Kerry Said What?

Kerry from 0:55:00 to 1:00:00 is not portraying Israel as the villain; in fact, he goes out of his way to praise Prime Minister Netanyahu.

— Steve Sheffey

Secretary of State John Kerry, a strong supporter of Israel, testified last week that both parties — Israel and the Palestinians — have recently taken unhelpful steps, but he continues to work to bring the two sides together, as he should.

Don’t want to deal with the implications of climate change? Deny it! Don’t like the Obamacare sign up numbers? Make up your own! Don’t want Israel to give up the West Bank? Wish away the demographic facts! Don’t like how your candidate is doing in the polls? Invent your own numbers! (No link — just ask President Romney how to do it.)

Experiencing cognitive dissonance because contrary to everything you were told or secretly wished to believe, President Obama has turned out to be a strong friend of Israel? Then invent a conflict!

During President Obama’s first term, we were treated to rumors about a snub of Prime Minister Netanyahu at the White House that turned out to be completely false and headlines about forcing Israel to return to the 1967 borders that turned out to be utter nonsense. Last week, the Republican Jewish Coalition and others claimed that Secretary of State John Kerry blamed Israel for the latest impasse between Israel and the Palestinians.

More after the jump.
Fortunately, Kerry’s April 8 testimony was videotaped. Here in relevant part is what he said (bolding emphasized in Kerry’s voice):

Both sides, whether advertently or inadvertently, wound up in positions where things happened that were unhelpful. Clearly, [the Palestinians] going to these treaties is not helpful, and we have made that crystal-clear… Unfortunately, prisoners were not released on the Saturday they were supposed to be released. And so day went by, day two went by, day three went by. And then in the afternoon, when they were about to maybe get there, 700 settlement units were announced in Jerusalem and, poof, that was sort of the moment. We find ourselves where we are.

Ron Kampeas:

“Memo from reality: Reciting an accurate chronology is not ‘blaming,’ it is reciting an accurate chronology.”

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said that “John Kerry was again crystal clear today that both sides have taken unhelpful steps and at no point has he engaged in a blame game. He even singled out by name Prime Minister Netanyahu for having made courageous decisions throughout process.”  

I haven’t been able to find a transcript of the hearing, but if you really care about this, at least watch just the key five minutes where this issue is discussed. At about 55:00 (the video is 2-1/2 hours long) Kerry says that the administration supports recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and the question is when (not if) during the negotiations the Palestinians will recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Kerry next explains what led to the impasse. Watch Kerry from 55:00 to 1:00:00, just five minutes, and you’ll see that Kerry is not portraying Israel as the villain; in fact, he goes out of his way to praise Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Jeff Goldberg is right:

Kerry, one of the last of a generation of intuitively, emotionally pro-Israel Democratic leaders, is not delusional to think that Israel is in trouble. Nor is he delusional to believe — as he does — that the average Palestinian on the West Bank is made miserable by the policies of Israeli occupation authorities. Nor is he delusional to believe that Palestinians already inclined to hopelessness might rise up in the absence of a Palestinian state and begin a third uprising…

Kerry believes that Netanyahu is capable of [risking his political career for a final deal]. Which is why he is sticking with the peace process, despite all the criticism. Kerry may be wrong about Netanyahu, and he may be wrong about Abbas. But he is not wrong to keep trying.

The peace process is not a favor to the Palestinians. No matter how unreasonable the Palestinians may be, no matter how incendiary their rhetoric and counterproductive their actions, it remains in Israel’s best interests to reach an agreement that will allow Israel to vacate most of the West Bank. Israel cannot occupy the West Bank indefinitely and remain both Jewish and democratic. We might not like it, but that’s reality.  

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