Secretary Kerry’s Remarks at the AIPAC Policy Conference

Secretary of State John Kerry at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Conference

Today, as Israel faces serious challenges to her future, it is America that will stand firmly by her side.  

I will tell you that with the leadership of President Obama — and you can look it up, you can measure it; this is not an exaggeration, it’s a matter of fact — there has been a complete, unmatched commitment to Israel’s security.  The record of this Administration in providing aid and assistance, consultation, weapons, help, standing up in various international fora, fighting, I am proud to tell you, is unrivaled.  And the bottom line, pure and simple, has been making sure that Israel has the means to defend itself by itself and defending Israel’s right to be able to do so.  That is what we’ve done.  

Security.  Security is fundamentally what President Obama is committed to.  And so too is he committed to using the full force of our diplomacy to resolve the two great questions that most matter when it comes to ensuring the security of Israel:  preventing a nuclear Iran and ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  

Full transcript follows the jump.
Norm, thank you.  Thank you very, very much.  Thank you all, 14,000 strong or more.  (Applause.)  Howard, Howard Friedman and Executive Director Howard Kohr, incoming president Bob Cohen, incoming chairman Michael Kassen, outgoing chairman Lee Rosenberg, and Ambassador Ron Dermer and Ambassador Dan Shapiro.  I don’t know where our ambassadors are.  Would they — somebody ought to applaud both of them here.  (Applause.)  There they are.  Thanks for your own, Norman.

Let me tell you, it really is an enormous pleasure for me to be able to be here.  It’s a privilege.  And good to see so many friends, all 14,000 of you — a little frightening to see myself on about eight, nine, ten screens up here — (laughter).  The last time I spoke to AIPAC, I joined your national summit in Napa Valley.  I did it via satellite.  And you were in the vineyards, I was overseas — a different kind of vineyard.  So today, I think I’m getting the better end of the deal because I am here with you in person, and your wine selection is a lot more limited this time.

I have to tell you, I had the pleasure of speaking to AIPAC back in the 1990s, it was a great honor, and every time I come here, whether I get a chance to talk to a smaller group during the daytime sessions or otherwise, this is a remarkably inspiring gathering — people from every corner of the country coming together to demonstrate our deep support as Americans for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.  (Applause.)

And it is no exaggeration.  It’s not just words to say that every single one of you brings here such a special passion to a cause that you so fiercely believe in.  And let me tell you something unequivocally:  After almost 30 years in the United States Senate, I can tell you that is precisely why AIPAC’s work is in the best traditions of American democracy, and I thank you for practicing it.  (Applause.)

I want you to know that in my judgment, these democratic values are stamped in the DNA of both the United States and Israel.  But we also share something much deeper than that.  Like no other two countries on the planet, against the deepest odds, both America and Israel confidently, purposefully set out to be examples to the world.  Think about it.  From its earliest days, Israel has always said it’s not enough just to be one of many in a community of nations; Israel has strove since Isaiah’s time to serve as a light unto the nations.  (Applause.)  And that responsibility to be a light unto the nations sounds actually unbelievably similar to something that we as Americans know is part of who we are, too.

My grandfather ten times over — too hard to count in other terms — was a man by the name of John Winthrop.  And he came to what was then the New World, and he came in search of freedom, freedom to worship as he wished.  He was a minister.  He and his congregants were outcasts, persecuted, heading into a rough and unforgiving land with no guarantee even of survival.  And on his way here, he delivered a now fairly famous sermon at sea in which he called on his community to create a city upon a hill in their new home, America.

So whether you call it a city upon a hill or a light unto the nations, it actually means the same thing: being a model to the world.  It means having a home that sets a standard, a standard of dignity and a standard of freedom.  So the foundation of the friendship between the American people and the people of Israel was actually laid centuries before a single stone was set under the U.S. Capitol or under the Knesset.  And looking around this room tonight, it is clear that our friendship has never been stronger.  (Applause.)

And I’ll tell you why.  Because today, as Israel faces serious challenges to her future, it is America that will stand firmly by her side.  (Applause.)  I will tell you that with the leadership of President Obama — and you can look it up, you can measure it; this is not an exaggeration, it’s a matter of fact — there has been a complete, unmatched commitment to Israel’s security.  The record of this Administration in providing aid and assistance, consultation, weapons, help, standing up in various international fora, fighting, I am proud to tell you, is unrivaled.  And the bottom line, pure and simple, has been making sure that Israel has the means to defend itself by itself and defending Israel’s right to be able to do so.  That is what we’ve done.  (Applause.)

Security.  

Security is fundamentally what President Obama is committed to.  And so too is he committed to using the full force of our diplomacy to resolve the two great questions that most matter when it comes to ensuring the security of Israel:  preventing a nuclear Iran and ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  (Applause.)

Now let me start with Iran because I know there are many questions.  I know many people — there’s been a healthy debate about the approach.  We welcome that.  But let me sum up President Obama’s policy in 10 simple, clear words, unequivocal:  

We will not permit Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon, period.

 (Applause.)  Now, I added an eleventh word just for punctuation.  (Laughter.)

But I want you to understand there are no if, ands, or buts.  This is not a political policy.  This is a real foreign policy.  And we mean every word of what we say.  You have the word of the President of the United States that Iran will not get a nuclear weapon.  Now, as we said at the outset, and I say it again today, our diplomacy is guided by a simple bottom line:  No deal is better than a bad deal.  (Applause.)  And we absolutely will not accept a bad deal.  We are committed to a deal that gets the job done.  (Applause.)

Why?  Because we get it, we understand it.  As President Obama said in Jerusalem, no one can question why Israel looks at the Iranian program and sees an existential threat.  We understand it.  We understand it in our gut.  And we also know something else.  This is not some favor that we do for Israel.  This is something that is also in the interest of the United States of America, and it’s in the interest of countries surrounding Israel.  (Applause.)  A nuclear bomb for Iran would also threaten the stability of the region, indeed the entire world.  It would produce an arms race among the surrounding countries.  There is no way the world is safer anywhere in the world with a nuclear weapon in Iran, and we are not going to let it happen, period, end of story.  (Applause.)

Now, to do that, to achieve this all-important goal, important for America’s security and for Israel’s security, it is crucial that we seizes what might be the last best chance to be able to have diplomacy work, and maybe the last chance for quite some time.  Because the reality is only strong diplomacy can fully and permanently achieve the goal.  Those who say strike and hit need to go look at exactly what happens after you’ve done that, whether that permanently eliminates the program or opens up all kinds of other possibilities, including Iran leaving the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, not even allowing IAEA inspectors in, not living under any international regimen.  That’s a possibility.  Only strong diplomacy can guarantee that a nuclear weapons program actually goes away for good instead of just going underground and becoming more dangerous.  Only the exhaustion of diplomacy can justify more forceful options if you have to take them in the end.

