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Kerry: Peace Isn't About Me, It's About You

Israel’s security "is our first priority," says Kerry at AIPAC conference. "We will not let the West Bank turn into another Gaza."
By Ari Soffer and Elad Benari
First Publish: 3/4/2014, 3:43 AM

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday reaffirmed America’s friendship with Israel and its commitment to the Jewish state’s security.

Kerry, who spoke at the AIPAC conference in Washington, said that his peace efforts were “not about him” but were about the “dreams of Israelis” and the “dignity of Palestinians.”

“People ask me why am I so committed to these negotiations and why am I convinced that peace is possible,” he said, adding, that it was wrong to ask him why he visits the region so much.

“This isn’t about me,” said Kerry, adding that his peace efforts were all about answering King David’s timeless call – that we seek peace and pursue it.

Israel’s security "is our first priority," he said, adding, “When [Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu] says, ‘I can’t accept a deal which doesn’t make the people of Israel safer’, I agree 100%.”

Kerry further declared that the United States "will not let the West Bank turn into another Gaza," explaining that it was for this reason that he brought John Allen to work with all sides to make the borders of the future Palestinian state as secure as any other.

“We understand Israel has to be strong in order to make peace. But we also understand that peace will make Israel stronger,” he stated.

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, claimed Kerry, is genuinely committed to working against violence and his own security forces have worked to fight terror together with Israeli security forces.

Abbas “understands the tremendous benefits of peace and the cost of failure,” claimed Kerry, adding that the PA chief knows that the Palestinian people will not get what they want without two states for two peoples.

He rejected recent criticism that was leveled at him after he threatened Israel that a failure in the peace talks would lead to global boycotts and delegitimization of the Jewish state.

“For more than 30 years I have staunchly opposed boycotts of Israel and I will continuously oppose boycotts of Israel – that will never change,” said Kerry, who added that the United States will use every tool to defeat attempts to delegitimize Israel in the United Nations.

The speech also referred to Iran’s nuclear program and the interim deal that was reached with it.  Netanyahu has repeatedly said that the interim agreement is dangerous and will allow Tehran to continue its nuclear program and give nothing back to the West while being rewarded with sanctions relief.  

Obama’s policy can be summed up in ten words, according to Kerry. “We will not permit Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon. Period.”

“We mean every word we say. Iran won’t get nuclear weapons,” he declared, explaining that stopping a nuclear “is not some favor we do for Israel – it is also in the interest of United States and surrounding Middle Eastern countries.”

“We have not changed one piece of the sanctions architecture,” he said, adding that the deal “is not about trusting Iran, but testing Iran.”

“You can be sure that if Iran fails this test America will not fail Israel,” declared Kerry, adding, “We have taken no options off the table.”

Kerry’s speech came after a meeting in the White House between Obama and Netanyahu, during which Netanyahu told Obama that “the greatest challenge, undoubtedly, is to prevent Iran from acquiring the capacity to make nuclear weapons. I think that goal can be achieved if Iran is prevented from enriching uranium and dismantles fully its military nuclear installations.”

Netanyahu also told the American president that over the past 20 years, Israel has made every concession possible to the PA, while the PA has responded with terrorism.

"In the 20 years since Israel embarked upon the [Oslo] peace treaty,” Netanyahu said, “Israel made great efforts to obtain peace – we evicted cities, we freed prisoners, and when you look at what we got in return – you see thousands of missiles on our cities, and suicide terrorists.”

"Israel is doing its part and the Palestinians are not,” he stated. “And that is the truth, and the Nation of Israel knows it is the truth, because they live it.”

Hours before Kerry’s speech, Abbas threatened to end the negotiations with Israel unless it freezes construction in Judea and Samaria.

Abbas’s threats came during his meeting with Meretz Chairwoman MK Zehava Galon. “I will put the keys on the table and turn to international organizations,” he declared during that meeting.

"The only way we will agree to extend the talks is if Netanyahu announces a settlement freeze and the release of other prisoners beyond the next scheduled release,” Abbas told Galon.