Kerry ducks question about settlements, describes Obama visit as listening tour to learn ‘current state of possibilities’

on 21 Comments

Secretary of State John Kerry said his first telephone calls as secretary were to Israeli and Palestinian leaders and that the US was committed to the peace process, in remarks yesterday in Washington. But he ducked a question about settlements and said Obama’s first goal in going to the region is to listen. From the State Department press conference with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh. 

MS. NULAND: Last one today, from Nadia Bilbassy, MBC News, please.

QUESTION:… Mr. Secretary… And on the peace process, you know the Palestinians said that basically they won’t go to the negotiation unless they freeze the settlements, the Israelis freeze the settlements. This is a non-starter. How do you start? Where do you go from there?


let me start on the peace process first. I’m an optimist. If I weren’t an optimist, I wouldn’t have taken this job. And I have been engaged in, in one way or another, in – as a member of the Foreign Relations Committee in the initiatives through many presidents, through many secretaries of state, and in many discussions that I’ve had with people over the years, 29 years now, in the 29th year. I have learned that often things are not as they appear to be, and they’re not as bleak as they may seem if you approach things openly, honestly, creatively, and build on relationships.

I think that Minister Judeh would agree that I start this journey with some good relationships, and I believe that there are possibilities. The reason I called Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas and President Peres, my first calls, was to emphasize that this is of a concern, and to listen to them, as to whether or not they believed there might be some things that we could do. In every case, there are hopes that there are things that we can do. And everybody understands that the United States of America is an indispensable entity with respect to that process. I understand that. The President understands that. And the President is not prepared, at this point in time, to do more than to listen to the parties, which is why he has announced he’s going to go to Israel. It affords him an opportunity to listen. And I think we start out by listening and get a sense of what the current state of possibilities are and then begin to make some choices.

It would be a huge mistake, almost an arrogant step, to suddenly be announcing this and that without listening first, so that’s what I intend to do, that’s what the President intends to do. And – but we are committed, as I’ve said to Minister Judeh and to others, to explore every possibility. The window is closing on this possibility. The region knows it. All the leaders I’ve talked to in the region have brought this topic up as a prime topic. And so it deserves our utmost consideration, and it will get that….


And I totally agree with him when he says that it’s listening mode, perhaps, for the U.S. But there’s agreement between us and the U.S. that the window is closing and that we have to move fast and we have to work together, and that this remains a priority and of paramount importance to all of us. Peace in the Middle East, I’ve said before in this room, is peace of mind for the rest of the world. This is not just a local and/or regional conflict. This is a global conflict with global ramifications and it remains a core central issue, as His Majesty the King says.

So we are extremely encouraged. I mean, the Secretary said that he’s optimistic, otherwise he wouldn’t have taken this job. I would like to say that I have to be optimistic because we live in the region. 

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21 Responses

  1. amigo
    February 14, 2013, 9:47 am

    Current state of possibilities

    One state solution

  2. American
    February 14, 2013, 10:13 am

    More listening?
    What a pathetic fool or tool Kerry is.

    Go to the ICC Palestine or you’re history.

    • Woody Tanaka
      February 14, 2013, 10:46 am

      “More listening?”

      Of course. If Kerry and Obama aren’t listening, how can Netanyahu tell them which donkey they should attend to?

      • Citizen
        February 15, 2013, 2:53 pm

        @ Woody
        He’s been sucking for 29 years; and he’s proud of it? Tastes like ketchup?

  3. Blank State
    February 14, 2013, 10:23 am


    He said absolutely nothing using far more words than it woulda taken to actually say something.

    Egads, how I loath these scumbag politicians.

  4. David Doppler
    February 14, 2013, 11:06 am

    I don’t know. Giving people the platform to talk, to listen to them fully, maybe allow the rest of the world to listen, as well. Could just be another Judo move by the Obama Administration, another length of rope offered, by which the corrupt goals of Anti-Islam/Anti-Arab prejudice, land-grabbing, theocratic ethnic cleansing, dressed in their best Hasbara clothes, finally lose all credibility, even in the hearts of those who present them. The trial lawyer presents his theory of the case to the jury in the closing argument, and even he can feel that it doesn’t connect, that he’s going to lose. These Israelis in their election vied with each other to show how right-wing they are, or decided to talk instead about neighborhoods and jobs, practicing denial, but with the whole world listening, with the Judo master himself there listening oh so astutely, with attention to every nuance, the core reality so clearly expressed by Chas Freeman a few days ago, starts to leak out around the best psychological defenses, becomes unavoidable. “The acceptance of Israel as a legitimate presence in the Middle East cannot now be achieved without basic changes in Israeli attitudes and behavior that are not in the offing.” I would offer up the optimistic amendment “not (yet) in the offing.” The Judo master may be letting his opponent’s strengths wear themselves out. Expect the next “fellate-a-donkey” moment to come from within Israel itself.

  5. Ira Glunts
    February 14, 2013, 11:06 am

    It is interesting that Kerry said nothing about a new European peace initiative that was planned to be formally proposed after the formation of the Israeli government. The reports of the initiative led by France and England preceded the announcement of the Obama visit to Israel which curiously will take place at the same time as the planned launch of the initiative.,7340,L-4331732,00.html

    Jordan has been involved in this initiative and this was acknowledged by King Abdullah at Davos. It is interesting that the Jordanian minister said nothing about the European proposals.

    Maybe the US has convinced the Europeans and the other countries involved to butt out. This news conference is just another indication that Obama has lost is desire to confront Netanyahu and his willingness to continue of his administration’s policy of helping maintain the Israeli occupation.

    Maybe the US President should have chosen to “lead from behind,” supported the European initiative and postpone his trip in other to clear the field for the Europeans.

