Secretary of State John Kerry denounced the word “chickenshit” to describe Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as a senior administration official told The Atlantic, but in the same breath described the country as one that “wants to be a Jewish state.”
As soon as the article was brought up to Kerry today at the Washington Ideas Forum, he said “the long game, as everybody knows from the investment I made much of last year, is to find a way to bring the parties to make peace in the Middle East.”
“We still believe it is doable, but it takes courage, it takes strength. You have to be prepared — both sides have to be prepared to compromise in order to do it,” he said. “Here’s what I know, and I think all of you know this, viscerally and intellectually. And I’ve asked this question of people in the Middle East.”
“One of the great challenges for Israel is obviously not to be a bi-national state. It wants to be a Jewish state. To be a Jewish state, you clearly have to resolve the issue of two states.”
Kerry argued that “if you don’t and you are a unitary state and people have equal rights to vote and participate as citizens, is Israel going to have a Palestinian prime minister?”
“I don’t think so. I don’t think so. Not going to happen.”
Netanyahu regularly refers to Israel as the Jewish state.
“So therefore, what is the solution here? How do you move forward?” Kerry said. “And what we’re trying to do is evenhandedly and hopefully thoughtfully strengthen Israel’s ability to free of rockets — not strengthen, to make it free of rockets, to — to end this perpetual conflict in a way that provides for the complete security of Israel, which has a right totally to be free of tunnels coming into its country, terrorists jumping out of a tunnel with handcuffs, with tranquilizer drugs, guns next to a kibbutz. No country would tolerate that.”
Kerry said to put pressure on the parties the administration needs “to work quietly and effectively, and we condemn anybody who uses language such as was used in this article.”
“It does not reflect president. It does not reflect me. It is — it is disgraceful, unacceptable, damaging, and — and — and I think neither President Obama nor I — I’ve never heard that word around me in the White House or anywhere,” he added.
“I don’t know who these anonymous people are who keep getting quoted in things, but they make life much more difficult, and we are proud of what we have done to help Israel through a very difficult time.”
Kerry lauded Obama for being “supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself in the recent — obviously, in this recent war.”
“But at the same time, the president wants to try to nurse the parties together to resolve these differences.”
On the Nov. 24 deadline for a nuclear deal with Iran, Kerry said he’s “not gonna give it odds.”
“As I said to the president recently, I’m not going to express optimism,” he said. “I’m going to express hope.”
“Whether Iran can make the tough decisions that it needs to make will be determined in the next weeks. But I have said consistently that no deal was better than a bad deal. And we’re going to be very careful, very — very much based on expert advice, facts, science as to the choices we make,” Kerry continued, adding it shouldn’t be an “ideological or political decision.”
“If we can do what we’ve said, what the president set out in his policy — the president said they will not get a bomb. If we could take this moment of history and change this dynamic, the world would be a lot safer, and we’d avoid a huge arms race in the region where Saudis, Emirates, Egyptians, others may decide that if they’re moving towards a bomb, they gotta move there, too.”
Yesterday Daniel W. Drezner, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, suggested in the Washington Post that there could be a reason for the foul language.
“The one thing this kind of trash-talking does is send a signal to Iran about the U.S. commitment to a nuclear deal,” Drezner wrote.