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John Kerry Pointedly Tells New Yorker Israel Must Take Steps for Peace

(JTA) — John Kerry hasn’t given up on a two-state solution. But the party responsible for making it happen, the secretary of state and his subordinates make clear, is Israel.

A lengthy profile in the New Yorker traces Kerry’s work with Iran, Syria, Israel and the Palestinians, as well as his lingering bitterness over his failed 2004 campaign for president.

Despite Kerry’s relentless efforts, the nine-month American-led peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority led nowhere — arguably leaving the two sides further apart than when they started.

Kerry doesn’t blame Israel outright for the negotiations’ failure, but he and other State Department officials convey that a two-state solution could happen if only Israel willed it. He mentions settlements and demolitions of Palestinian houses in the West Bank as obstacles to peace. And he says Israelis need to decide whether they want a two-state solution, a democracy that isn’t necessarily Jewish or a Jewish state that isn’t democratic.

“I have no answer to that,” Kerry tells New Yorker editor David Remnick. “But the problem is, neither do they. Neither do the people who are supposed to be providing answers to this. It is not an answer to simply continue to build in the West Bank and to destroy the homes of the other folks you’re trying to make peace with and pretend that that’s a solution.”

The more colorful — and derisive — quotes about Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu come from anonymous State Department officials. One official says: “The frustration with the Israelis on a lot of issues has been sky-high,” and reinforces the idea that Israel is responsible for the lack of a solution. Palestinians “don’t have any power in this dynamic,” the official says. “The Israelis have all the cards.”

“American officials speak of Netanyahu as myopic, entitled, untrustworthy, routinely disrespectful toward the President, and focussed solely on short-term political tactics to keep his right-wing constituency in line,” Remnick writes.

Kerry also reveals that in 2010, Syrian President Bashar Assad offered peace with Israel, but Netanyahu said no. While still a senator, Kerry reached out to Assad, and Assad said he’d sign a treaty with Israel if Israel withdrew from the Golan Heights, which it captured from Syria in 1967.

Kerry says Assad “was ready to make a deal with Israel” but Netyanyahu told him: “I can’t do this. I’m not going to — I just can’t.”

Kerry’s aspirations for Israel are more modest these days: to “bring down the temperature” in the conflict.

But even that effort, a Kerry’s subordinate said, gave him “a P.T.S.D. flashback” from last year’s negotiations.

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