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John Kerry: Unfiltered In His Own Words

By       Message James Wall     Permalink
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Responding to Kerry's interview in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said "pressure has to be put where it belongs, that is, on the Palestinians who refuse to budge." The Times  adds that Netanyahu "was in no mood to compromise."

The Times asked Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization's executive committee for her reaction to Netanyahu's attack on Kerry's efforts to reach a nuclear agreement with Iran.

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"Ashrawi ...denounced Mr. Netanyahu's statements on Iran as 'arrogant,' 'childish' and 'an insult' to Mr. Kerry, and said they reflected a relentless focus on Israel's security that has prevented progress in the peace talks.

"'His temper tantrum response to an Iran agreement is just an extension of that mentality,' Ms. Ashrawi said. 'I want to do what I want to do, I want to get away with everything, and I want to dictate to everyone, including the U.S., how they should behave regarding Israel's security the way Israel exclusively defines it.'"

Many other U.S. media outlets, including National Public Radio, relied on the Associated Press story of Kerry's interview by Matthew Fox. The AP story went with the heading, "Kerry Warns Of Violence If Peace Talks Fail." That heading stayed with the story in its many incarnations. It began:

"U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry issued a stark warning to Israel on Thursday, saying it faces international isolation and a possible explosion of violence if it does not make progress in peace efforts with the Palestinians.

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"Kerry issued the blunt remarks in a joint interview with Israeli and Palestinian television channels, ensuring the message would reach its intended audience.

"'The alternative to getting back to the talks is the potential of chaos. I mean does Israel want a third intifada?' Kerry said, using the term for past Palestinian uprisings against Israeli occupation."

The settlements and a warning to Israel that a peace agreement will not wait forever, were not the only highlights of Kerry's Jerusalem television interview with the two journalists, Udi Segal of Israeli Channel 2 and Maher Shalabi of Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation.

To move beyond the "stark warning" and pending "violence," the full text of the interview is available here. It is posted by the U.S. State Department website, which also sent out the picture of Kerry and his two interviewers.

Selected highlights of the interview, separated by topics, and gleaned from the State Department text, are below for those who wish to have an up-close and personal view of what upset Benjamin Netanyahu. Other highlights will emerge upon close reading.

"Warning" and "violence" are not words that dominate the interview.

On the demonization of Israel

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SECRETARY KERRY: I believe that if we do not resolve the issues between Palestinians and Israelis, if we do not find a way to find peace, there will be an increasing isolation of Israel, there will be an increasing campaign of de-legitimization of Israel that's been taking place in an international basis, that we if we don't resolve the question of settlements and the question of who lives where and how and what rights they have, if we don't end the presence of Israeli soldiers perpetually within the West Bank, then there will be an increasing feeling that if we cannot get peace with a leadership that is committed to nonviolence, you may wind up with leadership that is committed to violence.

MR SEGAL (Israeli Channel 2): Mr. Secretary, you spoke about what signaling does those things send. So let me ask you this. How do you think a picture of Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, hugging murderers that killed children 20 or 30 years ago and say that they're heroes of the Palestinian people -- what kind of message do you think this is sent about peace process or peace atmosphere to the Israeli people?

SECRETARY KERRY: It's very difficult. I have no illusions. I know that the vast majority of the people in Israel are opposed. I understand that. Prime Minister Netanyahu understands that, and it is a sign of his seriousness that he was willing to make this decision. The alternative to getting back to the talks is the potential of chaos. I mean, does Israel want a third intifada? ...  

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James Wall is currently a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois. From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine. Many sources have influenced Jim's writings over (more...)

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