So we say — President Obama and myself and others — we say let’s seize the diplomatic moment.  And that’s what we are trying to do.  And the truth is it is strong diplomacy that has actually made this moment possible.  And we need to give it the space to work.  We need to make sure that if this opportunity were to elude us, it is not because we are the ones that close the window.

Now, I understand the skepticism.  I’ve been around this city for 29-plus years as a senator, became chairman of the foreign relations committee, worked with most of the members of your board and with AIPAC and others around the country, and proud to tell you that during that time I had a 100 percent voting record for Israel.  (Applause.)

And I’m not coming here to stand up in front of you and tell you that I know that Iran is going to reach an agreement.  I don’t know.  I don’t know what they’ll do.  I don’t know if they are able to make some of the tough decisions they’re going to have to make in the months ahead.  But I know that if the United States is going to be able to look the world in the eye and say we have to do something, we have to have exhausted the possibilities available to us for that diplomatic peaceful resolution.  Let me make it clear our approach is not Ronald Reagan’s and the Soviets — We’re not looking at this and saying trust, but verify.  Our approach is a much more complex and dangerous world — it’s verify and verify.  And that’s what we intend to do.  (Applause.)

Now, there is very good reason for these sanctions to exist in the first place, and good reason that we have kept the architecture of these sanctions in place.  And we continue to enforce it even as we negotiate a comprehensive agreement.  In the last weeks, we have announced additional sanctions with respect to individuals who have been tempted to go around it or violate it.  We have not changed one piece of the sanctions architecture.  And yet we are able to negotiate.  Our eyes, my friends, are wide open.  This is not a process that is open-ended.  This is not a process that is about trusting Tehran.  This is about testing Tehran.  And you can be sure that if Iran fails this test, America will not fail Israel.  That, I promise.  (Applause.)

Now, we have taken no options off the table, but so far there is no question but that tough sanctions and strong diplomacy are already making Israel and America safer.  The first step agreement, the first step agreement — it’s not an interim agreement, it’s a first step agreement — and the agreement that’s in force today didn’t just halt the advance of the Iranian nuclear program for the first time in a decade; it’s actually rolled it back.  And we all remember how Prime Minister Netanyahu highlighted Iran’s 20 percent enriched uranium in the 2012 speech at the United Nations.  Well, today Iran is reducing its stockpile of 20 percent uranium.  And without the agreement in force today, the opposite would have been in effect.  The stockpile would have grown even more dangerous, and the amount of breakout time that they have would have grown smaller.  Because of the agreement, Iran will soon have to take its entire stock of 20 percent enriched uranium down to zero.  Zero.  Zero.  (Applause.)  You don’t have to be a math major to know that Israel is safer when Iran has zero uranium enriched to 20 percent, and that’s what we’ve achieved.

The same independent inspectors who also tell us that Iran has halted its advances on the heavy water reactor known as the Arak reactor, without the agreement in force today, we could not have stopped them making progress on the Arak heavy water reactor, plutonium reactor.  Iran has also stopped enriching all uranium above 5 percent, and it has given inspectors daily access to the facilities at Natanz and at Fordow.  You know Fordow, you’ve heard about it, that underground facility that was a secret for so long.  We’ve never had people in it.  But because of this first step agreement, we now have people inside Fordow every single day telling us what is happening.  (Applause.)

None of these things would have happened without forceful diplomacy by the United States and our international partners.  But now, my friends, we have to finish the job.  Like I tell my staff, there aren’t any exit polls in foreign policy.  It’s results that count, final results.  And that means we have to let forceful diplomacy keep working in order to put this test to Iran.

Now, right now we are carefully — and I mean carefully — negotiating a comprehensive agreement.  We are consulting with our friends in Israel constantly.  The minute Under Secretary Wendy Sherman finished her last set of meetings in Vienna the other day, she went immediately to Israel, briefed thoroughly on the talks, then went to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and continued to brief and briefed our European partners.

You might be asking:  If no deal is better than a bad deal, what does the United States consider a good deal?  Well, you have my word — and the President’s — that the United States will only sign an agreement that answers three critical questions the right way.  First, will it make certain that Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon?  Second, can it continuously assure the world that Iran’s program remains entirely peaceful as it claims?  And third, will the agreement increase our visibility on the nuclear program and expand the breakout time so that if they were to try to go for a bomb, we know we will have time to act?

Those are the tests.  Those are our standards for any comprehensive agreement.  It’s that simple.  And those objectives, if they’re not met, then there won’t be an agreement.  (Applause.)  Now make no mistake, make no mistake; we can’t resolve the answer to those questions.  It’s up to Iran.  It’s up to Iran to prove to the world that its program is peaceful, and the world will hold Iran accountable.

Now, if it turns out that Iran cannot address the world’s concerns, I guarantee you it will face more pressure, Iran will face more pressure, more and more isolation.  And Congress will introduce more tough sanctions.  And let me assure you — I know Eric Cantor is here, sitting here — I assure you it’ll take about two hours to get it through the House and the Senate and it won’t be delayed and the Congress will have to do nothing more than schedule the vote, because President Obama and I fully support those sanctions under those circumstances.  (Applause.)

In the meantime, as I said earlier, we are enforcing every letter of the existing sanctions.  I have personally instructed every State Department bureau and mission around the world to watch vigilantly for any signs of the sanctions being skirted.  And to any country that wants to trade with Iran with these sanctions firmly in place, the United States will tell them exactly what I have told foreign leaders in no uncertain terms:  Iran is not open for business until Iran is closed for nuclear bombs.  (Applause.)

Now, strong diplomacy is also essential to another threat to Israel’s security:  ending the conflict with the Palestinians, and in doing so, preserving the Jewish and democratic nature of the state of Israel.  (Applause.)  I’ve had some folks ask me why I’m so committed to these negotiations and why I’m so convinced that peace is actually possible.  And they ask, “Why does John Kerry go to Israel so often?”  I think I heard Steny Hoyer say he’d been there 13 times, Eric Cantor who’s been there 12 times.  I’ve been there more times than that just in the last nine months.  (Laughter.)  And I’ve been in the Middle East more times than even that in the last months because I don’t always wind up going to Israel.

