Kerry: Peace is possible, but it's up to the people

US secretary of state tells 'The Jerusalem Post' that he hopes Obama's visit to region will advance the peace process.

John Kerry in Israel 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Larry Downing)
John Kerry in Israel 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Larry Downing)
President Barack Obama believes that peace is “possible” and his administration is “going to work very hard to advance that process,” US Secretary of State John Kerry told The Jerusalem Post on Friday.
Speaking ahead of Obama’s speech at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, Kerry said he hoped the president’s visit would advance the peace process, although it was ultimately “up to the people of Israel and the Palestinians.”
“The president believes every word he said yesterday,” Kerry added, referring to Obama’s speech to university students at the Jerusalem International Convention Center on Thursday evening.
Kerry said that Friday’s ceremony – in which Obama lit a flame in memory of the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust – was “very moving and very touching,” and that it was “overwhelming in many ways to touch such an extraordinary, tragic history.”
However, he continued, the president was also “celebrating” what the secretary of state called “an extraordinary rebirth and resurgence.”
“I think it’s one of history’s great stories,” Kerry told the Post.
During his speech at Yad Vashem, Obama stressed the historic ties of the Jewish people to the land, saying that “here on your ancient land let it be said for all the world to hear, the State of Israel does not exist because of the Holocaust, but with the survival of a strong Jewish State of Israel such a Holocaust will never happen again.”
Speaking to the Post at Yad Vashem, Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren said he found Obama’s message to be of great significance.
“In the Arab world in general we face two denials that are flip-sides of the same coin,” Oren said: “Holocaust denial” and “Jewish people denial.”
“This whole visit has been about refuting that denial, whether it be by coming to Yad Vashem and upholding the memory of the Holocaust or by going to the Shrine of the Book and reaffirming the Jewish people’s millennia-long connection to the Land of Israel,” he said.
Obama came to Israel at “one of the most challenging periods of Israel’s history,” Oren said, and “the fact that leader of the most powerful nation on earth comes here and gives a message of unequivocal support and respect and affection is a message that is not only crucial for us to hear, but it’s vital that the people in the Middle East hear it.”
Speaking about the Palestinians, Oren said that while Israel recognizes them “as a people endowed with the right of self-determination, they do not recognize the Jewish people as a people with the same rights.”
This “asymmetry,” he said, “is one of the reasons that some of the messages that the president’s been conveying here are so important.
The message here is all about Jewish people-hood. He said it again and again in his speech and he talked about legitimate rights. He talked about the Jewish right of self-determination.
“That is the meaning of the trip for me.”
The US president’s message to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was clear, Oren said.
“You have to accept the Holocaust, you have to acknowledge it [and] you have to accept the Jewish people and their unassailable right to self-determination in their ancestral homeland.”
That acceptance, he asserted, was “integral” to being a partner for peace.