Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Breaking News

John Kerry Frustrated by ‘Jewish State’ Recognition Impasse

John Kerry said Israelis and Palestinian mistrust remained high and expressed frustration with the issue of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.

The U.S. secretary of state fielded questions Wednesday and Thursday from congressional committees probing his department’s budget requests.

“I do believe both parties are serious,” Kerry told the foreign operations subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday. “Both parties want to find a way forward. But, each of them — you know, the level of mistrust is as large as any level of mistrust I’ve ever seen. On both sides. Neither believes the other is really serious. Neither believes that both — that the other is prepared to make some of the big choices that have to be made here.”

Kerry’s pessimism, weeks before he is to unveil a framework for advancing the process, is in marked contrast to the optimistic tone of his chief negotiator, Martin Indyk, who described substantial advances in a conversation with Jewish leaders in August.

Since then, Israeli officials have expressed reservations about proposals to replace Israel’s presence in the Jordan Valley with technological substitutes and Palestinians have stood fast on not recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.

That issue, particularly, appeared to frustrate Kerry.

He noted that the United Nations recognized Israel as such in 1947 and said that the late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, had done so twice.

“I think it’s a mistake for some people to be raising it again and again as the critical decider of their attitude toward the possibility of a state and peace and we’ve made that clear,” he said Thursday, addressing the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

It was not clear if Kerry believed the “mistake” in this case was Israel’s, or the Palestinians’, or whether both were to blame.

However, he appeared to be endorsing the predicate of the question posed to him by Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), who had blamed Palestinians for the impasse.

“You’re absolutely correct,” Kerry said, in starting his answer.

A JTA request for clarification from Kerry’s aides was not answered.

In an earlier exchange, Kerry had told Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, that one way past the “Jewish state” impasse was to make clear in any agreement that the rights of non-Jews would be preserved.

As long as recognition includes a nod to “equal rights and non-discrimination against any citizen,” Kerry said, the likelihood increased of Arab and Palestinian acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state.

Kerry in his remarks to both committees stressed his commitment to Israel’s security.

He pushed back against a warning from the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) that Congress would cut funding to the Palestinian Authority unless Kerry was able to certify that the Palestinians had ended incitement against Jews and Israel.

“Let me say to you, it’s something that is a concern within leadership,” Kerry said, referring to the Palestinians. “It’s not always something that’s controlled all the way down the chain, it’s not always, you know, it’s not always easily accessible. Even though one person may issue an instruction, some things don’t happen. So, it’s a little more complicated, but we’re working on it.”

Kerry also pressed his request for a waiver to work with UNESCO, the science and cultural adjunct of the United Nations.

The Obama administration, heeding the law banning affiliation with international organizations that recognize a Palestinian state absent a peace agreement, last year withdrew from UNESCO.

Kerry said the U.S. absence harmed Israel. “What happens is, we actually lose our voice and our capacity to fight for Israel and to fight for other interest that we have,” Kerry told the foreign operations subcommittee. “We are stripped of that.”

Engage

  • SHARE YOUR FEEDBACK

  • UPCOMING EVENT

    SKY & SCULPTURE

    Hybrid: Online and at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan

    Oct 2, 2022

    6:30 pm ET · 

    A Sukkah, IMKHA, created by artist Tobi Kahn, for the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan is an installation consisting of 13 interrelated sculpted painted wooden panels, constituting a single work of art. Join for a panel discussion with Rabbi Joanna Samuels, Chief Executive Director of the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan, Talya Zax, Innovation Editor of the Forward, and Tobi Kahn, Artist. Moderated by Mattie Kahn.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.