But apart from the question, I’m surprised because people ask, because apart from my affection for Israel which dates back to my first visit back in 1986, and it just strikes me that it’s the wrong question to ask, why do I go.  This isn’t about me.  This is about the dreams of Israelis and the dignity of Palestinians.  It’s about reconciling two peoples who want at long last to live normal secure lives in the land that they have fought over for so long.  It’s about answering King David’s timeless call that we seek peace and pursue it.  It’s about fulfilling the fervent prayer for peace that Jews around the world recite to welcome Shabbat.  It’s about parents from Tsefat to Eilat who want to raise their families in a region that accepts the nation-state of the Jewish people is here to stay.  (Applause.)

Now, it’s not news to any Israeli to hear me say that they live in a difficult neighborhood.  Israelis know that better than anyone.  No one needs to explain the importance of peace and security to a mother who has just sent her daughter to the army or a son who is waiting for his father to come home from another mission.  No one knows the stakes of success or failure better than those who will inherit them for generations to come.  And I have seen all of these realities in so many different ways in my travels in Israel, from the rocket casings in Sderot to the shelter in Kiryat Shmona that I visited years ago where children had to hide from Katyusha rockets.  I’ve seen it.

My friends, I also believe that we are at a point in history that requires the United States as Israel’s closest friend and the world’s preeminent power to do everything we can to help end this conflict once and for all.  Now, that is why America — (applause) — that is why America helped bring the parties back to the table, where, let’s be honest, Israelis and Palestinians have difficult choices to make.  And no one understands just how complex those choices are or how emotional they are better than the leaders who have to summon the courage in order to actually make them.

I have sat with Bibi Netanyahu for hours and hours and days and days.  We have become good friends.  (Applause.)  I believe — in fact, he ought to be charging me rent.  (Laughter.)  I’ve seen up close and personally the grit and the guts of this man and his love of country.  And I can tell you with absolute certainty and without question, Prime Minister Netanyahu has demonstrated his courage and his commitment in pursuit of peace with security.  (Applause.)  He knows that it is the only way for Israel to be a Jewish and democratic state; not a bi-national state.  (Applause.)

As President Obama said publicly in the Oval Office today, and I quote him:  “Prime Minister Netanyahu has approached these negotiations with a level of seriousness and commitment that reflects his leadership and the desire of the Israeli people for peace.”

Thus far, I will tell you also that President Abbas, and I know there are many doubters here — I’ve heard the arguments for 30-plus years, 40 years — that there’s no partner for peace, that Abbas won’t be there, that — both sides, by the way, say the same thing about each other.  That’s one of the difficulties we have to try get through here.  A very small needle to try to thread in terms of the trust deficit.  Thus far, President Abbas, I will tell you, has demonstrated he wants to be a partner for peace.  He’s committed to trying to end the conflict in all of its claims, but he obviously has a point of view about what’s fair and how he can do that.  Let’s be candid.  I know that some of you doubt that.  But as Israeli security officials will attest, President Abbas has been genuinely committed against violence, and his own security forces have worked closely with Israel in order to prevent violence against Israeli citizens.

I’ve also spent many hours with President Abbas, and I believe that he clearly understands both the tremendous benefits of peace and the great costs of failure.  He understands that in terms of his own people, his own grandchildren, the country he hopes to be able to lead, and in terms of the history that beleaguers all.  He knows the Palestinian people will never experience the self determination that they seek in a state of their own without ending the conflict in a solution that delivers two states for two peoples.  (Applause.)

And so does Prime Minister Netanyahu.  When Bibi looks me in the eye and says, “I can’t accept a deal with Palestinians that doesn’t make the people of Israel safer,” we agree 100 percent.  (Applause.)  But I argue that there is a distinction between a unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon or from Gaza where nothing is resolved, and a phased withdrawal that is negotiated where everything is at least in an agreement resolved.

Now, I learned about Israel’s security on many different trips over there, but one stands out.  I was — I’d been a pilot since I was in college and I was on a trip over there.  I was having a luncheon at Ovda Airbase with the Israel Air Force.  And the colonel who was in charge was — had flown.  He was an ace from the Six-Day War.  And we were having lunch at the time at Ovda and I had been badgering them to maybe let me go up and fly.  And they disappeared at lunch and finally he comes back and he says, “Senator, I hope you don’t eat too much.  We’re going flying.”  I said, “Wow, great.  This is what I’ve wanted.”  And we went out, the two of us, drove out to this jet, and he trusted me.  We put on our helmets, got in the jet, and he says, “The moment we’re off the ground, it’s your airplane.”

So literally, we took off, I take the stick, we go up, we’re flying around.  Next thing I know in my ear he says, “Senator, you better turn faster.  You’re going over Egypt.”  (Laughter.)  So I turned very fast and then I asked him if I could do some aerobatics over the Negev.  And I turned upside down and did a big loop and I was coming down, I was looking upside-down, and I said to myself, “This is perfect.”  I could see all of the Sinai.  I could see Aqaba.  I could see Jordan.  I see all of Israel below me, each side to each side.  Said, “This is the perfect way to see the Middle East upside-down and backwards.”  I understand it.  (Applause.)

The real point of this story is just to tell you that I can’t tell you the imprint on me, being up there and tiny — almost turning.  You had barely space to turn.  You get the sense of a missile from here, or a rocket from there, or the threat of war.  You understand it’s impossible to ignore just how narrow those borders are, how vulnerable Israel can be, and why Israel’s security is our first priority.  We understand that.  (Applause.)

That is why, my friends, President Obama sent a four-star general, John Allen, one of the most respected minds in United States military to do something we’ve never done in all the history of administrations negotiating for Israel’s and Palestinians’ future and that is to work with Israelis and Jordanians and Palestinians to make the Jordan River border as strong as the strongest borders on Earth.  That’s what makes this effort different from anything we’ve ever done before.  With the combination of the best military experience America can offer and the best ideas in the Pentagon and the best technology that we could deliver, we believe we can deliver to Israel security that Israel needs in order to make peace, and President Obama is committed to doing that.

Now we have no illusions.  We saw what happened after Israel withdrew unilaterally from Gaza and Lebanon.  We all learned lessons from that, I hope.  That’s why a negotiated agreement is so important.  That’s why the security arrangements that we are helping to design will need to be operationally proven.  We’re not doing this on a whim and a prayer.  We will never let the West Bank turn into another Gaza.  (Applause.)

My friends, we understand that Israel has to be strong in order to make peace.  But we also understand that peace will make Israel stronger.  Any peace agreement must also guarantee Israel’s identity as a Jewish homeland.  (Applause.)  As Ehud Barak said on this stage last year, a two-state solution is the only way for Israel to stay true to its founding principles — to remain both Jewish and democratic.  At last year’s AIPAC conference, he said statehood is not a favor for the Palestinians, and let me reaffirm:  He is right; it is not.

