This post is going to be a catch-up of sorts of news which I missed over the past week since I was out of the country. My apologies too for for missing my Good News Friday installment for the first time since I began the series. I returned home from my trip on Friday and I simply ran out of time before Shabbat. I will try and make it up to you later in the week.
Meanwhile the most important event that I missed (honestly, I leave the country and everything falls apart!) was that Kerry opened his mouth and put his foot in it again. The gaffe-prone Secretary of State still seems to want to save Israel from itself; this time, instead of warning Israel that it risks incurring a third intifada, or that it will suffer from boycotts and isolation like he did a few months ago, he warned Israel that it risks turning into an apartheid state if it does not accept his own obviously perfect peace plan (i.e. surrender). This wasn’t the only veiled threat that he mentioned, as the Daily Beast report continues:
Kerry also repeated his warning that a failure of Middle East peace talks could lead to a resumption of Palestinian violence against Israeli citizens. He suggested that a change in either the Israeli or Palestinian leadership could make achieving a peace deal more feasible.
Interestingly, the apartheid smear was shot down by no lesser a personage than Richard Goldstone himself as well as Barack Obama:
Leading experts, including Richard Goldstone, a former justice of the South African Constitutional Court who led the United Nations fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict of 2008 and 2009, have argued that comparisons between the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians and “apartheid” are offensive and wrong.
“One particularly pernicious and enduring canard that is surfacing again is that Israel pursues ‘apartheid’ policies,” Goldstone wrote in The New York Times in 2011. “It is an unfair and inaccurate slander against Israel, calculated to retard rather than advance peace negotiations.”
In a 2008 interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, then-Sen. Barack Obama shot down the notion that the word “apartheid” was acceptable in a discussion about Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians:
“There’s no doubt that Israel and the Palestinians have tough issues to work out to get to the goal of two states living side by side in peace and security, but injecting a term like apartheid into the discussion doesn’t advance that goal,” Obama said. “It’s emotionally loaded, historically inaccurate, and it’s not what I believe.”
After the expected backlash against Kerry from both Israelis and American politicians, Kerry backtracked over his insulting remarks:
Congressional Republicans also lashed out at Kerry, with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor calling on him to apologize, and Sen. Ted Cruz taking it even further and calling for Kerry’s resignation.
Kerry’s spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, was unhelpful on Monday in trying to clarify Kerry’s remarks.
All Psaki could come up with to justify the statement was that it was part of Kerry’s support for the “two-state solution” and that “many officials have used similar phrases”.
Kerry himself walked back his remark in an official statement:
I will not allow my commitment to Israel to be questioned by anyone, particularly for partisan, political purposes, so I want to be crystal clear about what I believe and what I don’t believe.
First, Israel is a vibrant democracy and I do not believe, nor have I ever stated, publicly or privately, that Israel is an apartheid state or that it intends to become one. Anyone who knows anything about me knows that without a shred of doubt.
Second, I have been around long enough to also know the power of words to create a misimpression, even when unintentional, and if I could rewind the tape, I would have chosen a different word to describe my firm belief that the only way in the long term to have a Jewish state and two nations and two peoples living side by side in peace and security is through a two state solution. In the long term, a unitary, binational state cannot be the democratic Jewish state that Israel deserves or the prosperous state with full rights that the Palestinian people deserve.
It is gratifying to note that the Daily Telegraph rebuked Kerry for his carelessly undiplomatic remark (h/t Honest Reporting):
Comparing Israel’s continued military occupation of Palestinian territory to South Africa’s former apartheid regime would be inflammatory at the best of times.
The use of such undiplomatic language also distracts from the very real difficulties the Israelis face in trying to reach an agreement. From the outset, Israel’s security concerns have dominated the discussions, with their negotiators offering to make painful territorial concessions in return for cast-iron guarantees concerning the future safety of Israeli citizens. But Mr Abbas’s refusal to allow Israel to maintain a limited military presence in any future independent Palestinian territory, together with his recent accord with Hamas, has meant that no such pledges have been forthcoming, thereby causing the talks to stall. Israel argues, with some justification, that there is little likelihood of reaching an agreement with an organisation such as Hamas, which remains committed to the destruction of the Jewish state. If Mr Kerry still wants his bold peace initiative to succeed, then he would be better advised to address these and other concerns than to use language that is guaranteed to cause offence to Israel.