    • NickJOCW
      February 14, 2013, 2:48 pm

      Another side of the coin. Israel is increasingly becoming a global problem that seriously threatens the world. Even if the US wanted to it could no longer resolve it on its own. The US lit the fire but others must put it out, starting with the Europeans, enjoying if not US support then a marked absence of discouragement. The US cannot allow anyone to attack Israel but neither can it prevent Israel’s increasing isolation. IMHO Obama will go through the motions like a non-believer at a religious ceremony, he will adopt a sombre face, pay his respects at appropriate shrines and donate generous offerings, then Air Force One will sweep away into the skies leaving only the fading memory of a short presidential visit and a pile of confetti to get cleared.

      • James Canning
        February 15, 2013, 2:07 pm

        Yes, one can hope that European countries increasingly recognise the threat to their national security interests, if Israel continues its illegal colonisation programme in the West Bank.

      • Citizen
        February 15, 2013, 3:01 pm

        @ NickJOCW
        Obama’s Cairo speech was his swan song when it comes to anything connected to Israel. I’m betting his choice of Hagel has most essentially nothing to do with putting Israel in its proper (much lesser) place in US strategy in the Middle East. He wants Hagel, the ex-military grunt, to shield him from attack for pushing to cut the Pentagon budget to help US economy as a whole.

    • James Canning
      February 15, 2013, 2:12 pm

      Ira – – The British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, was in Washington recently to urge the Obama administration to work hard to resolve Israel/Palestine problem.

  6. seanmcbride
    February 14, 2013, 12:41 pm

    Why would anyone expect liberal Zionist John Kerry to cross the agenda of the liberal Zionist billionaires who financially dominate the Democratic Party?

    Their consistent policy all along has been to obstruct or sabotage the application of any meaningful American pressure on the Israeli government with regard to its openly declared policy of building biblical Greater Israel.

    Expect nothing but evasions and doubletalk from Kerry concerning Israel’s ever-expanding settlements in “Judea and Samaria.”

    The standard liberal Zionist formula: express high-minded sentiments about achieving a Middle East peace agreement while not lifting a finger to make that agreement happen. They are running interference for the Israeli settlement movement and biblical Greater Israelists behind a cloud of empty and misleading rhetoric.

    • seanmcbride
      February 14, 2013, 1:21 pm

      Added note: I think Barack Obama and Joe Biden have been perfectly sincere in their desire to oppose the expansion of Israeli settlements. But they learned early on during their first term that any effort to pursue effective policies to stop the settlements would be met with overpowering counterforce by many wealthy and powerful “liberal Zionists” within the Democratic Party (like billionaire Ronald Lauder and Chuck Schumer).

      Barack Obama is totally boxed in on the settlements issue by the dominating presence of the Israel lobby within the Democratic Party. No doubt he is intensely frustrated at being politically hogtied. Republican George H.W. Bush expressed the same frustration during his term.

      The Israel lobby is able to control any American president through a wide range of coercive instruments and tools all across the political spectrum.

      • Citizen
        February 15, 2013, 3:09 pm

        @ seanmcbride

        Yes, Obama is boxed in just as you describe. Nothing else in Obama’s personal and political history accounts for why he put his Cairo speech in his own trash can. He also has not come out and spoke directly to the public about the unprecedented attack on Hagel at the hearing and subsequently right up to this moment.

        Recall how Obama came out to the public and personally defended his choice Rice? Did he so defend Chas Freeman?

        And Hagel and Freeman are of far higher quality & experience than Rice ever was.

    • James Canning
      February 15, 2013, 2:10 pm

      Sean – – Hasn’t Kerry said in recent years that Israel must get out of the West Bank?

      • seanmcbride
        February 16, 2013, 1:23 pm

        James Canning,

        Sean – – Hasn’t Kerry said in recent years that Israel must get out of the West Bank?

        Many liberal Zionists have been arguing that Israel should get out of the West Bank for decades now, while not lifting a finger to make that happen or in many cases deliberately obstructing or sabotaging efforts to achieve that outcome. Their words don’t match up with their deeds.

        Religious Zionists are much more committed to realizing their vision of biblical Greater Israel than liberal Zionists are to realizing their vision of a two-state solution.

        And this is why I think we now need to direct our intellectual fire at liberal Zionists, not neoconservatives, if our goal is to produce a fair and just Mideast peace settlement.

        (In truth, I don’t think there is a snowball’s chance in hell at this point to salvage the two-state solution.)

      • James Canning
        February 16, 2013, 5:16 pm

        Sean – – Your assumption seems to be that colonies of Jews mandate a change of borders.
        Palestine can deal with half a million Jews. Who will be obliged to obey the laws of Palestine. Or get out.

  7. Egbert
    February 14, 2013, 6:21 pm

    And for Obama’s next act of appeasement – the release of Pollard.

  8. Rusty Pipes
    February 14, 2013, 7:17 pm

    Much as I am concerned for my president’s safety in visiting a country where right-wing extremists have made racist and violent statements about him, I think that this is a canny move by Obama and Kerry at this time. By putting it first on their agenda, but leaving expectations low, they have an opportunity to communicate face to face with the relevant parties without intermediaries (and without the risk of the substance appearing on wikileaks). They also have the opportunity to alter the course of the ship of State subtly (if they choose to put distance between theirs and Hillary’s policies, they can do so without it appearing to be a repudiation of her). As SoS, Hillary’s rhetoric was often more belligerent than that from the Defense Department. Perhaps this is an opening for State to behave more diplomatically.

  9. James Canning
    February 15, 2013, 2:05 pm

    Why is it a “non-starter” for Israel to freeze growth of the illegal colonies?

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