Israel also needs peace in order to create greater prosperity.  All of you here know the great economic benefits of peace.  All of you have already seen what Israel has already been able to build with the forces of the region that raid against it.  Just imagine what it will be able to build as a result of peace with Palestinian neighbors.  I’ve had the foreign minister of one of the surrounding countries — a very wealthy country and a very smart foreign minister say to me if we make peace — this is under the Arab Peace Initiative and the Arab Follow-on Committee that is following everything we’re doing very closely and supporting it — and they said if we make peace, Israel will trade more in this community within a few years than it trades with Europe today.  That’s what we have available to us.  (Applause.)  And I believe that we need to stand together with a single voice to reject any of the arbitrary unwarranted boycotts of Israel.  For more than 30 years, I have staunchly, loudly, unapologetically opposed boycotts of Israel — (applause) — and I will continue to oppose those boycotts of Israel.  That will never change.  (Applause.)

Every time that Israel is subjected to attacks on its legitimacy, whether at the United Nations or from any nation, the United States will use every tool we have to defeat those efforts and we will stand with Israel.  (Applause.)

Finally, peace demands that Israel fulfill its destiny not just as a nation but also as a neighbor.  And that begins with the Palestinians, and it extends to the entire Arab League whose Arab Peace Initiative can open the door to peace and normalized relations with 20 additional Arab countries and a total of 55 Muslim countries.  The upheaval in the Middle East has shown us all that Arabs and Israelis share some of the very same security concerns.  Without the Palestinian conflict to divide them, these common interests can grow into real relationships and transform Israel’s standing in the region.  And I just invite you — I promise you these conversations take place.  I’ve had them throughout the Gulf region, throughout the Middle East, where increasingly those countries begin to see the possibilities of mutual security interests coming together for all of them against an Iran, against terrorism, against religious extremism.  This is a commonality that is a new thread in the region, and I believe it brings the potential of new possibilities.

It is also important to remember that ending the conflict means ending the incitement.  President Abbas has called incitement a germ that must be removed.  And he has sought our help in order to try to deal with the problem.  And I can tell you that with any final agreement it will also include a larger endeavor in order to help people on both sides move beyond a painful past and promote a culture of peace and tolerance.

After all these years, my friends, it is really no mystery what the end-game really looks like.  I think you know that in your hearts.  We understand what the end-game is.  I know what peace looks like.  When I talk to Prime Minister Netanyahu and others, I think everybody shares this because this is not new.  After Camp David and Oslo and Wye and Annapolis and Taba and all of these efforts, what the end-game should look like is straightforward:  security arrangements that leave Israelis more secure, not less; mutual recognition of the nation-state of the Jewish people and the nation-state of the Palestinian people; an end to the conflict and to all claims; a just and agreed solution for Palestinian refugees, one that does not diminish the Jewish character of the state of Israel; and a resolution that finally allows Jerusalem to live up to its name as the City of Peace.  (Applause.)

It will take hard work.  I’m not pretending any of the answers — these are all narrative issues.  They’re tough issues.  They complicated.  But there is a vision of peace, and it takes tough choices on both sides, especially over the coming days.  I guarantee you that America, that President Obama and this Administration will be there every day of the week, every step of the way.  And we will stand with Israel’s leaders today and with the leaders of the future.  And we will ensure that our light shines not just throughout the nations, but throughout the generations.

Leaders like a fellow named Guy  — I’ll leave his last name out — but he’s a young Israeli who took part in an exchange program with the State Department, sponsors that brings Israelis and Palestinians together to talk about their histories and their hopes.  Guy’s  grandparents fled Europe.  He was born and raised in Jerusalem.  He served in the IDF.  And he worked as an entrepreneur in Israel’s booming tech industry.  And this is what he said in that program:  We respect our past, but we don’t want to live it.  We are young enough to dream, to believe that change is possible, and that fear can be defeated.

I think Guy is right.  Change is possible.  Fear can be defeated.  But those are choices we have to make now.

My friends, a few months ago I landed in Tel Aviv and it was the 18th anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination.  I went straight to Kikar Rabin, and I stood with the late-prime minister’s daughter, Dalia, at the site of her father’s murder.  And we stood just steps away from where the great general, in the last moments of his life, sang the famous lyrics of Shir LaShalom:  Don’t whisper a prayer; sing a song of peace in a loud voice.  Don’t say the day will come; bring that day.  (Applause.)  That is our mission.  All of us, in whatever capacity that we can, but just as important our mission is also to raise our voices for peace, and we also need to listen.  We have to listen to those who first gave voice to our values, voices that still echo thousands of years later.

He almost — I think it was the first time I went to Israel.  I spent a week there and went all over the country and like many first-time visitors, I climbed Masada.  I climbed it with a guide — some of you may know him or heard of him, a fellow by the name of Yadin Roman.  Yadin, the publisher of Eretz Israel.  And our group debated Josephus Flavius’s account of what happened on the top of that mountain, the account of what happened 2,000 years before we were there.

Then Yadin, after we’d had this long debate, made us all vote to determine did it happen as he recounted or was it different.  And we all voted unanimously it did happen the way he recounted.  He told us to then walk to the edge of the precipice which we did, and to look out across the chasm and to shout, to shout across the ancestral home of the Jewish people.  And as we stood where every new Israeli soldier begins his or her service, by swearing an oath to honor that history and secure the future, Yadin instructed us to shout, all at the same time, “Am Yisrael chai.”  We shouted.  (Applause.)  And then I have to tell you, echoing across the chasm in the most eerie and unbelievably unforgettable way were these haunting echoes of “Am Yisrael chai, Am Yisrael chai, chai, chai.”  I’ll never forget hearing the echo of those words bouncing off that mountain.  It was literally like we were hearing the voices of the souls of those who had perished sacrificing their lives for Israel a thousand years ago.  And we were affirming those words, the state of Israel lives.  The people of Israel live.

We have to listen to those voices.  Those long ago who encouraged us to build a city on a hill to be a light unto the nations, an example to the world, to ensure Israel’s survival.  And we have to listen to the voices of young people whose futures depend on the choices that we, the leaders of today, make.  It’s for their future that we will give new strength to the U.S.-Israel partnership as AIPAC does like no other organization in our country.  It’s for their future that we will come together giving greater voice to the timeless oath and we will remember forever those words and be driven by them:  “Am Yisrael chai” will be said generations upon generations into the future because of the work you do and the work we will do together.

Thank you all very much.  Honored to be with you.  (Applause.)  

Kerry Does Exactly What He Should


Kerry and Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Liberman.

