Outgoing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called on Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) to resume stalled peace talks, lamenting the fact that his peace efforts failed.
In an exit memo to President Barack Obama, Kerry also lauded the nuclear deal with Iran which, he claimed, left Iran “at least a year away” from being able to produce a nuclear weapon.
“On Israeli-Palestinian peace,” Kerry wrote, “we have remained committed to realizing the vision of a two-state solution: a secure, democratic Jewish state of Israel living side-by-side with an independent, viable and contiguous Palestinian state.
“During my time in office, we worked very hard to restart negotiations between the two sides to see if progress was indeed possible. Unfortunately, the parties were not willing to make the difficult choices necessary to move forward with the negotiations,” he wrote.
“Since then, we have been calling on the parties to demonstrate with policies and actions a genuine commitment to the two-state solution and to create the conditions for the resumption of successful negotiations. I sincerely hope for the future of both Israelis and Palestinians alike that their leaders will make the difficult choices necessary to advance the prospects for peace,” added Kerry.
The memo comes a week after Kerry’s speech in which he singled out Israeli communities in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem, saying they present an obstacle to peace.
His peace efforts in 2014 failed when the PA applied to 15 international organizations in breach of the conditions of the peace talks.
Since then, PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas has continuously rejected direct talks, choosing instead to impose preconditions for such talks.
On Iran, Kerry wrote in his memo that the U.S. “knew that a diplomatic solution was the most durable and verifiable way to ensure we met President Obama’s pledge to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.”
While Washington “painstakingly brought the world together” to establish tougher sanctions on Iran, [s]anctions alone could not have ended the threat from Iran’s nuclear program, nor were they intended to do so,” wrote Kerry.
“Even as its program continued to advance, installing 19,000 centrifuges and stockpiling enough enriched uranium to make several bombs, the objective was always to test whether the increased pressure had made a negotiated solution possible and to ultimately avoid the need for war.
“After reaching out to Iran through bilateral channels and more than two and a half years of intense multilateral negotiations, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, China, the European Union and Iran agreed on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an agreement that has verifiably cut off all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon.
“Before the JCPOA, Iran was under 90 days away from having the material necessary to produce one nuclear weapon. Today, because of the JCPOA, they are at least a year away – and the unprecedented transparency measures allow us to know almost immediately if Iran fails to comply, giving us plenty of time to act,” claimed Kerry.
“Pursuant to the JCPOA, the United States and our partners have, in turn, lifted nuclear-related sanctions on Iran – the sanctions we put in place precisely to reach this kind of diplomatic solution. This has created opportunities and the prospect of a better future for the Iranian people,” he wrote.
Kerry further claimed that in reaching the Iran deal, “we took a major security threat off the table without firing a single shot. The United States, our partners and allies in the Middle East (including Israel), and the entire international community are safer today because of the JCPOA.”
The memo marks the third time that Kerry has claimed that the Iran deal made Israel safer.
In December, the Secretary of State rejected President-elect Donald Trump's references to the agreement as a "disaster" and "the worst deal ever negotiated".
"The region is safer, Germany and the United States are safer, Europe is safer, Israel is safer and the world is safer... It depends on all of us to keep this alive," he said.
In February, Kerry cited comments by IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot as proof that the nuclear deal with Iran has improved Israel's security.
Israel remains opposed to the deal, however. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, speaking recently to the Saban Forum, reiterated his longstanding position on the threat Iran poses to the State of Israel, and added that he looks forward to speaking with Trump “about what to do about this bad deal."