How awful was John Kerry’s speech on Israel?
By Jennifer Rubin December 28 at 4:00 PM
Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s dreadfully long and condescending speechrationalizing the U.S. decision to abstain from a one-sided vote casting Israel as an international law breaker will convince no one not already in agreement with the Obama administration’s Israel-bashing posture. It will fortify the new Congress, the president-elect (who tweeted before the speech: “We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect. They used to have a great friend in the U.S., but . . . not anymore. The beginning of the end was the horrible Iran deal, and now this (U.N.)! Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching”) and pro-Israel groups to make a definitive break with this administration’s rhetoric and policy. How bad was it? Here are 10 reasons it was among the very worst foreign policy addresses in U.S. history (the others being some of President Obama’s and Kerry’s previous harangues):
1. Kerry continued to insist the explosion of settlement activity necessitated the action. Administration officials cite a “100,000” person increase in population beyond the 1949 armistice lines. Rick Richman ably responds:
The figure of 100,000 sounds significant until you realize that 80 percent of it has been in the settlement blocs “everyone knows” Israel will retain in any conceivable peace agreement. The 20,000 person increase east of the separation barrier, established to stop the wave of Palestinian mass murders against Israelis, translates into less than one percent of the population in the disputed territories, over a period of eight years.
It is ludicrous to argue that the settlements are an “obstacle to peace,” because they were not an obstacle to offering the Palestinians a state on three separate occasions: (a) in July 2000 at Camp David; (b) in the Clinton Parameters six months later; and (c) in the Olmert offer at the end of the one-year Annapolis Process in 2008. Each time, the Palestinians rejected a state on substantially all of the West Bank and Gaza with a capital in Jerusalem. Since then–as Rhodes’ numbers show–the vast majority of Israeli settlement activity has been within settlement blocs that no one can realistically expect Israel to dismantle.
Israel already committed to a 10-month settlement freeze with no reciprocal move by the Palestinians. Moreover, the vast number of additional units are within the confines of existing blocs pursuant to an agreement memorialized in an exchange of letters between President George W. Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2004.
2. There is genocide occurring in Syria. Russia has invaded multiple countries. Iran is chiseling away on the JCPOA and seeking to destabilize multiple countries. Egypt and Turkey are engaged is an unprecedented crackdown on civil liberties. But in the final days of the administration, Kerry chose to single out our ally Israel. No wonder our friends do not trust us.
3. He revealed that the United States didn’t have the courage to vote for the resolution although it had a hand in it. He acknowledged telling other countries the United States would not block it if it was “balanced and fair.” The resolution, incidentally, never required the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
4. Kerry never addressed the role of Iran, Syria and others who fund Hamas and its attacks on civilians.
5. He blatantly cast Hamas (terrorism) as equivalent to home building for Jews, much of it in Israel and in Jewish blocs elsewhere “The truth is that trends on the ground — violence, terrorism, incitement, settlement expansion and the seemingly endless occupation — are combining to destroy hopes for peace on both sides, and increasingly cementing an irreversible one-state reality that most people do not actually want.” This is moral idiocy.
6. He asserted that the Palestinian state must be contiguous. This raises the question whether he is demanding some connective corridor between Gaza and the West Bank. This would be a new demand.
7. He hypocritically acknowledged only direct negotiations can solve the crisis. He and the resolution, however, do not demand, for example, Palestinians give up the right of return. He is either intentionally obtuse or lying about the resolution’s predetermination of key issues between the parties.
8. Kerry neglects to mention that Palestinians are not supportive according to recent polling of the steps needed to achieve peace: “A deal that would mark a final end to the conflict and an end to claims was supported by 64 percent of Israeli Jews, but only 40 percent of Palestinians. Making the new Palestinian state entirely demilitarized gets the backing of 61 percent of Israeli Jews but only 20 percent of Palestinians.” The speech was designed to hold one party, Israel, responsible for the conflict.
9. The speech was pointless, simply an empty rhetorical jab designed to respond to criticism of the administration.
10. Kerry is very concerned about Israel’s democracy. If only he would spend as much time criticizing the Palestinian Authority for lack of elections, massive corruption and failure to establish viable civil institutions.
1:06 AM EST
Always with the unnecessary and inaccurate hyperbole with Rubin. This is “the worst in history” and that is “the worst in history.” Whatever. Kerry’s speech was the result of right wing extremists in Israel and was not the best nor the worst foreign policy speech ever. Get a grip.
