In a highly anticipated and very candid speech, outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry made it clear that yet another American administration's hopes for Middle East peace were dashed upon the rocks of Benjamin Netanyahu's ego, as Kerry let Israel know exactly what he thinks about settlements wrecking any shot at a two-state solution.
“The status quo is leading toward one state, or perpetual occupation,” Mr. Kerry said, his voice animated. He argued that Israel, with a growing Arab population, could not survive as both a Jewish state and a democratic state unless it embraced the two-state approach that a succession of American presidents have advocated.
The speech came at a moment of tension between the United States and Israel, on a scale rarely seen since President Harry S. Truman recognized the fragile Israeli state in May 1948. In a direct response to Mr. Netanyahu’s barb over the weekend that “friends don’t take friends to the Security Council,” a reference to the Obama administration’s decision to abstain from a resolution condemning the building of new settlements in disputed territory, Mr. Kerry said the United States acted out of a deeper understanding of the alliance.
“Some seem to believe that the U.S. friendship means the U.S. must accept any policy, regardless of our own interests, our own positions, our own words, our own principles — even after urging again and again that the policy must change,” he said. “Friends need to tell each other the hard truths, and friendships require mutual respect.”
Mr. Kerry usually speaks in the careful words of diplomacy, being careful not to publicly name names, or put choices in the harshest terms. He dropped most of those niceties on Wednesday, especially about Mr. Netanyahu’s government.
“The Israeli prime minister publicly supports a two-state solution, but his current coalition is the most right wing in Israeli history, with an agenda driven by its most extreme elements,” he said. “The result is that policies of this government — which the prime minister himself just described as ‘more committed to settlements than any in Israel’s history’ — are leading in the opposite direction, towards one state.”
Needless to say, both Israel and the GOP are furious, screaming that until the Palestinians get a new government, there's no hope of even coming to the table.
The negative reaction to the speech was unanimous among Republican lawmakers, with some calling it "disastrous." Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said it could generously be described as "a pointless tirade."
"Secretary Kerry's speech today was at best a pointless tirade in the waning days of an outgoing administration. At worst, it was another dangerous outburst that will further Israel's diplomatic isolation and embolden its enemies," McCain said.
The Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said he favors a two-state solution, much like Kerry, but doesn't believe the American government has the right to dictate that solution to the Israelis.
Instead, the fixes to the problems in the Middle East must come from the ground up, he said.
"Public lectures against Israel and UN resolutions attacking Israel do not aid the cause of peace," McCain said. "They only provide those seeking Israel's destruction a convenient excuse to blame Israel for their own intransigence."
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called Kerry's proposals for peace in the Middle East "fanciful," if not "delusional."
He said the Palestinians can't agree among themselves how to run the areas of where they have some autonomy and can't function as a state right now. The only way stability can take hold in the Holy Land is if Israel is strongly supported by he United States, he said.
"I wish Secretary Kerry and President Obama would stop pushing Israel to negotiate against themselves," Graham said. "The only way the peace process can be restarted is for the Palestinians to hold elections and be governed by a single entity that rejects terrorism. That is not the current situation and until that day arrives, pushing Israel to restart the peace process is folly."
Kerry speech is frankly decades too late. We should have said this to Israel years and years ago about settlements, but we allowed them to continue unabated. At this point, with the Trump administration incoming, there's no reason to believe that anything will improve in the West Bank.