Kerry pledges support for Israel against Iran threat

US secretary of state meets Peres in J'lem, says talks with Tehran won't prevent necessary steps to prevent Iranian nuclear weapon.

Kerry and Peres 370 (photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
Kerry and Peres 370
(photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
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 said.
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 negotiations.
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 times.
“You have a friend in President Obama; he doesn’t bluff,” Kerry declared.
“[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 America.”
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 negotiations.
“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 capital.
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 standstill.
In welcoming Kerry to the residence, Peres said he was particularly appreciative of Kerry’s participation in the memorial ceremony.
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.”
In this context, Peres listed Israel’s many minority groups.
Peres found it somewhat difficult to contain his anger when speaking of Iran.
“Today of 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.
When Kerry 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. •