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Kerry Defends Peace Process at AIPAC: ‘This Isn’t About Me; This Is About the Dreams of Israelis’

Encourages support of Arab peace plan and tells crowd Obama is "unrivaled" on Israel policy: "You can look it up, you can measure it, it's not exaggeration."

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

March 3, 2014 - 6:09 pm

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry tried to assure the country’s largest pro-Israel lobby that the Iran nuclear deal was the last, best hope of stopping Tehran while proclaiming Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas a willing partner for peace.

Kerry showed up 45 minutes late for his Monday evening address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington as both Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and an AIPAC board member tried to assure the crowd that Kerry was a longtime friend of Israel.

And one of Kerry’s first messages to the massive crowd — more than 14,000 registered for the conference — was that Israel had no better friend than President Obama.

While extolling how Obama is “unrivaled” on Israel policy, the secretary of State challenged anyone to say otherwise: “You can look it up, you can measure it, it’s not exaggeration, it’s a matter of fact.”

“I know there are many questions” about the Iran nuclear deal, Kerry acknowledged. “There’s been a healthy debate about the approach.”

Then he laid out administration policy in 10 words: “We will not permit Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon, period.” He then corrected himself — it was 11 words, “just for punctuation.”

Kerry received a standing ovation for that line and for a condemnation of the boycott movement directed at Israel, yet received slight or polite applause at other points in the speech.

“But I want you to understand, there are no if, ands or buts. This is not a political policy. This is a real foreign policy, and we mean every word of what we say. You have the word of the president of the United States that Iran will not get a nuclear weapon,” said Kerry. “…And we also know something else: This is not some favor that we do for Israel. This is something that is also in the interests of the United States of America.”

“Now to do that, to achieve this all-important goal, important for America’s security and for Israel’s security, it is crucial that we seize what might be the last best chance to be able to have diplomacy work, and maybe the last chance for quite some time. Because the reality is only strong diplomacy can fully and permanently achieve the goal. Those who say ‘strike’ and ‘hit’ need to go look at exactly what happens after you’ve done that… only strong diplomacy can guarantee that a nuclear weapons program actually goes away.”

Still, he acknowledged, there’s no guarantee that Iran will play ball.

“I’m not coming here to stand up in front of you and tell you that I know that Iran is going to reach an agreement. I don’t know. I don’t know what they’ll do. I don’t know if they are able to make some of the tough decisions they’re going to have to make in the months ahead, but I know that if the United States is going to be able to look the world in the eye and say we have to do something, we have to have exhausted the possibilities available to us for that diplomatic, peaceful resolution,” Kerry said. “Let me make it clear: Our approach is not Ronald Reagan’s and the Soviets. We’re not looking at this and saying trust, ‘Trust, but verify.’ Our approach, in a much more complex and dangerous world, is, ‘Verify, and verify.’ And that’s what we intend to do.”

Despite relaxed sanctions that coaxed Iran into a six-month interim agreement, he told the crowed “we have not changed one piece of the sanctions architecture, and yet we are able to negotiate.”

“Our eyes, my friends, are wide open. This is not a process that is open-ended. This is not a process that is about trusting Tehran. This is about testing Tehran. And you can be sure that, if Iran fails this test, America will not fail Israel,” he said. “Now, we have taken no options off of the table, but so far, there is no question but that tough sanctions and strong diplomacy are already making Israel and America safer.”

The Iran deal has been a key point of criticism around this year’s conference, and Kerry appeared to acknowledge that by quipping, “Like I tell my staff, there aren’t any exit polls in foreign policy.”

“If it turns out that Iran cannot address the world’s concerns,” then the administration will support sanctions bills in Congress. “…Iran is not open for business until Iran is closed for nuclear bombs.”

Turning his attention to trying to sell the Mideast peace negotiations, Kerry claimed, “This isn’t about me. This is about the dreams of Israelis and the dignity of Palestinians.”

“It’s about reconciling two peoples who want, at long last, to live normal, secure lives in the land that they have fought over for so long. It’s about answering King David’s timeless call that we seek peace and pursue it. It’s about fulfilling the fervent prayer for peace that Jews around the world recite to welcome Shabbat,” he said. “…I also believe that we are at a point in history that requires the United States, as Israel’s closest friend and the world’s preeminent power, to do everything we can to help end this conflict once and for all.”

“I have sat with Bibi Netanyahu for hours and hours and days and days… In fact, he ought to be charging me rent.”

After praising the Israeli prime minister’s “grit and guts,” Kerry turned his praise to Abbas.

“I know there are many doubters here. I’ve heard the arguments for 30-plus years, 40 years, that there’s no partner for peace, that Abbas won’t be there, that — you know, both sides, by the way, say the same thing about each other,” he said. “…Thus far, President Abbas, I will tell you, has demonstrated he wants to be a partner for peace. He’s committed to trying to end the conflict and all of its claims. But he obviously has a point of view about what’s fair and how he can do that.”

“As Israeli security officials will attest, President Abbas has been genuinely committed against violence.” He later claimed Abbas has sought Washington’s help in getting rid of the “germ” of incitement.

Kerry argued that “there is a distinction between a unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon or from Gaza, where nothing is resolved, and a phased withdrawal that is negotiated where everything is at least in an agreement resolved…. We’re not doing this on a whim and a prayer. We will never let the West Bank turn into another Gaza.”

