Secretary of State John Kerry made a foray into internal Israeli politics on Sunday night, slamming the Israeli cabinet and singling out Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) by name, saying that Bennett’s recent statements on the future of Judea and Samaria were “profoundly disturbing”.
Kerry spoke Sunday evening at the annual Saban Forum, hosted by the left-leaning Brookings Institute, one of whose overseas branches is in Qatar.
The Secretary spoke at length about his feelings towards Israel and Zionism, and his belief that Israel is headed in the wrong direction – and that the future of Israel is at risk.
"I do feel really passionate - genuinely passionate about Israel: the Land of Milk and Honey,” said Kerry.
Calling Zionism and Israel “the greatest story ever told,” Kerry warned that the State of Israel was treading down a dangerous path.
“But it’s not finished. The end of the story has not yet been written."
"There is no status quo - it is getting worse. It is moving in the wrong direction,” he said. "I have to tell you the truth. I have to share with you facts and describe to you why I am concerned. I come to you as someone who is concerned about the safety and security of Israel."
Specifically, said Kerry, Israel must confront what he described as a binary choice: to either permit Jews to flourish in Judea and Samaria, or to separate from the area and establish a Palestinian state.
"There's a basic choice that has to be made by Israelis - by the leadership of Israel. By all of you who support and care about Israel. Are there going to be continued settlements - continued implementation of settlement policy - or separation and the creation of two states?"
The Secretary then castigated Israel’s governing coalition, noting that a majority have explicitly rejected Palestinian statehood. He did not mention Abbas' refusal to recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland.
"Out of the mouths of ministers in the current government have come profoundly disturbing statements recently. To wit, Naftali Bennett said... a few weeks ago: 'This represents the end of the era of the two-state solution'. And more than 50 percent of the ministers in the current government have publicly stated they are opposed to a Palestinian state and that there will be no Palestinian state," Kerry said.
"I'm not here to tell you that the settlements are the reason for the conflict, no, they're not," Kerry said.
"But I also cannot accept the notion that they don't affect the peace process, that they aren't a barrier to the capacity to have peace."
Adopting the leftist canard that only the left wants peace rather than the right's claim that a Palestinian state will become a Hamas stronghold, pose a security risk to the state and therefore be a bigger barrier to peace, he asserted: "And I'll tell you why I know that: because the left in Israel is telling everybody they are a barrier to peace and the right that supports it openly supports it because they don't want peace."