If you get the feeling that this is deja vu all over again, you would be right. The Algemeiner has a roundup of Kerry’s top 10 controversial comments. (What? Only 10?):
1. Israel could become an “apartheid state” if a two-state solution doesn’t pan out.
2. Israel announced 700 new settlement units and “poof, that was sort of the moment” the peace talks were imperiled.
3. It’s a “mistake” to keep demanding that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
4. The Jewish state will face more boycotts and international isolation if peace talks fail.
5. “Not one Israeli was killed by a Palestinian from the West Bank” in 2013. (A Shin Bet report said there were five such deaths).
6. Ignore Israeli thinking when it comes to Iran sanctions.
7. Israel could face a third violent Palestinian intifada if peace talks fail.
8. The U.S. views all Israeli settlements are “illegitimate.”
9. Amid the fall of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and a bloody civil war in Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the “core issue” of Middle East instability.
10. Juxtaposing the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings and the Turkish militants killed aboard the Mavi Marmara flotilla after they attacked Israeli soldiers.
Adding insult to injury, US officials told Nachum Barnea, an influential Israeli journalist, that whether Israel likes it or not, a Palestinian state will arise – whether by negotiations or by violence.
Speaking on condition of anonymity to Nahum Barnea, a prominent columnist from Israel’s best-selling daily Yedioth Aharonoth, the officials highlighted Netanyahu’s ongoing settlement construction as the issue “largely to blame” for the failure of Secretary of State John Kerry’s July 2013-April 2014 effort to broker a permanent peace accord.
They made plain that US President Barack Obama had been prepared to release spy-for-Israel Jonathan Pollard to salvage the talks. And they warned that “the world will not keep tolerating the Israeli occupation.”
Barnea, who described his conversations with the American officials as “the closest thing to an official American version of what happened” in the talks, said the secretary is now deciding whether to wait a few months and try to renew the negotiating effort or to publicize the US’s suggested principles of an agreement.
The Americans said they had intended to begin the nine-month negotiating period with an Israeli announcement of a settlement freeze. But this proved impossible, an American official was quoted saying, “because of the current makeup of the Israeli government, so we gave up… We didn’t realize [that] continuing construction allowed ministers in [Netanyahu’s] government to very effectively sabotage the success of the talks. There are a lot of reasons for the peace effort’s failure, but people in Israel shouldn’t ignore the bitter truth: the primary sabotage came from the settlements. The Palestinians don’t believe that Israel really intends to let them found a state when, at the same time, it is building settlements on the territory meant for that state. We’re talking about the announcement of 14,000 housing units, no less. Only now, after talks blew up, did we learn that this is also about expropriating land on a large scale. That does not reconcile with the agreement.
It’s the “poof speech” all over again. And once again, here’s the not-so-veiled threat of violence against Israel:
One bitter American official told Barnea, “I guess we need another intifada to create the circumstances that would allow progress.”
Meanwhile, poor little Abbas is having SUCH a hard time:
Abbas, the officials told Barnea, had made concessions — in accepting that “Palestine” would be demilitarized; in agreeing to the US border outline that would see 80% of settlers coming under Israeli sovereignty, and in agreeing for Israel to retain control of sensitive security areas such as the Jordan Valley for five years.
“He also agreed that the Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem would remain under Israeli sovereignty, and agreed that the return of Palestinians to Israel would depend on Israeli willingness,” the Americans said. “‘Israel won’t be flooded with refugees,’ he promised.”
In fact, as we know, Abbas agreed to no such thing and the Americans are lying.
Abbas said: No Jerusalem, no peace
Abbas said: No Jordan Valley, no peace
Abbas said: Not a single Israeli will be allowed in a future Palestinian state.
Even though Abbas claims he does not want to drown Israel with refugees, he is lying. In any event, whatever Abbas said, Palestinians say that 8 million refugees must return to Israel. How 400,000 refugees in 1948 grew to 8 million in the space of 65 years is one of the miracles of modern mathematics.
Let the Americans square those anomalies with Israel and then come back to us with complaints.
However the Americans did allow a tiny criticism of him:
In a rare attribution of some blame to Abbas, the Americans said they “couldn’t understand why it bothered him so much” to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. But here too, ultimately, the Americans were empathetic to Abbas: “The Palestinians came to the conclusion that Israel was pulling a nasty trick on them. They suspected there was an effort to get from them approval of the Zionist narrative.”
It is also way beyond time that Kerry and all the rest of the President’s Men would explain why Israel refusing to accept a vicious murderous antisemitic entity on its doorstep risks making it into an apartheid state, whereas the Palestinians wishing to create a vicious murderous antisemitic entity on Israel’s doorstep does not make the Palestinians risk turning into an apartheid state.
Double standards anyone?