Yesterday Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to the American Jewish Committee and warned the audience that the two-state solution is about to expire so they had better do something. Because if they don’t, “much worse” is on the horizon. And what is “much worse?” The “possibility of a civil rights movement that grows in the West Bank.”
Imagine that– a civil rights movement, says Kerry, is against Israel’s “interests” and also American “interests” in the Middle East.
It was a fascinating speech, directly echoing Obama’s speech in Jerusalem in March but with a dark warning.
The underlying message was: I am Jewish, I love Israel, we are headed toward a one-state solution which is going to be a mess, and you the lobby are the most powerful players in this matter — “no one has a stronger voice in this than the American Jewish community.”
And you the lobby are destroying America’s image in the world. You are putting us all at risk. “[The conflict] affects all of the recruitment and all of the arguments and radicalism that we face.” By implication: the conflict impelled the Tsarnaev brothers to the Boston Marathon. This seemed to me the strongest underlying message in the speech, a warning that Kerry repeated while claiming not to believe it.
Let me review those messages.
First, Kerry being Jewish. [No he’s not actually Jewish; but this was the subtext] In 2004 Kerry discovered that his grandfather was born Jewish and he had relatives who died in the Holocaust. Kerry bragged on these facts and the fact that his brother converted to Judaism:
And each time that I go, the deep personal connection that I feel with the state and the people of Israel is only strengthened. These are actually bonds that reach back into my own family tree, including relatives I never met and never knew about until the last decade, relatives who perished in the Holocaust, relatives I thought about in new and personal ways on Yom HaShoah when I laid a wreath on behalf of the United States at Yad Vashem.
As Obama did, Kerry fawned over Israel. They believe that the only way Israelis will do something is if you love them to death. He said Israel had made “the desert bloom.” And he said he had gone out to Israel over and over since 1986, when he climbed Masada and screamed, Am Yisrael Chai, the people of Israel live! As disgraceful as Obama’s pandering in Jerusalem:
“And we actually heard our voices bouncing off the cavern on the other side of the mountains, and they came back to us, and it was really as if, eerily, it was the voices of those who had fought coming back to us, the voices of past generations.”
This was also about the lobby. In 1986, Kerry was already 43 years old. He was a newly-minted Senator doing a political necessity, finally getting his sorry hinder to Israel. When Kerry ran for president, Louis Susman was his national finance chair. The former ambassador to Britain also bankrolled Obama, and is a leader in the Jewish community.
Kerry reminded the audience of their power:
So no one has a stronger voice in this than the American Jewish community. You can play a critical part in ensuring Israel’s long-term security. And as President Obama said in Jerusalem, leaders will take bold steps only if their people push them to. You can help shape the future of this process. And in the end, you can help Israel direct its destiny and be masters of its own fate…
Now here is the big mainstream news of the speech, Kerry saying that the two state solution is almost done, and here comes one state:
what happens in the coming days will actually dictate what happens in the coming decades. We’re running out of time. We’re running out of possibilities. And let’s be clear: If we do not succeed now – and I know I’m raising those stakes – but if we do not succeed now, we may not get another chance…
You and I both know that the place where all of this happens best is in a strong, secure Israel that lives peacefully alongside a viable Palestinian state. I will tell you here today, examine every possibility, all of the parameters of this conflict, this frozen conflict, and I will tell you a realistic one-state solution simply does not exist for either side.
He again cited the one state outcome later:
So I want to ask you this: Whenever you think about this challenge and how hard it is, think about what will happen if it doesn’t work. We will find ourselves in a negative spiral of responses and counter-responses that could literally slam the door on a two-state solution, having already agreed, I think, that there isn’t a one-state one. And the insidious campaign to de-legitimize Israel will only gain steam. Israel will be left to choose between being a Jewish state or a democratic state…
As Obama did in Jerusalem, Kerry dipped ever so briefly but sincerely into the Palestinian narrative, to remind his Jewish listeners, the only ones who seem to matter, of the oppression the world sees:
The Palestinian children that I’ve seen – I went into Gaza a number of years ago, five years ago, and the kids I saw playing in the rubble there, they should be able to grow up with playgrounds that aren’t made of the debris of bombed-out buildings. Their parents deserve to be able to live their daily lives the way people everywhere else in the world do and the way parents aspire to hopes for their children do. And these families’ lives should not be determined by terrorists in their midst.
Now I am coming to that central warning/theme, Israeli intransigence hurting the U.S.
First he suggested that Israel’s actions are empowering “extremists” across the region. Of course Kerry didn’t really mean that, he said. But he did mean it. Follow him on his windsurfer:
We know that this conflict, my friends, is not the cause of problems in the Middle East. Indeed, it has often been used as a convenient excuse for autocrats who didn’t want their own populations to recognize and wrestle with the inadequacies of their own governance. An excuse.
But make no mistake: Resolving this conflict for both sides can have far-reaching benefits that will be in everybody’s interest. And the reverse is also true: Not resolving this will result in serious consequences for both….
And just in case you missed the message, he came back to it later. Saying what every diplomat says, what Hillary Clinton said, that this is the only issue people talk about around the world. And he said it is radicalizing people around the world:
everywhere I go – literally, China, Japan – foreign ministers, presidents raise this issue. Young people ask me about this conflict and what they can do to help end it. In the last couple of weeks I had visits here from the Foreign Minister of Brazil and the Foreign Minister of New Zealand, and the first thing out of their mouth was, “How can we help on the Middle East peace process?” Now, I asked them, “Where’s that coming from? You’re over in New Zealand and this is the first thing on your mind?” They said yes because it affects all of the recruitment and all of the arguments and radicalism that we face, and they see the prospects and possibilities. Everyone is invested in a resolution and everyone has a role to play.
Oh, I forgot his warning about a civil rights movement. It comes in a long warning to the lobby about what Israeli complacency about the conflict is precipitating.
What will happen if the Palestinian economy implodes, if the Palestinian Security Forces dissolve, if the Palestinian Authority fails? Surely something much worse for Israel’s interests and for America’s and for the region. In fact, the failure of the moderate Palestinian leadership could very well invite the rise of the very thing that we want to avoid: the same extremism in the West Bank that we have seen in Gaza or from southern Lebanon.
So before anyone gives up on this hope, we have to ask whether we are prepared to live with permanent conflict, with the possibility of widespread civil disobedience, with the possibility of a civil rights movement that grows in the West Bank, with the possibility of another intifada always looming around the corner. If the parties don’t agree to come back to the table, the Palestinians have already said that they will go to the UN and seek to join more UN organizations, where, despite the best efforts of the United States, they will probably get more votes in their favor than they got last time. And last time, we only got nine votes against. And the Palestinians have also threatened to take their case to the International Criminal Court.
Notice the warning about the International Criminal Court. Kerry knows, the delegitimizers are winning, for a reason. He knows where this is headed. Under the Jewish geography, it’s a very dark speech.
P.S. From the Washington Post:
Although Kerry said peace will require compromises, he did not list anything specific he wants Israel to do and never mentioned settlements or the Palestinian claim to a right of return to land that is now Israel.
It’s not a claim: it’s a right, under international law. It has been destroyed/suppressed by Israel working with the U.S. (since the U.S. abandoned the right of return, in ’94, under Clinton), but it’s still a right.