Secretary of State John Kerry, in one of his strongest statements for Israeli-Palestinian peace so far, tonight addressed the conservative American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and said that the United States’ most advanced technology and the Pentagon’s know-how can guarantee the security that Israel needs to make peace with the Palestinians.
Kerry was joined at the AIPAC conference by his Middle East peace team, including his special Middle East peace envoy, Martin Indyk, as well as by America’s ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro.
Kerry said that under President Obama’s leadership, there has been a “complete unmatched commitment to Israel’s security, unrivaled,” to make sure that Israel “has the means to defend itself by itself.”
Kerry started his speech by focusing on Iran. He drew a round of applause when he said “We will not permit Iran to have nuclear weapons. Period.” He went on to say that the Obama administration is committed to denying Iran a nuclear weapon, not as a favor to Israel, but because it is the national security interest of the United States and its allies. “We are not going to let it happen. Period. End of story,” Kerry exclaimed.
He made the case for diplomacy, but made clear that he and President Obama understand the skepticism regarding the ability of diplomatic tools to achieve that goal. Because of that, Kerry said, “we have not changed one piece of the sanctions architecture” against Iran. “Our eyes are wide open,” he said. The current process is about testing Iran, said Kerry, and promised: “If Iran fails this test, America will not fail Israel.”
On his efforts to broker Israeli-Palestinian peace, Kerry said that he is so committed to Israeli-Palestinian peace because he is committed to the dreams of Israelis and Palestinians who want to live normal lives in the land of their forefathers. “We are at a point of history that requires the United States to do whatever it can to end the conflict once and for all,” Kerry said.
Kerry said that Israeli and Palestinian leaders will have difficult choices to make. He praised both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas for their efforts to achieve a peace agreement. He took time to make the case for there being a Palestinian partner for peace, President Abbas, saying that he knows there are many doubters in the crowd.
Addressing security, Kerry said “Israel’s security is our first priority.” He talked about General John Allen’s efforts to make the Jordan Valley border the most secure border it can be. “We believe that we can deliver to Israel the security that it needs to make peace,” he said. “We will not allow the West Bank to turn into Gaza,” Kerry said.
Secretary Kerry talked about the economic benefits that Israel would enjoy if it makes peace with the Palestinians. He also said that he always has opposed boycotts of Israel and always will continue to oppose them. “That will not change,” he said.
“It is no mystery what the endgame looks like,” Kerry said, after all the rounds of negotiations that Israelis have conducted with Palestinians in the past. “This is not new” he said, but did not provide any details about the makeup of the “framework” for a future Israeli-Palestinian agreement that he and his team are currently preparing.
Kerry quoted from the lyrics of the “Song of Peace,” the hymn of the Israeli peace movement, which Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin sang just before being assassinated in 1995. He ended by saying that the decisions made by Israeli and Palestinian leaders today will impact the lives of generations to come.