Kerry: Settlements Put Two States “in Jeopardy”

by James M. Walljohn_kerry_official_secretary_of_state_portrait

In a hard-hitting, long-overdue speech, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday strongly criticized Israel’s government, saying that Israel’s settlements put the two-state solution “in jeopardy”.

Barak Ravid, diplomatic correspondent for Haaretz, reported that Kerry said “trends on the ground are leading to a one-state solution”.

In his speech, delivered 23 days before the U.S. turns the presidency over to Donald Trump, Kerry said:

“If the choice is one-state, Israel can either be Jewish or democratic, it cannot be both and it will not ever live in peace.” 

Kerry also presented the principles of a what he described as a “future final status agreement: An Israeli and a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines; full rights to all citizens; a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue; Jerusalem as the capital of both states; an end to the occupation, while satisfying Israel’s security needs, with a demilitarized Palestinian state; an end to all claims by both sides”.

One key foreign policy voice agrees with Kerry. David Rothkopf wrote for Foreign Policy that “The settlements are hurting Israel, and true friends have the courage to tell each other what they need to hear, even when they don’t want to hear it.” 

From the Palestinian side of what has always been an unequal “two sides”, Ali Abunimah, director of the Electronic Intifada, was harsh in his reminder of the past: 

John Kerry just gave an eloquent eulogy for the two-state solution. His detailed critique of Israeli settlements and occupation was striking in its forthrightness — rare from US officials. But it serves more than anything as an indictment of the United States, which funded, enabled and protected the brutal reality Palestinians have lived under for so long. Weeks before Obama leaves office, Kerry’s speech only underscores what a total failure this administration’s policies have been. Why did Obama wait until now when it is too late for him to do anything meaningful?

The Guardian  provided a short video of key moments in the speech. Click at left to view.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office was ready with its rebuttal:

Just like the resolution that John Kerry advanced at the United Nations, the speech he delivered was biased against Israel. For more than an hour Kerry dealt obsessively with the settlements and almost did not touch on the source of the conflict – Palestinian opposition to the existence of a Jewish state with any borders.

This is a repeat of Israel’s narrative which treats “existence of a Jewish state” as a sacred mantra which excites its loyalists and infuriates the Palestinian people held under a military occupation.

Kerry was aware that the new Trump administration brings a strongly pro-Israel attitude to the issue. Since the American voters have just delivered the presidency to the most right-wing government in this nation’s history, it was left to the Secretary to leave Trump with this warning:  

Although Netanyahu said he supports the two-state solution, his government was the most right wing in Israel’s history, and its agenda was driven by the ‘most extreme elements.’

Unspoken, but implied, was the current White House leadership saying to the next White House leadership, when the Middle East sinks deeper into a quagmire of grief and destruction, “we told you so.”

The Kerry speech was overdue by about eight years. During Obama’s two terms, Israel has marched in full view of a grumbling world, across Palestine like so many panzer divisions, imprisoning a population and stealing land for itself.

The case could be made that the U.S. Congress, accurately described by Pat Buchanan as “bought and paid for” by the Israel Lobby, has remained more loyal to Israel than it has to its own American values.

Eight years ago, Obama made his choice: In order to get Congressional support in other areas, he chose not to exert his bottom-line presidential prerogative on Israel against the wishes of a Congress that remains essentially, Israel’s puppet.

bloomberg-via-getty-imagesThe American voters chose Donald Trump as their next president, a man who has displayed little awareness of American history or the nuances of diplomacy.

He, in turn, has begun to reveal what he plans to do with this issue, naming as his ambassador to Israel, David Friedman (at left with Trump), described by the British-based Guardian as “a bankruptcy lawyer who represented the president-elect over his failing hotels in Atlantic City”.

Friedman has served on Trump’s advisory team on the Middle East and “set out a number of hardline positions on Israeli-Palestinian relations, including fervent opposition to the two-state solution and strong support for an undivided Jerusalem as Israel’s capital”.

The Guardian adds:

[Friedman] has called President Barack Obama an antisemite and suggested that US Jews who oppose the Israeli occupation of the West Bank are worse than kapos, Nazi-era prisoners who served as concentration camp guards.

Liberal Jewish groups in the US denounced the appointment as “reckless” and described Friedman – a man with no experience of foreign service – as the “least experienced pick” ever for a US ambassador to Israel.

Yossi Dagan, a prominent Israeli settler leader and friend of Friedman, welcomed the news, describing him as “a true friend and partner of the state of Israel and the settlements”. Morton Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization of America, said Friedman had “the potential to be the greatest US ambassador to Israel ever”.

Elections do have consequences. 

The picture of Secretary Kerry at top is an official State Department portrait from Wikipedia. The picture of Friedman and President-elect Trump is from Bloomberg via Getty.