He also suggested that a peace deal would “transform Israel’s standing in the region” and open up relations with Muslim countries. “Peace demands that Israel fulfill its destiny not just as a nation, but also as a neighbor. And that begins with the Palestinians, and it extends to the entire Arab League, whose Arab peace initiative can open the door to peace and normalized relations with 20 additional Arab countries and a total of 55 Muslim countries.”

The Arab peace plan, which Netanyahu has previously rejected but Abbas has asked Obama to make his official foreign policy, calls for a return to 1967 borders, a “just solution” on the right of return, and divides Jerusalem to make a capital for a Palestinian state.

“It is really no mystery what the end game really looks like. I think you know that in your hearts. We understand what the end game is. I know what peace looks like,” Kerry continued, defining this as: “security arrangements that leave Israelis more secure, not less; mutual recognition of the nation-state of the Jewish people and the nation-state of the Palestinian people; an end to the conflict and to all claims; a just and agreed solution for Palestinian refugees, one that does not diminish the Jewish character in the state of Israel; and a resolution that finally allows Jerusalem to live up to its name, as the city of peace.”

Kerry, who has set April 29 as a goal for a Mideast agreement framework, said forging a deal would mean “tough choices on both sides, especially over the coming days.”

“I guarantee you that America, that President Obama and this administration will be there every day of the week, every step of the way,” he said. “And we will stand with Israel’s leaders today and with the leaders of the future. And we will ensure that our light shines not just throughout the nations, but throughout the generations.”

Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.

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Top Rated Comments   
A bored, indifferent dilettante parroting the demands of an equally bored, empty suit.

Their "Dream" for the Israeli's is the peace of the grave.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
Brazen, bronzed bull$h!t

"...extolling how Obama is “unrivaled” on Israel policy..." How is unrivaled = good?? Semantic BS.

"...only strong diplomacy can guarantee that a nuclear weapons program actually goes away". Really? And the evidence there is...??

"...You have the word of the president of the United States that Iran will not get a nuclear weapon". There's a howler! The word of the President! Take comfort Bibi!

"...a peace deal would “transform Israel’s standing in the region” and open up relations with Muslim countries." And this wisdom is based on what exactly? The only reset that would improve Israel's standing with its 'religion of peace' neighbors would be it's elimination.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
Kerry: "unrivaled" on Israel policy: "You can look it up, you can measure it, it's not exaggeration."

In your mind and your world filled with unicorns and rainbows, I'm sure, John, you believe it.

However, we who live in the real world choke on the stench from your comment.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (34)
All Comments   (34)
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The same Obama actually favors the radical shiites to the conservatives sunnis.He has willfully aligned the US foreign policy towards the iranian expansionnist-agressive plan and has abandonned Saudi Arabia-Koweit .United Arab Emirates.His grand plan is to save his " legacy " (L.O.L) in the mideast with a bogus " grand deal " with Iran.Why this weakness ? I suspect Iran already has the nukes and BhO is too chicken to react.The same situation happened with North Korea, who lied and cheated about its nukes just to get some relief help from the USa-Japan then it detonated its nuke.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
Kerry has just threatened israel of a third violent intifida , if Israel does not comply to the PLO demands.What kind of friend is this guy ? Why does the AIPAC refrain from calling a spade a spade and Kerry another " state dept.arabist " in pin-strip suit.Kerry-Obama aim at dismantling israel step-by-step; this is exactly the PLO " peace-by-stages " assaultmethod wich started in Oslo 1993 and keep going on.The gaza total evacuation was a real-life full-scale proof of this PLO strategy ; sign " peace " with one hand (Abbas -PLO-Palestinian Authorithy ) , wage war with the other ( Hamas-islamic jihad-Hizbollah ).Obama works also very hard at giving Iran all the license and time to produce nukes.The US intelligence agencies are either blind or inept or willfully instructed not to give the truth about the iranian nukes program. Let's stop the B.S , Obama works very hard for the step-by-step dismantling of Israel.The same obama actually prefers the radical shiites to the conserva
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
the majority of the US population couldn't find Israel on a map. Don't believe anything this admin says...
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
This IS about me and my stab at the presidency.

Kerry
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
“We will not permit Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon, period.”

I worry when this administration punctuates a promise with that word, "period". Ain't that right, Doc?

Doc?

Doc?

Where'd ya go, Doc?
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
You have to admit, Kerry told the truth for the first time in his life - indeed Obama is unrivaled on Israel policy, although the Iranians are close.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
Kerry and Obama are unrivaled for BS+chutzpah. as is well known to sensient beings.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
http://clarespark.com/2009/09/11/oil-politics-and-obamas-view-of-israeli-history/. Kerry follows Obama in agreeing that there is moral equivalence between Israelis and Palestinians. This was clear from the outset in Obama's second book, and why I opposed him in 2008. How many Democrats of Jewish descent follow this same playbook, with only hostility to a "Jewish state?" Such are the ways of "assimilated Jews."
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
When your beliefs and world view are unsound and illogical and when you have to fundamentally lie in order to avoid outrage in the audience, you end up spouting nonsensical, meaningless, inarticulate crap like this. This is a signature of this regime across all functions. Hey guys, we can handle the truth - you just don't know what it is.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
How do you spell "useful idiot?" S-c-h-u-m-e-r.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
Alternate spelling; O-B-A-M-A. Oh, wait. You specified 'useful'.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
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