Secretary of State John Kerry wrapped up his visit to Israel branding the nuclear agreement with Iran as just “another issue” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wanted to discuss as Kerry tried to press a Mideast peace plan.
Kerry also met with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.
He told reporters at Ben Gurion airport today that “the United States will only support a final status agreement that makes both Israelis and Palestinians more secure than they are today.”
“Since the two parties first agreed to resume talks four months ago, they have held regular discussions and the United States has remained in close contact with both sides. It hasn’t been easy; I won’t pretend that. But none of the parties embarked on this path with the expectation that it was going to be a simple or easy process. We all knew upfront that it would be a long, arduous, and complicated journey,” Kerry said.
“Nonetheless, it is absolutely clear to me through the discussions that we had – and believe me, I wouldn’t spend these hours and I wouldn’t come back here given the agenda that we face on a global basis if I didn’t think it was worthwhile, if President Obama didn’t believe it was worth pursuing. And it is quite clear that both President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu remain as determined as ever to continue down this path and to explore these possibilities. Because both parties have the same endpoint in their sights: Two nations for two peoples living side by side in peace and prosperity.”
Kerry later mentioned the P5+1 nuclear agreement with Iran as “another issue at the heart of Israel’s security that’s also been a key focus of all of our discussions.”
“The United States firmly believes that the P5+1 first-step agreement not only makes Israel more secure than it was the day before that agreement, but we believe it will take us closer to a lasting, peaceful, and comprehensive solution to the Iranian nuclear program. It is the best opportunity we have to resolve the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program,” he said.
“I pledge this, as President Obama has: As we proceed forward in this negotiation, we will continue to consult very closely with Israel as the negotiations resume as well as with our other friends and allies in the region and around the world, because that input is critical to us in the process.”
Kerry brought retired Gen. John Allen on the trip to try to convince the Israelis to buy a security analysis conducted by the Obama administration “that could help both the Palestinians and the Israelis to make judgments about some of the choices that are important to arriving at an agreement.”
“The intelligence community, the Department of Defense, the State Department, the White House – all have been engaged in thinking through the various possibilities of how you deal with one problem or another with respect to security. And so obviously, security is paramount in the minds of the prime minister and his team with respect to their ability to be able to move forward with other issues that have to be dealt with,” he said.
Pressed again to talk about Iran, Kerry said he didn’t discuss with Netanyahu the intent of both Dems and Republicans in Congress to pass new Iran sanctions after the Senate returns next week.
“I am personally convinced beyond any reasonable doubt that Israel is safer today after we have reached this first-step agreement than it was before we did that. Why do I say that? I say that because we are now engaged in the major comprehensive discussion that the prime minister wanted us to be engaged in, but guess what? We have stopped their program where it is.”
Yet he corrected himself on what Iran has been doing since the Geneva agreement was signed.
“They are destroying – under requirements, they will have to destroy the 20 percent enriched uranium in its entirety,” Kerry said.
“Israel and the United States are absolutely in sync, not an ounce of daylight between us, with respect to the need to make sure that Iran cannot achieve a nuclear weapon, will not in the future be able to achieve it, and certainly cannot move towards it without the United States of America and Israel knowing that and therefore being able to take steps to deal with it. I believe Israel is safer today and we will approach this final negotiation with an absolute view about Israel’s security, Israel’s safety, the region’s safety, and our ability to stand up afterwards and say, this was an agreement that was good for the region, good for Israel, good for the United States, good for the world.”