— by Steve Sheffey

Secretary of State John Kerry has not even dropped a hint that the U.S. will force Israel to agree to terms it deems unacceptable during the peace talks with the Palestinians.

In pointing out that the status quo is not sustainable, and that Israel will face increasing diplomatic isolation and boycotts if talks fail, Kerry is describing reality. We might not like it, but that is the world we live in.

Every U.S. administration has had disagreements with Israel, including on settlements and building in Jerusalem. But unlike many other administrations, the Obama administration has never threatened Israel, let alone taken action against it.

More after the jump.
President Obama has never turned his back on Israel at the U.N., never failed to veto an anti-Israel resolution, and never withheld or even threatened to withhold aid to Israel. Military and intelligence cooperation between the U.S. and Israel is stronger than ever under Obama.

Kerry is doing exactly what he should be doing: trying to broker a negotiated agreement that allows Israel to retain its Jewish and democratic existence by withdrawing from the West Bank, and allowing Israel to retain its physical existence with adequate security arrangements. Adequate in whose eyes? Israel’s.

Last week Kerry said, “One thing I know a hundred thousand percent is that you can’t turn to the people of Israel with the prospect that what you are offering is going to turn the West Bank into Gaza.”

Israel’s security is iron clad as a priority in this issue. And I have said that from day one.

I don’t want this to be a leap of faith, but a leap of rationality and a choice based on a very understandable and tangible set of guarantees.

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Kerry & Israel: A “True Friend” Tells the Truth


John Kerry and Avigdor Liberman

— by Steve Sheffey

Some on the far right are telling us that Secretary of State John Kerry threatened Israel with a boycott if peace talks with the Palestinians were not successful. In fact, Kerry and the U.S. strongly oppose and will oppose any boycotts of Israel.

Kerry was simply pointing out the irrefutable: If Israel is seen as unreasonably blocking peace negotiations, the chance of more boycotts against Israel will increase.

The State Department spokesperson, Jen Psaki, said on February 2 that, “At the Munich Security Conference yesterday, [Kerry] spoke forcefully in defense of Israel’s interests, as he consistently has throughout his public life.”

In response to a question about the peace process, he also described some well-known and previously stated facts about what is at stake for both sides if this process fails, including the consequences for the Palestinians. His only reference to a boycott was a description of actions undertaken by others that he has always opposed.

More after the jump.
A tweet by Ha’aretz writer, Chemi Shalev, brought to mind this analogy:

Suppose that a doctor tells a cancer patient that if he rejects a certain treatment, he will likely get worse. Is the doctor threatening the patient? Is the doctor telling the patient that if he rejects the treatment, the doctor himself will make the patient worse? Or is the doctor on the patient’s side, and simply pointing out that while the patient has a choice, and while the doctor will work with the patient regardless of the patient’s choice, choices have consequences?

Israel does not deserve to be boycotted, and the world should not boycott Israel based on lack of progress with the Palestinians. But justified or not, that is a real possibility. It is a reality that none of us like, and that all of us oppose, but it is reality. You would have to be blind not to see it.

That is just one of many reasons that the status quo is not sustainable.

Israel’s Foreign Minister, Avigdor Liberman, defended Kerry last week, and called him “a true friend of Israel.” Is Liberman an anti-Israel lefty too? I am going to go with Liberman on this one.

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Kerry: Negotiations Are “the Best Chance” to Prevent Nuclear Iran

In an official statement, Secretary of State John Kerry said that “for the first time in almost a decade, Iran’s nuclear program will not be able to advance, and parts of it will be rolled back.”

Iran will also continue to take steps throughout the [next] six months to live up to its commitments, such as rendering the entire stockpile of its 20% enriched uranium unusable for further enrichment…

While implementation is an important step, the next phase poses a far greater challenge: negotiating a comprehensive agreement that resolves outstanding concerns about the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program…

These negotiations will be very difficult, but they represent the best chance we have to resolve this critical national security issue peacefully, and durably.

Full statement after the jump.
We’ve taken a critical, significant step forward towards reaching a verifiable resolution that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

On January 20, in just a few short days, we will begin implementation of the Joint Plan of Action that we and our partners agreed to with Iran in Geneva.

As of that day, for the first time in almost a decade, Iran’s nuclear program will not be able to advance, and parts of it will be rolled back, while we start negotiating a comprehensive agreement to address the international community’s concerns about Iran’s program.

Because of the determined and focused work of our diplomats and technical experts, we now have a set of technical understandings for how the parties will fulfill the commitments made at the negotiating table. These understandings outline how the first step agreement will be implemented and verified, as well as the timing of implementation of its provisions.

Iran will voluntarily take immediate and important steps between now and January 20 to halt the progress of its nuclear program. Iran will also continue to take steps throughout the six months to live up to its commitments, such as rendering the entire stockpile of its 20% enriched uranium unusable for further enrichment. As this agreement takes effect, we will be extraordinarily vigilant in our verification and monitoring of Iran’s actions, an effort that will be led by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The United States and the rest of our P5+1 partners will also take steps, in response to Iran fulfilling its commitments, to begin providing some limited and targeted relief. The $4.2 billion in restricted Iranian assets that Iran will gain access to as part of the agreement will be released in regular installments throughout the six months. The final installment will not be available to Iran until the very last day.

While implementation is an important step, the next phase poses a far greater challenge: negotiating a comprehensive agreement that resolves outstanding concerns about the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.

As the United States has made clear many times, our absolute top priority in these negotiations is preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. We have been clear that diplomacy is our preferred path because other options carry much greater costs and risks and are less likely to provide a lasting solution.

We now have an obligation to give our diplomats and experts every chance to succeed in these difficult negotiations. I very much appreciate Congress’ critical role in imposing the sanctions that brought Iran to the table, but I feel just as strongly that now is not the time to impose additional sanctions that could threaten the entire negotiating process. Now is not the time for politics. Now is the time for statesmanship, for the good of our country, the region, and the world.

We are clear-eyed about the even greater challenges we all face in negotiating a comprehensive agreement. These negotiations will be very difficult, but they represent the best chance we have to resolve this critical national security issue peacefully, and durably.

Kerry: Sharon “Risked It All” to Live the Dream of Israel

— by Secretary of State John Kerry

Ariel Sharon’s journey was Israel’s journey. The dream of Israel was the cause of his life, and he risked it all to live that dream.

I remember reading about Arik in the papers when I was a young lawyer in Boston and marveling at his commitment to cause and country.

I will never forget meeting with this big bear of a man when he became prime minister, as he sought to bend the course of history toward peace, even as it meant testing the patience of his own longtime supporters and the limits of his own, lifelong convictions in the process.

