As a new intifada brews in the Middle East, Secretary of State John Kerry will be flying to Israel in an effort to move the crisis away from the “precipice.”
Kerry was engaging in a Q&A at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government yesterday and stressed that he was recently on the phone with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The State Department said he was sending both leaders the same message about their responsibility to keep the peace as Palestinians have been randomly stabbing Israelis in the streets.
“We’re working on trying to calm things down. And I will go there soon at some point appropriately and try to work to re-engage and see if we can’t move that away from this precipice,” Kerry said.
He warned the audience that “if we don’t do a better job of taking our values and our interests and marrying them and engaging with the rest of the world to give greater capacity to international multilateral efforts, it’s going to come back to haunt people.”
“And so I’m very clear about sort of where we are. If you support a two-state – I’ll bet – how many people in this room support a two-state solution in Israel? Raise your hands. A lot of hands. Some hands are not being raised. How many of you support – don’t support a two-state solution? Well, you just didn’t vote. You’re opting out. You’re not allowed to opt out. You cannot go to Harvard and opt out, okay? Not allowed.”
Kerry added that “unless we get going, a two-state solution could conceivably be stolen from everybody.”
“And there’s been a massive increase in settlements over the course of the last years,” he said in a needle at the Israelis. “Now you have this violence because there’s a frustration that is growing, and a frustration among Israelis who don’t see any movement. So I look at that and I say if that did explode – and I pray and hope it won’t and I think there are options to prevent that – but we would inevitably be – at some point we’re going to have to be engaged in working through those kinds of difficulties. So better to try to find the ways to deal with it before that happens than later.”
State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters yesterday that the administration believes Abbas “shares our concerns, as does Prime Minister Netanyahu, and it’s in both their interests to reduce tensions.”
“…I mean, again, there’s not a switch that can be turned. But I think both sides need to make an effort to reduce tensions. That’s what we’re looking for.”