Op-Ed: John Kerry’s Missteps Negotiating in the Middle East

By Todd Goldblum, M.D.

Secretary of State John Kerry’s December 2016 speech regarding the recent UN vote on Israeli settlement activity seemed genuine and heartfelt. He blamed both the Israelis and the Palestinians for the conflict, but he stressed Israeli settlements as the main obstacle to peace. Unfortunately, Kerry has misled the American people and made peace much harder between the two parties.

First, he implied a moral equivalency between Israel’s construction in disputed territories and the belligerent, anti-Semitic activities of Palestinian leadership. I find this disturbing. How can one compare the building of homes and schools on disputed land to calls for violence and the murder of Jews by the Palestinian Authority? Should we tell the mother of a child killed by a Palestinian terrorist that their loss is the result of Israel building houses and schools? In contrast, Israel condemns and punishes all forms of terrorism including those incited by Jews. When Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, Israel forcibly removed the settlers there from their homes, bulldozing entire communities. Houses can be relinquished but a slain human life is lost forever.

Second, John Kerry neglected to state that Palestinian authority will not permit Jews to live in a Palestinian state. Compare this to Israel, which grants equal rights to all people no matter their religion, race, or sexual orientation. The Israeli Knesset (Parliament) represents the diversity of Israel with members from all communities, including Arabs and Christians. Compare this to Gaza, where LGBTQ individuals are murdered and children are used as human shields. The Hamas charter openly calls for the destruction of Israel and murder of Jews. How can peace be achieved when one side calls for the destruction of the other?

Kerry also neglected to mention that the UN Security Council’s irreversible resolution actually claims that historic Jewish sites and institutions exist illegally in occupied land. This includes Judaism’s most holy site, the Temple Mount, and the Kotel (Western Wall), as well as Mount Scopus and Hebrew University. Does Kerry not remember that Jews were banned from these sites only when Jordan forcibly occupied these areas prior to 1967, an era in which Jewish synagogues and holy sites were desecrated?

Perhaps the most egregious omission from Mr. Kerry’s remarks is that Israel has, on at least two occasions, offered the Palestinians over 98% of the West Bank and all of Gaza, and yet it has always been the Palestinians themselves who have repeatedly refused. Why? Because they do not accept Israel as a Jewish state existing beside a Palestinian state. Instead, their true aim is an Arab land “from the river to the sea,” replacing the entire State of Israel with a new State of Palestine, driving the Jews once and for all from the Holy Land.

While Mr. Kerry has since yielded his post to a new administration, likely with a different perspective on the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the irreversible UN resolution that he supported imposes a solution on Israel by people who live thousands of miles away. Rather than promoting peace, it helps prevent a peaceful two-state solution from occurring. Direct, bilateral negotiation has, in the past, resulted in progress between Jews and Arabs. Examples include Israel’s successful peace treaties with Egypt in 1979, and Jordan in 1994. Unfortunately, the UN continues to display an extreme anti-Israel bias, having condemned Israel many more times than serial human rights violators Syria, Iran, North Korea, and China combined.

So go ahead, remove the settlements. Peace will never come until the world asks the Palestinian leadership to accept Israel, renounce terrorism, and return to the table to negotiate a peaceful solution.


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