He was prepared to make tough decisions because he knew that his responsibility to his people was both to ensure their security and to give every chance to the hope that they could live in peace.  

During his years in politics, it is no secret that there were times the U.S. had differences with him. But whether you agreed or disagreed with his positions — and Arik was always crystal clear about where he stood — you admired the man who was determined to ensure the security and survival of the Jewish State.  

In his final years as prime minister, he surprised many in his pursuit of peace, and today, we all recognize, as he did, that Israel must be strong to make peace, and that peace will also make Israel stronger. We honor Arik’s legacy and those of Israel’s founding generation by working to achieve that goal.

Arik is finally at rest, and all of us in the U.S. pray along with his sons, Gilad and Omri, the Sharon family, and all the people of Israel. Our nation shares your loss and honors Ariel Sharon’s memory.

Kerry: I Came to Israel “Without Any Illusions About the Difficulties”

Secretary of State John Kerry spoke about the Israeli-Arab peace talks at the memorial for Israel’s former prime minister, Itzhak Rabin:

I come here without any illusions about the difficulties, but I come here determined to work with leaders — with the Prime Minister, with the President of the Palestinian Authority — to try to find a way forward so that Israel can live the dream that President Peres and Prime Minister Rabin expressed so eloquently and beautifully in the tragedy of that day here and in many days before that. We will continue to work, and I can promise Israelis that America will stand by the side of Israel every step of the way.

During the ceremony, a protest was held, opposing the release of dozens of jailed Arab terrorists as a precondition for starting the peace talks.

Full remarks after the jump.
Kerry: It’s a great privilege for me and always a sad moment to come to remember the memory of a great man, a great general, a great prime minister, a great leader, a great man of peace. And one can hear his booming voice saying the words — the famous words — “We are destined to live together.”  

Here, just moments before his life was taken and the possibilities of peace were disrupted through an act of violence, he stood up on that balcony with his friend, Shimon Peres, and together, they sang, “Don’t whisper a prayer. Sing a song of peace in a loud voice.” We are now 18 years since that moment, and it is clear that we need voices ready to sing a song of peace loudly, with courage, with the same determination that Prime Minister Rabin showed in his quest for peace. He dared to take the risks for peace because he believed not just that it was important for the sake of peace, but that it was vital for the security and future of Israel, and of the region.

Eighteen years is important because I am told that 18 is important in the Proverbs — the 18th Proverb, it says that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Death and life in the power of the tongue. So what we say with our voices, how we talk about peace, how we prepare the possibilities of peace are really critical to all of us. We need to avoid incitement. We need to sing that song that Prime Minister Rabin and President Peres embraced together.  

Eighteen is also, I am told, very important in Hebrew, because the letters that write the word “eighteen” literally mean life, hayyim. I remember shouting those words once from the top of Masada in my first visit to the Holy Land. And we stood up there and together, as a group, we shouted across the chasm, “(In Hebrew), hayyim.”  Those words meant something to me. And so maybe 18, maybe the word hayyim in life will have a special meaning at this particular moment.  

The Proverbs also teach us L’chaim. That’s something we now need to put into practice. So I come here without any illusions about the difficulties, but I come here determined to work with leaders — with the Prime Minister, with the President of the Palestinian Authority — to try to find a way forward so that Israel can live the dream that President Peres and Prime Minister Rabin expressed so eloquently and beautifully in the tragedy of that day here and in many days before that.  

We will continue to work, and I can promise Israelis that America will stand by the side of Israel every step of the way. We believe this is something that is possible, that is good for all, and that it can be achieved. And I will leave here inspired by being here with Dalia and with members of the family, most importantly by seeing the symbolism of the turbulence, the earthquake that followed that moment of violence. It should rededicate every person in Israel with the possibility of a just and appropriate and fair peace which protects the security of Israel, guarantees that Israel’s security will be protected, but makes possible for people to live the words of the prime minister, “We are destined to live together,” I add, in peace. Thank you.

Tel Aviv’s mayor, Ron Huldai: We appreciate the fact that you took the time to begin your visit here in Tel Aviv, the center of Israeli democracy. In this spot, Prime Minister of Israel Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated because of his quest for peace. From here, he spoke. We want to tell you, Mr. Secretary, that the people of Israel and the city of Tel Aviv, therefore, want peace. And the person who will manage to bring peace, will receive our highest appreciation, and it is true.  

So I wish you and all of us good luck in this challenging mission. Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  

Kerry: Thank you, Mr. Mayor.

Rabin’s daughter, Dalia Rabin-Pelossof: Mr. Secretary, Mayor of Tel Aviv, ambassadors of Israel to Washington and Ambassador Dan Shapiro, Ambassador Martin Indyk, and all the staff that joins you, I really appreciate and I am moved — the fact that you came to this painful and tragic spot in Tel Aviv where his life was taken brutally 18 years ago. It’s very symbolic that you came here. It’s the 5th of November.  Yesterday, we marked the 18th anniversary.  

And we all wish you all the best because everybody that stands here understand that this is the only way, his way, that maybe was a little ahead of his time, but 18 years is enough time that has passed by, and it’s time to make peace between Israelis and the Palestinians. We wish you luck and we keep our fingers crossed. And thank you so much for coming over here. (Applause.)

Kerry and Netanyahu Discuss Israeli-Arab Final-Status Negotiations


Kerry and Netanyahu in Israel last month.

Yesterday, a Senior State Department official issued the following statement about Secretary of State John Kerry’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:

Following-on President Obama’s and Vice President Biden’s meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Secretary Kerry met with the Prime Minister at the State Department this afternoon. Secretary Kerry and Prime Minister Netanyahu discussed a range of issues, focusing primarily on the ongoing final status negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians and how the United States, in its facilitating role, can continue to help these talks succeed. They also discussed Iran and Syria. Secretary Kerry underscored our unshakable commitment to Israel’s security and noted that we will continue to work closely with Israel on our shared interests, especially to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Transcript of Kerry and Netanyahu’s remarks follow the jump.
Secretary of State John Kerry and and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before their meeting, September 30, 2013 in the White House Treaty Room

SECRETARY KERRY:  Good afternoon, everybody.  It’s my great pleasure to welcome the Prime Minister of Israel here and to the State Department.  I think – (audio feedback).  Ta-da.  (Laughter).

