US Secretary of State John Kerry warned Iran on Monday that his country would
not hesitate to take military action if the diplomatic process failed to prevent
Tehran from continuing its drive for nuclear weapons.
“No option is off
the table. No option will be taken off the table,” he said during a joint
press conference with President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem. Kerry is in Israel on
a three-day visit. “And I confirm to you, Mr. President, that we
will continue to seek a diplomatic solution. But our eyes are open, and we
understand that the clock is moving. And no one will allow the diplomatic
process to stand in the way of whatever choices need to be made to protect the
world from yet another nuclear weapon in the wrong hands,” Kerry
The two met in advance of Kerry’s Monday night dinner with Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Justice Minister
Tzipi Livni, International Relations Minister Yuval Steinitz and senior
officials such as chief negotiator Yitzhak Molcho and National Security Adviser
Yaakov Amidror. As of press time, the dinner was ongoing.
Kerry is also
expected to meet with Netanyahu on Tuesday before leaving for London. The
secretary of state also met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas
and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
White House coordinator for the
Middle East, North Africa, and the Gulf region Philip Gordon is expected to
arrive in Israel on Tuesday.
In Kerry’s meetings with Israeli officials,
he spoke about regional security issues such as Iran’s push to produce nuclear
weapons, the unrest in Syria and its store of chemical weapons, Jerusalem’s
renewed ties with Turkey and the possibility of restarting Israeli-Palestinian
When speaking with Peres at the latter’s official
residence, Kerry assured the Israeli president that Washington understands the
nature of the Iranian threat, as US President Barack Obama has said many
“You have a friend in President Obama; he doesn’t bluff,” Kerry
“[Obama] is serious – we will stand with Israel against this
threat and with the rest of the world, who have underscored that all we are
looking for is Iran to live up to its international obligations,” Kerry said.
“You have friends in this administration, in Congress, and in
Closer to home, Peres expressed confidence in the possibility
of ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“There is a new wind of peace
blowing through the Middle East,” he said, citing Obama’s reelection, Kerry’s
appointment to his present post and the formation of a new government in Israel
as a combination of elements that create “a new sense of optimism and a belief
that peace is possible.”
Kerry agreed that there are possibilities for
people to live together and to find common ground without hatred, adding that it
was a great privilege for him to represObama and the American people in an effort to achieve peace.
“We all know
it’s not easy,” he told Peres, “but as you said yourself, it can be done. You
have to believe in the possibilities.”
The president confirmed this by
saying that gaps can be bridged and that disagreements can be overcome through
“The two-state solution is the best solution and the
parameters for that agreement already exist,” he said.
Kerry also spoke
about the need for renewed Israeli-Palestinian talks while meeting with the
staff of the US Consulate in Jerusalem.
“Now, I believe that if we can
address the security needs of Israel – and they are real – and if we can address
the state aspirations of the Palestinian people – and they are real – I believe
that if we can get on a track where people are working in good faith to address
the bottom-line concerns, it is possible to be able to make progress and make
peace,” he said.
Earlier in the day, the secretary of state, at Peres’s
invitation, participated in the wreath-laying ceremony at Yad Vashem in the
Using the Hebrew expression for Holocaust Remembrance Day, Kerry
said that it had been a great honor to share in the ceremony and to lay a wreath
on behalf of the American people on a day which was “a unique combination of
sorrow and honor.”
He said that when he heard the siren Monday morning,
he remembered the stories he had been told of how the whole country freezes to a
In welcoming Kerry to the residence, Peres said he was
particularly appreciative of Kerry’s participation in the memorial
Referring to the outcome of the Holocaust, Peres said, “We paid
a heavy price and lost a third of our people. Yet from the ashes of the
Holocaust, we rebuilt the Jewish state with the capacity to defend ourselves and
the energy to rebuild our land with the heritage of justice for all.”
this context, Peres listed Israel’s many minority groups.
Peres found it
somewhat difficult to contain his anger when speaking of Iran.
all days, we should condemn this regime which denies the Holocaust and threatens
another one,” he said, charging that Iran poses the greatest threat to peace,
security and regional stability.
Peres and Kerry, who have known each
other for about 30 years and have worked together in their various capacities
over time, expressed friendship and respect for each other.
returned to his hotel, there was a “Free Pollard” demonstration waiting to greet
him. But even before that, if he had looked out of the window of the limousine
in which he was riding as he took his leave of Peres, he would have seen banners
with the likeness of Jonathan Pollard strung across the balconies of four
residential complexes directly opposite the President’s Residence, with
different slogans calling for Pollard’s release. •