U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly took Israel to task at a private meeting in New York last Monday over its policy in Judea and Samaria, Haaretz reported Sunday.
According to the newspaper, Kerry’s comments came at a closed meeting of ministers representing the countries providing financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA).
The Secretary of State repeatedly raised his voice, emphasizing that Israel and the PA are moving in the direction of a binational state rather than a Palestinian state alongside Israel and are also headed toward war.
Kerry reportedly added that if the international community is interested in putting a halt to these developments, “Either we mean it and we act on it, or we should shut up.”
Western diplomats who were present at the meeting, but who asked not to be identified because the meeting was not public, noted that Kerry was extremely agitated.
While he blasted Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria, the U.S. Secretary of State also expressed criticism of the PA, the sources said, citing the increased number of terror attacks and the incitement against Israel.
However, the thrust of his remarks constituted criticism of what was described as “the unprecedented rate” of construction in Judea and Samaria particular, and Israel’s policies in the region in general, according to Haaretz.
The Western diplomats quoted by the newspaper noted that Kerry’s comments presented the despair on both sides, but also the understanding emerging not only on Kerry’s part but also among an increasing number of senior White House officials that they need to seriously consider the possibility of promoting a resolution at the United Nations Security Council or at another international forum.
Such a resolution would be promoted immediately after the U.S. presidential election in November, and would deal with the Israeli-Palestinian issue and preserving the option of a two-state solution in the future.
The report comes following recent criticism of Israel by American officials. At his speech before the UN General Assembly last week, President Barack Obama called on the PA to recognize Israel but also said that "Israel must understand it can't permanently continue to build on Palestinian land."
Following Obama’s speech and before the President’s meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, said the President does not rule out action against the “settlements”, but stressed no specific proposal has been presented to him yet.
At the New York meeting last Wednesday between Netanyahu and Obama, the subject did not come up for discussion, though Obama did tell Netanyahu of his concerns about Israel’s construction in Judea and Samaria.
In interviews the prime minister gave to Israeli television networks over the weekend, he said he hoped Obama would not force a unilateral political solution on Israel.
At last Monday’s conference of countries providing funding to the PA, noted Haaretz, Kerry told the several dozen foreign ministers in attendance that after close to four years of talks with Netanyahu and PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas, he had come to the conclusion that the actions the two have been taking — and, more than that, the actions they are not taking — are deepening the diplomatic stalemate.
“Now, every single terrible act of violence, every new settlement announcement, takes us not closer to peace; they take us closer to a one-state solution,” he was quoted as having said. “That is no solution. It is an invitation to perpetual conflict. And as Shimon Peres himself said, it will bring one war, not one state. Make no mistake about it, I believe that is the risk if we continue on the current course.”
Kerry noted that since the release last July of a Quartet report that included a major warning regarding the direction in which the Israelis and Palestinians were headed, there has only been an increase in violence and Palestinian incitement has continued. In addition, plans for 2,400 new housing units in Judea and Samaria were announced and there has been a dramatic increase in Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes, he said.
He reportedly also presented figures indicating that since Obama took office in 2009, the number of Israelis in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem has increased by 95,000, and that 15,000 of that increase has come in the past year alone.
“How does increasing the number of settlers indicate an attempt to create a Palestinian state?” Kerry asked, raising his voice. “The status quo is not sustainable. So either we mean it and we act on it, or we should shut up.”
“If we really want to get serious about a two-state solution, we need much more than just one-time agreements and improvements. We need to fundamentally change the dynamic by resuming the transition to greater Palestinian civil authority in Area C, which was called for in prior agreements,” he continued, before saying that Israelis and Palestinians are at a crossroads.
“Either we reverse course and take serious steps on the path to a two-state solution, or the momentum of existing actions will carry us further toward an intractable one-state reality that nobody wants and nobody really thinks can work,” he warned.