Obviously, I’ve had a number of very generous, warm welcomes as I have visited Israel and the Mideast frequently.  I think I’ve been probably the most frequent visitor; I should get frequent flyer miles for my visits to the Prime Minister’s office.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  We couldn’t afford it.  (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY:  But it is more than safe to say that the Prime Minister and I are every meeting forging a better and better relationship, a stronger and stronger friendship on a very personal level.  And I’m very grateful to him for his very generous welcomes to me, the amount of time he has spent with me in Jerusalem working through very complicated but very, very important issues.

Israel, as everybody knows, is a very special friend to the United States of America.  And we have just had a very constructive luncheon with the President and a very important meeting before that with a larger group of people.  And now the Prime Minister and I will talk about both Iran, the Middle East peace process, Syria, and issues of concern.

We are committed to continuing to work constructively to move forward on the peace process, though it is always difficult, complicated.  We know that.  But we’re working in good faith.  I have confidence in the Prime Minister’s commitment to this effort, and I also want him to know that as we reach out to respond to Iran’s efforts to purportedly change its relationship with the world, we do so very aware of and sensitive to the security needs of Israel and the demands for certainty and transparency and accountability in this process.

So I look forward today to furthering our conversation, and I’m very, very happy to finally welcome the Prime Minister here to the State Department.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  Mr. Secretary, thank you.  John, it’s good to be with you.  We have if not the whole world, a good chunk of it to discuss, and we do so as friends and as people seriously committed to both achieving security and a durable peace.  These are hard things to achieve, but none better than you and us to try to do it together.

SECRETARY KERRY:  Thank you.  Thanks, partner.  

Kerry in Israel: “The Threat of Force Remains”

Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Israel today, and spoke about Syria and the Israeli-Arab Peace talks in a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanhayu.

About the use of chemical weapons in Syria, Kerry said: “These are crimes against humanity, and they cannot be tolerated, and they are a threat to the capacity of the global community to be able to live by standards of rules of law and the highest standards of human behavior.”

Kerry added that last week, the United States and Russia agreed to “strip all of the chemical weapons from Syria.”

The Russians have agreed, they state, that the Assad regime has agreed to make its declaration within one week of the location and the amount of those weapons… President Obama has made it clear that to accomplish that, the threat of force remains… We cannot have hollow words in the conduct of international affairs.

Netanyahu said:

The Syrian regime must be stripped all its chemical weapons, and that would make our entire region a lot safer. The world needs to ensure that radical regimes don’t have weapons of mass destruction, because as we’ve learned once again in Syria, if rogue regimes have weapons of mass destruction, they will use them. The determination the international community shows regarding Syria will have a direct impact on the Syrian regime’s patron, Iran.  

About the peace talks, Kerry said that “the best way to try to work through the difficult choices that have to be made is to do so privately with confidence that everybody will respect that process. And since I have asked for that from all the parties, I’m not going to break it now or at any other time. We will not discuss the substance of what we are working on.”

Netanyahu said to Kerry, “we’ve embarked on this effort with you in order to succeed, to bring about a historic reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians that ends the conflict once and for all.”

Full remarks after the jump.
Netanyahu: Mr. Secretary, John, a pleasure to welcome you again in Jerusalem. I very much appreciate the fact that you’re here today. You’ve got a lot on your plate. Despite that busy schedule of yours, you took the time to come to Jerusalem.  It’s deeply appreciated. I appreciate the fact that you’re making a great personal effort on matters of vital strategic importance for all of us.  

We have been closely following and support your ongoing efforts to rid Syria of its chemical weapons. The Syrian regime must be stripped all its chemical weapons, and that would make our entire region a lot safer. The world needs to ensure that radical regimes don’t have weapons of mass destruction, because as we’ve learned once again in Syria, if rogue regimes have weapons of mass destruction, they will use them. The determination the international community shows regarding Syria will have a direct impact on the Syrian regime’s patron, Iran.  

Iran must understand the consequences of its continual defiance of the international community by its pursuit towards nuclear weapons. What the past few days have showed is something that I’ve been saying for quite some time, that if diplomacy has any chance to work, it must be coupled with a credible military threat. What is true of Iran — or what is true of Syria is true of Iran, and by the way, vice versa.

John, I appreciate the opportunity we’ve had to discuss at some length our quest for peace with the Palestinians and the ongoing talks. We both know that this road is not an easy one, but we’ve embarked on this effort with you in order to succeed, to bring about a historic reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians that ends the conflict once and for all. I want to welcome you once again to Jerusalem. I want to promise all of those who are seeing us now that this will not be our last long meeting.

Kerry: No.  (Laughter.)  Not by any means.

Mr. Prime Minister, my friend Bibi, thank you very much for one of your generous welcomes here again. I’m very appreciative, very happy to be back here in Israel, and only sorry that it’s a short time and a short visit. I thank you for your generous hospitality and I pick up on your comments that the road ahead is not easy. If it were easy, peace would have been achieved a long time ago.  But what is clearer than ever today is that this is a road worth traveling. And so I’m delighted to have spent a good period of time — (clears throat) — excuse me, folks, the benefits of a lot of travel. (Laughter.)  

I’m really happy to have spent a serious amount of time with the Prime Minister this afternoon talking in some depth about the challenges of the particular road that we are on. This is a follow-up to a very productive meeting that I had in London last week with President Abbas, so I am talking to both presidents directly as we agreed —

Netanyahu: Don’t elevate me to the role of president.

Kerry: President — Prime Minister and President, I apologize.

Netanyahu:
I can’t reach those heights —

Kerry: (Laughter.) Both leaders.

Netanyahu: — and I respect Mr. Peres greatly and —

Kerry: I am talking to both leaders directly. And everybody, I think, understands the goal that we are working for. It is two states living side by side in peace and in security. Two states because there are two proud peoples, both of whom deserve to fulfill their legitimate national aspirations in a homeland of their own, and two states because today, as we commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, I think everybody is reminded significantly of the costs of conflict and the price, certainly, that Israelis have paid in the quest for their security and identity.

The Prime Minister and I and all of the parties involved have agreed that we will not discuss details at any point in time. We are convinced that the best way to try to work through the difficult choices that have to be made is to do so privately with confidence that everybody will respect that process. And since I have asked for that from all the parties, I’m not going to break it now or at any other time. We will not discuss the substance of what we are working on.

I do want to comment, however, as the Prime Minister has, on the challenge of the region and what we have just been doing in the last few days of negotiations in Geneva. And that is, as the Prime Minister has said, an issue that directly affects the stability of this entire region, and ultimately, weapons of mass destruction, which are at stake in this issue, are a challenge to everybody on this planet. So this is a global issue, and that is the focus that we have tried to give it in the talks in Geneva in the last days, but we want to make sure people understand exactly what we are trying to achieve and how.

