Photo Credit: State Dept. Website screen capture
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Many of my fellow Israelis and especially my neighbors here in Judea and Samaria objected to Secretary Kerry’s speech last night. We feel that the speech should never have been given, and we disagree with its content. Most of our objections to Secretary Kerry’s speech stems from assumptions he makes. We find these assumptions absurd. I’d like to highlight a few of them.

1. Kerry’s main premise is that both building settlements and terror impede a final peaceful settlement. Palestinians maintain that continued settlement building robs Palestinians of their future home and demonstrates a lack of commitment to a Palestinian state. Israelis obviously feel that continued terror attacks make it impossible to trust that the Palestinians are interested in peace. Kerry couples building with violent terrorism. The two should never find themselves in the same sentence. They are not equivalent.


2. “Friends need to tell each other the hard truths, and friendships require mutual respect. Every United States administration, Republican and Democratic, has opposed settlements as contrary to the prospects for peace, and action at the UN Security Council is far from unprecedented.” Allies don’t act prescriptively with each other. They consult each other and accept their decisions. They have the humility to recognize that they don’t know better than their ally what’s in their ally’s self-interest. They definitely don’t give major policy speeches about each other’s mistakes. They would never allow a resolution to be passed against an ally. The fact that previous administrations have committed this same sin doesn’t make it acceptable.

3. “Is ours the generation that gives up on the dream of a Jewish democratic state of Israel living in peace and security with its neighbors? Because that is really what is at stake.” It is arguable at best that the approach tried (and failed) over the last thirty years is the only way to ensure peace. I think it’s dubious to say that peace is at stake. What is at stake is John Kerry’s approach to peace. That failed approach is going to end if we don’t follow his recommendations. Just as sound argument can be made to say that after thirty years of failure it’s time to try something new.

4. “The vote in the United Nations was about preserving the two-state solution. That’s what we were standing up for: Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, living side by side in peace and security with its neighbors. That’s what we are trying to preserve for our sake and for theirs.” You don’t determine what your ally needs, your ally determines what it needs, and you support them. That’s what helping someone for their sake means.

5. “This Administration has been Israel’s greatest friend and supporter.” Support and friendship isn’t determined by the supporter it’s determined by the recipient. After the Iran deal and this resolution, Israel doesn’t see this administration as its greatest friend and supporter.

6. “Israel can either be Jewish or democratic – it cannot be both.” Actually it can. It simply requires the character of the state to be a Jewish one, but provides equal rights to all its citizens irrespective of their faith. It’s not the American founding father’s idea of Democracy but it’s still a Democracy. Just ask Costa Rica, Liechtenstein, Monaco and many others who are Democracies that have official religions.

7. “Hamas continues to pursue an extremist agenda: they refuse to accept Israel’s very right to exist. They have a one-state vision of their own: all of the land is Palestine.” It isn’t only Hamas that has an extremist one state vision that sees all of the land is Palestine. Travel through the Palestinian areas of the West Bank and the maps you’ll see of a Palestinian state aren’t of the West Bank, it stretches to the Mediterranean. The chant “From the River to the Sea” is sung by more than Hamas members.

Here are 22 more absurd assumptions that Kerry makes in his speech.

8. “[The] current coalition is the most right wing in Israeli history, with an agenda driven by the most extreme elements.” The most extreme elements of Israeli society are not sitting in the current coalition. No one in the current coalition holds extremist views, unless of course you consider maintaining that the two state solution isn’t the only solution an extremist view. But then the entire Republican Party is extreme, and they’re the majority of the American government.

9. “Settlement expansion has nothing to do with Israel’s security.” Since the Palestinians refuse to directly negotiate for their own state, Israel’s army is forced to administer the land west of the Jordan River. An army standing alone surrounded by its enemy is much less secure than one surrounded by its own towns. Israeli settlements provide territorial integrity and safety for the soldiers who patrol the disputed areas.

10. “Leaders of the settler movement are motivated by ideological imperatives that entirely ignore legitimate Palestinian aspirations. “ Kerry makes this seem nefarious. Why would settler leaders take Palestinian aspirations, which currently include ridding Israel of Jews, into account? Does the American military take Taliban aspirations into account when devising Afghanistan strategy?

11. “[Settler outposts] are often located on private Palestinian land.” I couldn’t find any statistics that back this claim except a Peace Now report that included 24 Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem as outposts.

12. “You may hear from advocates that the settlements are not an obstacle to peace because the settlers who don’t want to leave can just stay in Palestine, like the Arab Israelis who live in Israel. But that misses a critical point, my friends. The Arab Israelis are citizens of Israel, subject to Israel’s law. Does anyone here really believe that the settlers will agree to submit to Palestinian law in Palestine? “ This phenomenon can’t be understood in a vacuum. The reason Arab Israelis feel comfortable in Israel is because they aren’t violently attacked constantly. Jews are constantly attacked by Palestinians. Kerry’s argument that Jews can’t live under Palestinian rule because their lives would be threatened undermines his premise that there can be peace between our people.

13. “The reason building [in the blocs] or anywhere else in the West Bank now results in such pushback is that the decision of what constitutes a bloc is being made unilaterally by the Israeli Government, without consultation, without the consent of the Palestinians.” The Palestinians refuse to talk to the Israelis for seven years and the Israelis are criticized for building without consulting with or gaining the consent of the Palestinians?

14. “Palestinian structures in Area C that do not have a permit from the Israeli military are potentially subject to demolition. And they are currently being demolished at an historically high rate. Over 1,300 Palestinians, including over 600 children, have been displaced by demolitions in 2016 alone – more than any previous year.” What Secretary Kerry omitted is the percentage of these demolitions that were carried out as penalties for involvement in terror – nothing to do with permits at all.

