When has Israel been legitimate? When has its racist supremacist occupation that makes a mockery of every International Law in the books, flagrantly tramples every basic precept of fairness and common human decency, continues to stall, obstruct and undermine any hope or chance for peace and the rightful self determination for the long suffering and oppressed Palestinians – all at the hands of a Zionist Mafia without borders – when has any of this ever been legitimate?

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