12:35 AM EST
False equivalencies all around in this column. The issue is that the settlements are an impediment to peace and in violation of international law. “But the Palestinians……” petulance is off topic. It’s like saying “I know you are, but what am I” in the schoolyard. Israel is unlawfully occupying conquered land. That’s the issue. And they’ve stuck a stick in Obama’s eye often enough on top of it that it’s about time he responded in kind.
1:29 AM EST
Impediment? The Palestinians plan to ethnically cleanse all Jews from the West Bank, which the darlings say they will do, removing all settlements in their new state. So then where is the impediment?
12:32 AM EST
Who listens to John Kerry? Who ever listened to John Kerry? If he and Obama were both unmarried, they’d make a perfect couple…incredible lack of leadership ability in both.
1:07 AM EST
The only saving grace is that the mainstream media, and not anyone in the world who matters, give a flying fish what Kerry says.
That will give the new administration the ability to repair the damage.
12:23 AM EST
Rubin should write for an Israeli newspaper, but instead, she’s at the WaPo undermining United States national security. Bezos needs to make a move. Israel-firsting from the premiere D.C. newspaper is thoroughly embarrassing. No wonder Trump wiped the floor against newspaper endorsements. Rubin is a perfect example of someone completely out of touch yet someone who still, miraculously, maintains a job preaching to everyone else. Like Bill Kristol. How is that possible many Americans would like to know…
12:21 AM EST
…Thank you Jennifer Rubin. You did a great job explaining why John Kerry’s ramble was the very worst foreign policy addresses in U.S. history .
12/28/2016 10:27 PM EST
Jennifer, you got carried away and a bit out of line. Remember that Kerry, as he clearly pointed out early on, represents the interests of the U.S. This administration has given to Israel enormous sums of money and defense technology paid for by the American taxpayer. In return, Obama and Kerry get the bottom of Netanyahu’s shoe and his incursion into the U.S. House without so much as a courtesy call. It’s unpleasant; it’s unseemly; it’s a violation of not only of every protocol of diplomatic discourse, but of every code of civil discourse. Kerry said what needed to be said and he said it beautifully and with the kind of clear-eyed, precise logic and organization that the sweep of post ’48 history in the region demands. You, Netanyahu, and the whole far right movement in Israel need to quite your souls and calm your emotions. Let go the litany of perceived injustices — else you will most assuredly barrel headlong into a conflict that may well destroy you. Though I, too, identify Jewish, I cannot under any circumstance support the concept of an ethnically pure democracy. I can’t even wrap my mind around such a thing.
12/28/2016 10:31 PM EST
Hi Katie. I couldn’t help but notice: Nary a response to the specifics of Jennifer’s repudiation of Kerry. The obvious reason: Her points are valid. On the other hand, you clearly recognize Kerry and Obama’s last stand for what is is: One last pathetic play to even a score. Very unpresidential!
12/28/2016 10:45 PM EST
To RobbtyC: First, it’s Kathryn, not “Katie.” Second, it was not my objective to get into the weeds. It’s time for someone to step out of the weeds and get some perspective. It’s a classical shortcoming of my beloved people that they sometimes can’t leave the darkness.
12/28/2016 10:23 PM EST
Amen, Ms. Rubin. Thank you for all the bulleted points and analysis.
12/28/2016 9:04 PM EST
One more comment and I am done! I never imagined Obama along with Kerry would implode to this degree on something so huge as this. The irony of this is so massive after all the pretense and patronizing of the left toward Donald Trump on foreign policy.
12/28/2016 8:43 PM EST
Most of Netanyahu’s cabinet openly discusses that there will never be a Palestinian state. Inside Israel, the talk is of how Netanyahu made missteps in allowing a vote to go forward declaring previous illegal settlements (illegal as deemed by Israel itself) legal. Which shows you what is really being thought inside Israel. Netanyahu also fails to realize that he has now fallen into a trap. As Obama has forced his hand in terms of having the entire Israeli gov’t declare once and for all support for a two-state solution and a Palestinian state, any counter to this long held bipartisan idea in the USA will be rejected by the Democratic Party leaders. Netanyahu has effectively ended this as a bipartisan plank inside the USA and instead Israeli sentiments against Palestine are moving toward becoming a US Republican fringe sentiment to the dominant thinking inside the GOP. You can see this from Trump’s Israeli ambassador, but also from the American-raised Republican-leaning Israelis that Netanyahu has surrounded himself with. All well and good under GOP administrations. But has Netanyahu and Israel given a thought about the possibility of Democrats winning elections?
There are NO Palestinians, only Arabs