John Kerry stepped up to the podium on Wednesday to deliver what was said to be the “vision” of the Obama administration for a Israeli/Palestinian peace. Instead he presented a one-sided seventy-five minute, fact-starved, rant, that was little more than a bitter, sad ending to the most anti-Israel administration in the history of the modern State of Israel. The actual purpose of the Kerry speech was to give one last public thrashing to Israel subordinating the biggest roadblock to peace, the Palestinians refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish State.
If one needs proof that Kerry’s speech was one-sided, just examine the words he used. In almost the almost 9,500 speech giving the Administration’s vision of a comprehensive Middle-East peace the Secretary of State mentioned Israel’s threats; Iran 1x, Hezbollah 1x, Hamas 4x, terrorism 7x; but his objections to Israeli policy; occupation 14x, and settlements 42x. Twice he mentioned a draft bill in the Knesset that isn’t even law yet. And in Kerry’s prose Hamas wasn’t a terrorist organization, they were militants.
If creatures from another planet had the opportunity to observe Kerry’s bloviating, they might have come away the idea that Israeli settlers were akin to Stalin’s secret police, the NKVD, instead of what they are, families looking to peacefully raise their children. His use of a similar term “settlement units” was also misleading. A “settlement unit” is not a new building, or complex, it is either an apartment or a house.
Despite the fact Kerry spent over an hour berating Israel about the settlements, Kerry himself said during his speech settlements weren’t the primary problem:
“Let me emphasize, this is not to say that the settlements are the whole or even the primary cause of this conflict. Of course, they are not. Nor can you say that if the settlements were suddenly removed, you’d have peace”
If Kerry really wanted to effect a change with his speech, he would have made it about the primary problem, the refusal to recognize Israel as the Jewish State. Accordingly, the only reason for the speech seemed to be the Obama administration’s desire get in one more slap at the Jewish State with three weeks left in its term. To the Obama team, Israel is an oppressing western power like the United States. Since the President couldn’t go around the world apologizing for Israel the way he apologized for the United States at the beginning of his first time, he’s spent is presidency trying to berate Israel into submitting to his will.
But even with only three weeks left in their term, Obama/Kerry refuse to acknowledge the primary issue obstructing peace, the Palestinian refusal to recognize the Jewishness of Israel. Anything short of that ignores the original UN partition plan (UN Resolution 181) which called for the creation of a Jewish and an Arab State. One of the stated strategies of the PLO is to flood Israel with Arabs so they can vote the Jewish State out of existence, retaining the country’s name, but eliminating its reason for being.
Obama/Kerry refuse to recognize the biggest question.How can Israel negotiate with an entity that refuses to recognize Israel as a Jewish State? How can peace be made when one side still wants the other destroyed?
The Palestinians refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish State is even at the expense of allowing Israel to build new housing units and communities. Allow me to say that again, the Palestinians would rather have Israel build settlements than recognize Israel as the Jewish State. Part of the reason for the Palestinian refusal is their knowledge that this administration treats the settlements as a major issue, while ignoring actual primary roadblock. Israel, on the other hand, would rather be recognized as the Jewish State than build settlements.
An Al-Jazeera report on Oct. 11, 2010 revealed that Netanyahu was willing to extend Israel’s ten-month-long unilateral construction freeze if the Palestinian Authority would recognize Israel as a Jewish State. According to the report, President Abbas mocked the request and rejected the offer outright.
But if settlements were so important to this administration, why didn’t the state department or President Obama “seize the day” and jump on that opening to negotiate a permanent settlement freeze? Perhaps it’s because Obama’s unwilling to pressure the Palestinians–only Israel. Based on the events of the past eight years that scenario is a possibility.
The Al-Jazeera report was neither the first nor last time Netanyahu pointed out the lack of Palestinian recognition of Israel as the primary obstacle of peace. Netanyahu spoke about the need for recognition of Israel as part of his first public speech when he was elevated back into the Prime Minister position in 2009:
I want to make it clear that we don’t want to govern the Palestinians. We want to live in peace with them. We want them to govern themselves, absent a handful of powers that could endanger the state of Israel. And for this there has to be a clear goal. The goal has to be an end to conflict. There will have to be compromises by Israelis and Palestinians alike. We’re ready to do our share. We hope the Palestinians will do their share, as well. If we resume negotiations, as we plan to do, then I think that the Palestinians will have to recognize Israel as a Jewish State; will have to also enable Israel to have the means to defend itself.
In May 2011, Netanyahu spoke before a joint-session of Congress and said:
If the benefits of peace with the Palestinians are so clear, why has peace eluded us? Because all six Israeli Prime Ministers since the signing of Oslo accords agreed to establish a Palestinian State. Myself included. So why has peace not been achieved? Because so far, the Palestinians have been unwilling to accept a Palestinian State, if it meant accepting a Jewish state alongside it. (…) You see, our conflict has never been about the establishment of a Palestinian State. It has always been about the existence of the Jewish State. This is what this conflict is about.
How can Israel negotiate with a Palestinian Authority that rejects any attempt at peace? How can Israel sit down with a wannabe state that would rather have Israel build settlements than recognize Israel’s Jewishness?
Netanyahu has asked that question more than once. He has also said Palestinian recognition of Israel as the Jewish State would be greeted with concessions from the Israeli government.
In his last major speech as Secretary of State, John Kerry chose to do what the Obama administration has done since it took office in 2009; de-legitimize Israel over settlements, something admit is a secondary issue. At the same time Kerry maintained another Obama tradition paying no more than lip-service to the primary roadblock to peace, Palestinian intransigence over recognizing Israel as the Jewish State.
In the end, the only thing Kerry’s speech accomplished was to reaffirm the widely-held opinion that Obama’s foreign policy has been detrimental to America and her allies.
Note: The cartoon at the top of this post was created by my good friend, 2x Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Michael Ramirez. If you don’t read him at his site Michaelpramirez.com, on Facebook, or on twitter @Ramireztoons you are doing yourself a great disservice he is by far the best in the business.