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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10 Responses to Kerry: Settlements Put Two States “in Jeopardy”

  1. oldkahuna says:

    I think the key question is the one you stated: Why is the Obama administration eight years late??

    The two-state solution has long-since died. We are witnessing the funeral. What is the future? I don’t know, but it does not look good!

    Thanks, Jim!

  2. Robert Assaly says:

    So, at the end of both their tenure and rope, Kerry and Obama again play politics with the future of Palestinians, albeit however momentarily on the right side of history. At the end of the day, what’s their point that makes any difference?

  3. D.R.Gardner says:

    The two state solution has always been a scam. Israel will winge and whine and pretend that it is suffering tremendous sacrifices, while Palestinians will be forced to accept a miserable postage stamp of a state with little water, barren land, and still no ability to defend itself from a belligerent Zionist terrorist state which will provoke more violence.
    The only solution is one state with equal rights for Palestinians, an Open Jerusalem, and ROR -Right of Return. All of these are guaranteed by the ICC and the United Nations.
    Where are the Palestinian spokesmen in these “negotiations?” After all, it is their ancestral land, the other side are the new arrivals from Poland, Russia, and Eastern Europe.

  4. David N. says:

    The two state solution has been dead for a decades and it’s not Obama’s fault. There hasn’t been a President nor a Congress who has done anything but funded, enabled and protected Israel’s brutality against the Palestinians with the possible exception of George Bush I and James Baker, his Secretary of State. Israel’s whining about this is the great tell, that they stand on sand, not solid ground. No black would pledge allegiance to a White America any more than should a Palestinian pledge allegance to a Jewish State. Ridiculous.

  5. AWAD SIFRI says:

    Thank you, Jim. There is no doubt that the 2-State “hallucination” has been deflated and buried for years, now. As former Israeli Prime Minister, Shamir, once divulged, he and his administration were talking the talk about a 2-state solution, in order to gain maximum time to build facts on the ground. Israelis knew that, and the US knew that, while playing along.
    If implemented decently, the “One-state” solution is the second best option. Netanyahu and his band of extremist right-wingers and terrorist settler allies have been deliberately gearing it to effectively transform and converge into a one-state solution.
    One logically thinks that a “One-State” solution leads us 2 options:
    a) An apartheid Israeli settler-state that is neither “Jewish”, nor “democratic” – like Secretary of State Kerry said today.
    b) A secular, democratic state with equal rights, and with Jerusalem as the capital for, both, people, and a settlement of the Palestinian refugee issue, that must be equated with currently unlimited Jewish emigration to Palestine-Israel.
    However, for the Israeli extremist rightist administration, neither (a), nor ((b), above, is what they have in mind.
    c) My “educated guess” – based on the tyrannical experience of 68 years of 2-stages of Israeli occupation – is that they have a Plan “C” that has already been in motion for sometime:
    To execute an Evil Plan, designed to quietly, slowly, stealthily evict all Palestinians from the Holy Land. By making life psychologically, economically, socially, and physically miserable for Palestinians, on the one hand, and by opening gates of “emigration” to greener, or yellower pastures, on the other. It will naturally be funded and facilitated by whatever US administration happens to be in place.
    This was my nightmare, before Trump arrived at the scene.

  6. Jack Graham says:

    A very complex story can be reduced to simplicity: Israel has bought Congress, and both major political parties; the provision in the U. S. Constitution (eighth clause, ninth section, first article) prohibiting purchase of our government by a foreign state has proved insufficient, our government has betrayed us again, and Mr. Sifri’s “plan C” will probably be implemented by disloyal Democrats and Republicans alike in the foreseeable future. Trump is nothing new on Israel, only more of the same, although maybe not quite so bad as Hillary would have been. Trump will attempt many changes, on health care, on illegal immigration, etc., but not on Israel. It is true that Trump knows nothing on Israel except that he has many Zionist friends to whom he is indebted, just like every other President taking office at least since Jimmy Carter. The sad reality is that, if the United States were not bought and paid for, had severed the “special relationship” we have with Israel, and had replaced it with normal diplomatic relations, Israel would long ago have settled for a two-state solution and made peace with neighboring Arab states. Israel is hated, not because it is Jewish, because it has an obnoxious foreign policy paid for by the United States, — one of the sad stories of our age. George Washington warned us long ago in his comments on foreign policy in his farewell address, which most Americans have never read or understood, and so we are paying through the nose.

