John Kerry took the unusual step of agreeing to a November 6, Jerusalem television interview with two reporters, an Israeli and a Palestinian.
He did so in order to send a public message to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
An Israeli writer for the right-wing Jerusalem web site, Times of Israel, got the message. He did not, however, like what he heard. He relayed his negative reaction in his story:
"For the first time since he managed to restart the [Israel-Palestine peace] talks in July, Kerry dropped his statesman-like public impartiality, and clearly spoke from the heart -- and what emerged were a series of accusations that amounted to a forceful slap in the face for Netanyahu. It was a rhetorical onslaught that the prime minister cannot have expected and one he will not quickly forget." (emphasis added by blogger)
The writer with that perspective is Raphael Ahren, diplomatic correspondent for the Times of Israel, a Web-only, English-language Israeli newspaper, launched in February earlier this year by Seth Klarman, a wealthy American Jewish investor.
Klarman, according to Wikipedia, has also been the longtime chairman and a financial supporter of The David Project, a Boston-based group which sponsors pro-Israel advocacy programs on American college campuses.
Using words from Kerry's TV interview, and then filtering them through the Times' right-wing perspective, Ahren continues:
"A very frustrated Kerry basically blamed the Israeli government for stealing the Palestinians' land and the Israeli public for living in bubble that prevents them from caring much about it. If that wasn't enough, he railed against the untenability of the Israel Defense Forces staying 'perpetually' in the West Bank.
"In warning that a violent Palestinian leadership might supplant Mahmoud Abbas if there was not sufficient progress at the peace table, he appeared to come perilously close to empathizing with potential Palestinian aggression against Israel."
As to tone and intent, Ahren got it about right. The problem is, what he heard as a "slap in the face" were words intended not as an insult, but as a wake-up call.
Kerry spoke as a friend of the state of Israel, but more importantly, he warned Netanyahu that his adamancy was damaging the chance for peace in the region.
In his Times story, Ahren focused on Kerry's responses that clearly disturbed Ahren.
"'If we do not resolve the question of settlements,' [Kerry] continued more dramatically, '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 non-violence, you may wind up with leadership that is committed to violence.'
"He later elaborated, expressing apparently growing dismay over continued Israeli settlement expansion:
"'How, if you say you're working for peace and you want peace, and a Palestine that is a whole Palestine that belongs to the people who live there, how can you say we're planning to build in a place that will eventually be Palestine? So it sends a message that perhaps you're not really serious.'"
The New York Times juggled two Netanyahu stories simultaneously, the Prime Minister's response to Kerry's interview, and his attack on the carefully constructed Iranian nuclear agreement.