Kerry hints settlements may not have to evacuate homes in final agreement

US secretary of state tells Channel 2 he understands he can't come to Israelis with a prospect that might turn the West Bank into Gaza.

February 20, 2014 22:13
3 minute read.

John Kerry in interview with Channel 2. (photo credit: screenshot)


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Israelis living beyond the Green Line might not have to leave their homes following a peace agreement with the Palestinians, US Secretary of State John Kerry said in an interview broadcast on Thursday.

Asked on Channel 2’s Uvda program by Ilana Dayan what personal price the settlers will have to pay as part of any agreement, Kerry said, “I’m not at all certain they will have to leave their homes.”

His remarks echoed comments made by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu last month that he had no intention of evacuating any settlements or uprooting any Israelis as part of an agreement with the Palestinians.

Asked about Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s criticism, made in a private conversation last month, that he was obsessive and motivated by a “messianic complex,” Kerry said, “I’m doing my job. I think I’m committed and I’m determined. I don’t think [I’m obsessive].”

Prompted to reveal his “innermost thoughts” when he read Ya’alon’s remarks, Kerry joked to Dayan that although he has known her for all of 10 minutes, “and love you dearly,” he was not going to “go there.”

Regarding whether he might lose hope of bringing about an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, the secretary of state said, “That’s not the way I operate. People who know me know that when I sink my teeth into something, if I get the bit between my teeth, I try to get it done.”

Kerry, in the interview that seemed an effort to gain the trust of the Israeli public, said he had “no argument with anybody in Israel who wants to say to me that no deal is better than a bad deal. I say that too. I’m not in the business of trying to put together a bad deal.”

He was working closely with both sides to meet their security and long-term goals, he said. “One thing I know a hundred thousand percent is that you can’t turn to the people of Israel with the prospect that what you are offering is going to turn the West Bank into Gaza. Israel’s security is iron clad as a priority in this issue. And I have said that from day one.”

One thing different in the current effort from those that have come in the past is that “we are trying to put the end game on the table,” Kerry said. In the past, he said, “the absence of understanding of where you are really going, and how it is going to be done,” promoted insecurity and allowed “the radical or extremists or anybody to push the system and it [fell] apart.”

Kerry said he was not asking Israelis to accept an agreement based solely on hope.

“My job is to help create a situation where the reality of the agreement is such that it is not such a leap of faith,” he said. “I don’t want this to be a leap of faith, but a leap of rationality and a choice based on a very understandable and tangible set of guarantees.”

Twenty-one coalition MKs, including seven deputy ministers, wrote Netanyahu Thursday night, urging him not to freeze construction in the West Bank.

The MKs expressed concerns about reports that the United States would demand a freeze in building outside settlement blocs in return for extending talks with the Palestinians.

"We strongly oppose any freeze of any kind, including outside the blocs," the MKs wrote. "We would see such an Israeli commitment as burning bridges."

The deputy ministers who signed the bill are Ze'ev Elkin, Danny Danon, Tzipi Hotovely, and Ophir Akunis of Likud, Faina Kirschenbaum of Yisrael Beytenu, and Eli Ben-Dahan and Avi Wortzman of Bayit Yehudi.

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