US Secretary of State John Kerry will persist on the Israeli- Palestinian front until the end of his term in office in January 2017, US Middle East envoy Frank Lowenstein said in a largely glowing article on Kerry that appeared Monday in The New Yorker.
New Yorker editor David Remnick, who wrote the piece, quoted Lowenstein as saying that Kerry will “play through the whistle.”
“The window for a two-state solution is closing, though none of us who’ve worked on it will regret that we tried to save it,” Lowenstein said.
The mammoth, more than 10,000-word piece, included the latest in a long line of pokes by anonymous US officials reported by senior US journalists over the span of the Obama-Netanyahu relationship.
Remnick, an often caustic critic of Netanyahu’s, wrote that “American officials speak of Netanyahu as myopic, entitled, untrustworthy, routinely disrespectful toward the President, and focused solely on short-term political tactics to keep his right-wing constituency in line.”
Remnick, who had dinner with Kerry and his wife and also traveled with him for four days in October on one of his diplomatic missions, wrote that “State Department aides said that sources of Kerry’s exasperation with Netanyahu range from the injustice of settlement building in the West Bank to the way he employs Yitzhak Molcho, his lawyer and confidant, to stifle even the most inconsequential negotiation.”
Regarding the moribund diplomatic process with the Palestinians, Kerry voiced to Remnick similar sentiments that he articulated at the Saban Conference earlier this month; namely his fear that Israel is headed toward becoming a “unitary state that is an impossible entity to manage.”
“I understand the passions that are behind all of this – I get it,” Kerry said in the interview.
“If it were easy, it would have been done a long time ago. I happen to believe there is a way forward. There’s a solution. It would be good for Israel; it’d be great for the Palestinians; it’d be great for the region. People would make so much money.
There’d be so many jobs created.
There could be peace. And you would be stronger for it.
Because nobody that I know or have met in the West Bank is anxious to have jihadis come in.
“The alternative is you sit there and things just get worse,” Kerry continued. “There will be more Hezbollah. There will be more rockets. And they’ll all be pointed in one direction.
And there will be more people on the border. And what happens then? You’re going to be one big fortress? I mean, that’s not a way to live. It seems to me it is far more intelligent and far more strategic – which is an important word here – to have a theory of how you are going to preserve the Jewish state and be a democracy and a beacon to the world that everybody envisioned when Israel was created.”
Kerry also, once again, expressed concern for Israel’s future as a democracy.
Asked if he could imagine an end to Israel, he replied in the negative.
“It’s just, what is it going to be like, is the question. Will it be a democracy? Will it be a Jewish state? Or will it be a unitary state with two systems, or some draconian treatment of Palestinians, because to let them vote would be to dilute the Jewish state? I don’t know.
I have no answer to that. 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.”
Kerry said during the interview that in 2010 he held talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad, who wanted to talk about a relationship with Israel in the future.
“I don’t think I’ve ever talked about this publicly, but he was ready to make a deal with Israel,” Kerry said. “And the proof of that is a letter I still have that he wrote and signed, proposing a structure by which he was willing to recognize Israel, have an embassy there, make peace, deal with the Golan, etc.”
Kerry, according to Remnick, said Netanyahu was reluctant.
“Bibi came to Washington, and one of the first things out of his mouth in the Oval Office was ‘I can’t do this. I’m not going to – I just can’t.’” It is not clear from the article whether Kerry was criticizing Netanyahu for this, or – looking at the situation in Syria today – believes this was, in retrospect, a wise decision.
Of Assad, Kerry said to Remnick, “I had an impression that this guy had serious business plans, growth plans, development plans, wanted to change.”