The ongoing conflict in Syria has enormous implications for all of the neighbors — the press of refugees, the fact of weapons of mass destruction having been used against the people of their own state. These are crimes against humanity, and they cannot be tolerated, and they are a threat to the capacity of the global community to be able to live by standards of rules of law and the highest standards of human behavior.  

So I want people to understand the key elements of what we agreed to in Geneva. It is a framework, not a final agreement. It is a framework that must be put into effect by the United Nations now. But it is a framework that, with the Russian and U.S. agreement, it has the full ability to be able to, as the Prime Minister said, strip all of the chemical weapons from Syria. The Russians have agreed, they state, that the Assad regime has agreed to make its declaration within one week of the location and the amount of those weapons. And then we will put in place what we hope to put in place through the United Nations, what Russia and the United States agreed on, which is the most far-reaching chemical weapons removal effort well beyond the CWC that has been designed.

Now this will only be as effective as its implementation will be, and President Obama has made it clear that to accomplish that, the threat of force remains. The threat of force is real, and the Assad regime and all those taking part need to understand that President Obama and the United States are committed to achieve this goal. We cannot have hollow words in the conduct of international affairs because that affects all other issues, whether Iran or North Korea or any other.  

The core principles with respect to the removal of these weapons and the containment of these weapons, which we want to achieve, as we said in the document, in the soonest, fastest, most effective way possible — if we achieve that, we will have set a marker for the standard of behavior with respect to Iran and with respect to North Korea and any other state, rogue state, group that decide to try to reach for these kinds of weapons.

The core principles will have the full backing of the international community through the U.N. Security Council. And Russia agreed that any breach of compliance, according to standards already set out in the CWC, any breach of the specifics of this agreement or any use of chemical weapons by anyone in Syria will result in immediate referral and action by the Security Council for measures under Chapter 7, which means what they select, up to and including the possibility of the use of force.

So again, I reiterate diplomacy has always been the preferred path of the President of the United States, and I think is any peace-loving nation’s preferred choice. But make no mistake, we’ve taken no options off the table. President Obama’s been absolutely clear about the remainder of the potential of use of force if there is noncompliance or refusal to take part, because the egregious use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime against innocent men, women, children, their own citizens all indiscriminately murdered in the dead of night, is unacceptable. And we have said in no uncertain terms that this should never happen again. This country understands the words, “Never again,” perhaps better than any other.

I’ve been in contact with many of my counterparts, with Foreign Secretary Hague of the United Kingdom, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. Their partnership on these issues has been essential. And I will see both of them tomorrow and Foreign Minister Davutoglu of Turkey in Paris, where I’ll also meet Foreign Minister Saud Faisal of Saudi Arabia in order to talk about the road ahead to achieve our goals.  

Our attention and our efforts will now shift to the Organization of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the UN Security Council, and the international community expects the Assad regime to live up to its commitments, and we expect Russia to join with us in holding them accountable.  

I also want to make clear this effort is not just about securing chemical weapons in Syria. We are not just standing up for a redline that the world drew some 100 years ago, and which is worth standing up for. Our focus now must remain on ending the violence, ending the indiscriminate killing, ending the creation of more and more refugees that is not only tearing Syria apart, but threatens the region itself.  

As President Obama has said, and I have said many times, there is no military solution to this conflict. We don’t want to create more and more extremist elements and we don’t want to see the implosion of the state of Syria. So our overall objective is to find a political solution through diplomacy, and that needs to happen at the negotiating table, and we will stay engaged with a sense of urgency. And I say to the Syrian opposition and all those in Syria who recognize that just removing the chemical weapons doesn’t do the job, we understand that, and that is not all we are going to seek to do. But it is one step forward, and it eliminates that weapon from the arsenal of a man who has proven willing to do anything to his own people to hold onto power.

Foreign Minister Lavrov and I met with Special Envoy Brahimi yesterday. We will meet again in New York. We are committed to continue to work towards the Geneva 2. And we have made clear that our support to the opposition in an effort to get there will continue unabated.  

So, Mr. Prime Minister, I know you and I are both clear-eyed about the challenges ahead. We have to summon the grit and the determination to stay at this, to make the tough decisions — tough decisions about eliminating weapons of mass destruction and tough decisions about making peace between Israel and the Palestinians. We will not lose sight of the end game. I know that from talking with the Prime Minister today. And I think both of us remain deeply committed, and we hope very much with our partners in the region, to doing our best to try to make this journey towards peace get to its destination.

Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister.  

Netanyahu: John, another sound bite. (Laughter.)

Kerry to Travel to Jerusalem, Paris


Kerry’s meeting with Netanyahu, last May.

— by Jen Psaki

Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Jerusalem tomorrow, Sept. 15, to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The purpose of the visit it to have an in-depth discussion with the Prime Minister on the final-status negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians, following on the Secretary’s meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in London last Monday. They will also focus on developments in Syria.

Secretary Kerry will then travel to Paris, France. He will meet with French Foreign Minister Fabius and UK Foreign Secretary Hague on Monday, Sept. 16. While in Paris, Kerry will also meet with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal. Kerry will return to Washington on the same day.

Where’s the Coverage? Israel Surrounded by Threats


Courtesy of The Cartoon Kronicles @ http://cartoonkronicles.com

CAMERA has reported:

Recent statements by U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry portend a forceful American response to the Syrian government’s alleged use of chemical weapons.

Should the United States — and allies — strike Syria, both Iran and Syria have threatened to retaliate against Israel. This has received coverage in the popular press. The news media have also reported that Israel has had to call up reservists and deploy extra missile defenses, and even recounted:

In addition to [gas] masks, the Israeli government handed out small plastic tents designed to protect newborns and was running videos with step-by-step instructions on how to correctly don the gear.

What the media have missed are the multiple threats that Israel confronts beyond this immediate crisis. Israel literally faces peril on every border and Israelis are in danger from terrorists even when they travel abroad.

Infographic from the Israeli Embassy depicting some of the dangers, and more following the jump.

The embassy maintains:

It’s because of these threats Israel is ever more committed to maintaining our existing peace agreements with Jordan and Egypt, and reaching an historic peace agreement based on the principle of two states for two peoples – Israel the nation-state and homeland for the Jewish people and an Arab Palestinian state as the homeland for the Palestinian people.

Israel and Israelis yearn for a peace that allows Israel to be able to invest in ourselves, building a better society for our children, and creating a prosperous future.

Israel committed to peace with its neighbors? Israel interested in reaching an agreement with the Palestinian Arabs? Well you certainly haven’t heard much of that from the media. As for the multiple, persistent threats all around… Where’s the coverage?