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.
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.