John Kerry’s Leaned Over Backward to Praise Israel — and the Numbers Prove It

Israel’s prime minister has claimed that John Kerry’s recent speech, given in response to U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334, was “unbalanced and anti-Israeli.” A quantitative and qualitative review of the the December 28 speech, however, shows the opposite. From the very beginning, Kerry was clearly making the case for Israel.

During the speech, “Israel” received 180 mentions, one of which was couched within this unequivocally supportive statement: “This Administration has been Israel’s greatest friend and supporter, with an absolutely unwavering commitment to advancing Israel’s security and protecting its legitimacy.”

Kerry, knowing full well that Palestinians won’t recognize Israel as a Jewish state, mentioned the terms “Jewish state” and “Jewish people” 12 times while mentioning “Palestine” only nine times — and, even then, specifically juxtaposing it with a mention of the Jewish state, as in this excerpt: “That’s why it is so important that in recognizing each other’s homeland – Israel for the Jewish people and Palestine for the Palestinian people – both sides reaffirm their commitment to upholding full equal rights for all of their respective citizens.”

Moreover, security, which is one of the top issues of interest to Israelis, was mentioned 51 times, including this personal testimony by Kerry:

“This commitment to Israel’s security is actually very personal for me. On my first trip to Israel as a young senator in 1986, I was captivated by a special country, one that I immediately admired and soon grew to love. Over the years, like so many others who are drawn to this extraordinary place, I have climbed Masada, swum in the Dead Sea, driven from one biblical city to another. I’ve also seen the dark side of Hezbollah’s rocket storage facilities just across the border in Lebanon, walked through exhibits of the hell of the Holocaust at Yad Vashem, stood on the Golan Heights, and piloted an Israeli jet over the tiny airspace of Israel, which would make anyone understand the importance of security to Israelis. Out of those experiences came a steadfast commitment to Israel’s security that has never wavered for a single minute in my 28 years in the Senate or my four years as secretary.”

The term “security” is mentioned much more than the term “two-state solution,” which appears 39 times in the speech and to which the Israeli prime minister is publicly committed.

Kerry also reaffirmed the special allegiance between the United States and Israel, repeating the term “friend” nine times in reference to the relationship between the two countries, and even including the “friend” descriptor as a buffer within statements against the occupation.

“This friend, the United States of America,” the secretary of state said, “has done more to support Israel than any other country; this friend that has blocked countless efforts to delegitimize Israel cannot be true to our own values – or even the stated democratic values of Israel – and we cannot properly defend and protect Israel if we allow a viable two-state solution to be destroyed before our own eyes.”

While Kerry used all the right terms in favoring Israel as a friend and special ally, he had no problem attacking Palestinians, utilizing all the major Israeli anti-Palestinian talking points. Kerry condemned Palestinian violence 15 times, as well as incitement (nine times) and terrorism (14 times) — as in this statement: “We have called for the Palestinians to do everything in their power to stop violence and incitement, including publicly and consistently condemning acts of terrorism and stopping the glorification of violence.”

Clearly, the issue of settlements and settlers were the main focus of the Security Council resolution, the mention of which within Kerry’s speech brought about an almost hysterical response from Benjamin Netanyahu.

Still, “settlements” were referred to 28 times and “settlers” were mentioned only seven times, thus putting more emphasis on the building of the illegal, exclusive housing units on land in the occupied territories than on the Jewish Israelis who were transferred from Israel (in violation of the IV Geneva Convention) to these settlements. Even when talking about settlements in a negative sense, Kerry pandered to settlement supporters with a number of qualifiers, such as an emphasis on the idea that the settlements are not “the whole or even the primary cause of this conflict.”

Kerry then made further concessions by accepting Israeli demands and justifications for keeping some of the settlements as a part of Israel. The secretary stated he understood that “in a final-status agreement, certain settlements would become part of Israel to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 49 years… including the new democratic demographic realities that exist on the ground.”

Considering the ways in which Kerry’s speech was in fact biased toward Israel, the fabricated fury of the Israeli leadership makes little sense. Despite this clear rhetorical bent, it is amazing how Israelis and their defenders in the United States repeat ad nauseam that Kerry’s speech and the U.N. resolution somehow favor a people who have been disenfranchised, having become refugees 70 years ago and living for half a century with their lands under military occupation.

Kerry did mention the term “refugee” twice, but even then, he avoided referring to the Palestinian “right of return” or even mentioning the relevant 1949 U.N. Resolution 194, which specifically demands that right.

Kerry called for “a just, agreed, fair, and realistic solution to the Palestinian refugee issue, with international assistance that includes compensation, options and assistance in finding permanent homes.” The term “agreed to” once again basically favors the Israelis, as it gives them veto power over any part of the agreement not to their liking. It is true that the term “agreed” is part of the currently ignored Israeli 2002 Arab Peace Plan (where it is mentioned six times), but that peace plan also directly references U.N. Resolution 194, which more evenly divides the rights of both sides in whatever agreements are reached.

Kerry made a strong and passionate plea for preserving the two-state solution based on the 1967 borders. He quoted the late Shimon Peres’s statement of support for that arrangement: “The original mandate gave the Palestinians 48%, now it’s down to 22%. I think 78% is enough for us.”

Kerry’s 70-minute speech mentioned the term “peace” 58 times, but didn’t use the term “justice” once. Clearly this was not an anti-Israel or even a balanced speech. If Israelis were unable to accept this pro-Israel speech, how will they ever accept and deal equitably and fairly with Palestinians?

Daoud Kuttab, a Palestinian journalist, is the director general of the Community Media Network.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

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John Kerry’s Leaned Over Backward to Praise Israel — and the Numbers Prove It

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