15. “The settler agenda is defining the future of Israel. “ Not true, the security agenda has always defined Israel’s priorities. That happens when all of your neighbors hope for your demise. It happens to be that Israelis see their security increased along with the increase in settlements.

16. “If there is only one state, you would have millions of Palestinians permanently living in segregated enclaves in the middle of the West Bank, with no real political rights, separate legal, education, and transportation systems, vast income disparities, under a permanent military occupation that deprives them of the most basic freedoms. Separate and unequal is what you would have.” If Israel declared one state, it would offer citizenship to all Arabs, and they would enjoy equal rights of any Jewish Israeli just as their Muslim Arab brethren do in Israel today.

17. “If the occupation becomes permanent, over the time the Palestinian Authority could simply dissolve, turn over all the administrative and security responsibilities to the Israelis. What would happen then? Who would administer the schools and hospitals and on what basis? Does Israel want to pay for the billions of dollars of lost international assistance that the Palestinian Authority now receives?” The Israelis would take it over and run it efficiently. The international aid isn’t reaching the Palestinians anyway; it is siphoned off in a corrupt system that makes Yasser Arafat’s widow to be worth $2 billion and the Abbas family, with no personal business, worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

18. “How would Israel respond to a growing civil rights movement from Palestinians, demanding a right to vote, or widespread protests and unrest across the West Bank? How does Israel reconcile a permanent occupation with its democratic ideals? How does the U.S. continue to defend that and still live up to our own democratic ideals?” By annexing the West Bank and creating one state these issues disappear. Palestinians become citizens and enjoy equal rights.

19. “If Israel goes down the one state path, it will never have true peace with the rest of the Arab world.” Does anyone besides John Kerry really believe that even if Israel makes peace with the Palestinians, there will be peace between Arabs and Israelis? I don’t.

20. “That is what informed our vote at the Security Council last week – the need to preserve the two-state solution – and both sides in this conflict must take responsibility to do that. “ Kerry’s argument is that since Israel showed no interest in following Kerry’s path America was “forced” to abstain in a vote for a one-sided critical resolution against Israel. Refusing to follow your suggestion is not a reason to abandon a friend at the United Nations.

21. “The Obama Administration has always defended Israel against any effort at the UN and any international fora or biased and one-sided resolutions that seek to undermine its legitimacy or security, and that has not changed. It didn’t change with this vote.” The height of arrogance is thinking that by not stopping a vote against Israel you are still defending Israel. Who did America defend Israel against by abstaining in this vote? Itself?

22. “If we had vetoed this resolution just the other day, the United States would have been giving license to further unfettered settlement construction that we fundamentally oppose.” Kerry argues that if they had vetoed the resolution, their veto would have given license to Israel to continue building settlements. Yet, by that logic, Kerry and Obama should have allowed the 2011 resolution that they vetoed. Why didn’t they think that their 2011 veto would’ve given license to Israel to keep building? What changed between 2011 and 2016? I’m willing to bet that it’s their recognition of eight years of failure and Donald Trump’s repudiation of their approach to the Middle East.

23. “We also strongly reject the notion that somehow the United States was the driving force behind this resolution. The United States did not draft or originate this resolution, nor did we put it forward.” There are many ways to drive a resolution, only two of them including drafting and introducing it. According to Egyptian transcripts, America encouraged other countries to vote for this deal.

24. “Ultimately, it will be up to the Israeli people to decide whether the unusually heated attacks that Israeli officials have directed towards this Administration best serve Israel’s national interests and its relationship with an ally that has been steadfast in its support, as I described. “ The view in Israel, and among the majority of Americans, is that criticism of this administration is not criticism of America. In fact, criticism of the administration on this issue has been bipartisan from within America.

25. “No changes by Israel to the 1967 lines will be recognized by the international community unless agreed to by both sides.” I take issue with the assumption that we are going to start negotiating as if it was fifty years ago and nothing has happened in the past fifty years. I don’t think it’s just that the Palestinians can turn down statehood, attack Israel in war, terror, intifadas and engage in a peace process only to pull out prematurely, return to blowing up our busses, firing rockets at us and then decide to reengage in peace and receive everything without penalty. The Palestinians should lose territory as a consequence for the thousands of Israelis that died at their hands.

26. “Principle number three: Provide for a just, agreed, fair, and realistic solution to the Palestinian refugee issue.” Why are only the Palestinian refugees an issue? What about the 850,000 Jewish Arab refugees who were thrown out of their homes in Arab lands with the advent of the State of Israel. Are they not less deserving than Muslim Arab refugees for what they’ve lost?

27. “Provide an agreed resolution for Jerusalem as the internationally recognized capital of the two states.” As far as I know Jerusalem was never designated as a Palestinian capitol. Why should there be an assumption that Jerusalem will be divided? This should be a point of negotiation.

28. “President Obama and I know that the incoming administration has signaled that they may take a different path, and even suggested breaking from the longstanding U.S. policies on settlements, Jerusalem, and the possibility of a two-state solution. That is for them to decide. That’s how we work. But we cannot – in good conscience – do nothing, and say nothing, when we see the hope of peace slipping away.” Every major policy speech has to have a purpose. With an entirely new and probably opposing approach, the exact approach this speech warns against, about to become U.S. policy, what was the purpose of this speech? I’m not going to make any suggestions, because I can’t think of any good ones.


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Rabbi Uri Pilichowski is an educator who teaches in high schools across the world. He teaches Torah and Israel political advocacy to teenagers and college students. He lives with his wife and six children in Mitzpe Yericho, Israel. You can follow him on Facebook, and on twitter @rationalsettler.