  7. John Kleinheksel says:

    President Obama and Secretary Kerry have just made life for Mr. Trump and his ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, much more difficult.
    Thirty six years ago, Jimmy Carter, allowed this same resolution to get through the UN Security Council right after Ronald Reagan won the 1980 general election. It was his “hostile” act against our friends in Israel.
    It changed nothing then. The same UN resolution Friday, December 23, 2016, will change nothing now.
    With the exception that the BDS movement will accelerate more than ever as the rest of the nations in the world will buy into the non-legitimacy of the present Zionist / Jewish State.
    Especially since the declaration of independence in 1947 and the 1948 “war”, Israel has been building a colony of “Jews” when the colonial enterprise has been and is being eclipsed all over the globe. It dove-tails into Mr. Trump’s notion of the US being a strictly caucasian nation. What chance does that notion have in today’s world?
    One, democratic, bi-national State is the inevitable outcome of modern history, with liberty and justice for all her citizens.
    The US is once again stating very publicly that this “dead horse” will not win any races, going forward. There is One State now, and it will have to extend enfranchisement to all its citizens (and resolve the refugee problem of those who fled for fear of their lives).
    Where we really should have set expectations was in the negotiations over the next ten-year aid package which Israel has always assumed was their birthright entitlement.
    The present state of affairs will continue until our money runs out. But by then, Israel will have cultivated friendships with a new set of well-heeled backers, beholden to them for Israeli help in controlling their restive populations. After all, we Israelis know how to keep the unruly elements down. Let’s do it together. That’ill show them all who’s boss!

  8. Blake McFarland says:

    I would have to say the Kerry speech sounded like a farewell
    at a funeral. I agree with most of the comments above.

    However, many people call for a one state solution as if that
    would work. Giving citizenship to Palestinians with full
    voting rights.

    For one to understand how bad a one state solution would
    be one only has to research and study E. Jerusalem where
    Palestinians are supposedly full Israeli citizens with equal rights.

    I spent a lot of time 2 months ago in both Ramallah where
    Palestinians have no rights and East Jerusalem where
    Palestinians supposedly have equal rights and are Israeli

    This may be hard to believe. But the occupied Palestinians
    in Ramallah are much less oppressed and can at least get a permit
    to build a home in Areas A and B but not C. ( Loved when
    Kerry mentioned that only one permit was granted to
    Palestinians to build in Area C since Oslo. We were suppose to get
    Area C back gradually. Well we all know what happened.)
    In East Jerusalem where a Palestinian has full Israeli citizenship
    it is almost impossible if not impossible to get a permit to build a home
    on land you own. Thus as families get larger they are forced into the
    W. Bank’s tiny enclaves outside of the infamous Apartheid Wall causing
    the cleansing of the Jewish state of its non-Jewish citizens.
    Most of these Palestinians are forced to move to a town
    named Kafr Aqab that resembles a refugee camp with high rises.
    Streets and parking is almost non-existent. Since Israel
    controls this Area that it dumps Palestinians into, these high rises
    are built with no permits or regulations. Thus Israel reserves the
    right to demolish if an earthquake or tonrnado does not come

    Yes, Kerry and Obama really let us down. How could they not tie
    the 38 billion aid package to a freezing of settlements? Democratic
    did absolutely nothing for 8 years bc they wanted Hilary elected.
    That was more important to them than peace. Once their plan
    did not work and they had nothing to lose they pretended only
    then they cared about the Palestinians.

    Just maybe if they were fair more of the 47% of Americans
    who support a Palestinian state would have voted for a
    Democratic candidate. They rigged the election so Bernie
    Sanders had no chance. Imagine they gave Hilary 500
    plus electoral votes before the election even started. Bernie
    would have tied Aid to dismantling of the settlements.

    Anyway let the funeral continue. It is pretty much over.
    Thank you Obama for showing no spine till you were a uslesss
    lame duck. So glad I did not vote in the last election. It was
    a funeral either way.

  9. ajlitwinko says:

    As Avraham Burg, former head of the Knesset, said on Ian Masters’ BACKGROUND BRIEFING last night, the speech was “brilliant, eloquent, accurate and irrelevant. . . . Where have you been, Mr. Kerry, the last couple of years?” It is really a shame that President Obama never had the courage of his inclinations and campaign rhetoric, going back to his failure to buck the establishment and the partisans of Israel over the Chas Freeman nomination and the promise of his Cairo speech his first year. I guess that is what happens when you receive the Nobel Peace prize for your potential rather than your words and actions.[]

  10. oldkahuna says:

    I’ve had time to reflect more on the UN vote and Kerry’s speech.
    Kerry did hit a major chord accurately: If Israel chooses a one-state solution (which it has done since 1947) they will be forced to be “democratic” OR to be “Jewish.” They cannot be both! And there will never be peace. I’ve been saying this since the 1990’s.
    We learned on a media tour in 2002 that the Israeli policy actually was “Exile or Extermination” for the Palestinians. We will end up with something like apartheid South Africa OR like the decimation of the native populations in the United States.
    As the United States Empire continues to attempt to establish itself all around the world, the continued demise of the Palestinians will continue.
    I read a detailed description of the actual Oslo process. It was a farce, played out with due diligence by most of the personalities involved…for the benefit of a Jewish Israeli State.

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