Arie Barjosef

An open letter to Secretary of State John F. Kerry

The honorable Secretary Kerry;

On December 28, 2016 you delivered a speech in which you “poured your heart” and spelled out the current state of affairs between Israel and the Palestinians as well as the long-held positions of the United States. As soon as you stepped down from the podium at the State Department, a litany of unprecedented personal, ugly insults and belligerent statements flowed from Israel’s cabinet in Jerusalem. Mr. Netanyahu set the tone and some of his cabinet members followed. Cool heads did not prevail. The essence of your speech serves the United States interests well by warning the Israeli government in no uncertain terms that adhering to the irreversible path to a One State status will inevitably usher in a full-blown apartheid and will present the American administration with an untenable situation. It will be impossible for America to continue and support Israel without adversely affecting its global leadership position. In other words, the continued support of Israel under these circumstances will severely undermine America’s core values, the values you so eloquently described.

I concur with every word of your detailed, clearly and emotionally delivered speech. In fact, over the years during which you immersed yourself in the Israeli-Palestinian quagmire I often wondered how long would you continue to expose yourself to Israeli recalcitrance and to Palestinian obstructionism, when will you “step up to the plate” and deliver the naked truth that for many years fell on deaf ears. As you noted, the Palestinian leadership is just as guilty. But the balance of blame tilts mightily towards the Israeli government simply because the conflict is not between equals. The disparity between Israel, as the occupying power, and the Palestinians, as the subjugated people, is so great that it is laughable to even attempt any comparison. Israel uses its overwhelming power abundantly to create a fait accompli that is deliberately designed to preclude a Palestinian sovereign statehood. You courageously called a spade a spade.

As you clearly stated, the United States has been an ardent supporter of Israel for many years. You mentioned the Truman administration’s recognition of Israel’s sovereignty almost immediately following the Declaration of Independence in 1948. But in that same year President Truman imposed a strict arms embargo on all of Palestine which adversely affected the newly declared State of Israel much more than the Arabs. At that time Israel was in the midst of its life or death struggle with Arab armies, including Egyptian, Jordanian, Syrian, Lebanese and Iraqi forces that were determined to eradicate the newly declared Jewish state. The American embargo had little effect on the Arab armies since most of their armaments were of British and French sources. But fortunately Israel prevailed and succeeded in repelling the invaders. In 1949, after more than a year of war, Israel was nearly exhausted, “ran out of steam” and failed to secure the inclusion of the portion of the Land of Yisrael (“Eretz Yisrael”) AKA West Bank within its borders. In retrospect, perhaps it was a blessing that the Arab population of the West Bank remained outside Israel’s jurisdiction. Together with Arabs who remained within Israel’s borders, mainly in the Galilee region, the total Arab population would have exceeded that of the Jewish then.

Today, as you correctly noted, Israel is facing the same demographic predicament if the occupation of the West Bank would turn into an annexation. Between the Jordan River to the east and the Mediterranean shores to the west, including the Gaza Strip, the number of Palestinian Arabs slightly exceeds that of the Jewish population. As you clearly noted, Israel would not be able to exist as a “Jewish AND democratic” state – it can only be either Jewish or democratic. Discounting the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza, the Israeli Arabs (Israeli citizens in Israel proper and residents of the annexed East Jerusalem who hold Israeli residency cards but were not granted citizenship – in itself a precarious situation) already constitutes a sizeable minority, about 25 percent of the population, of which the political significance is on the rise.

Your assertion that the road taken by the Israeli government (the most right-wing and religious extremist coalition ever assembled) over the past decade inevitably leads to irreversibly nullifying the idea of a “Two State Solution” is, of course, correct. Your quote describing the current distribution of the settlements across the West Bank as “Swiss cheese” adheres faithfully to the reality. A cursory review of the most recent map published by the UN provides a vivid evidence that a geographically contiguous Palestinian state is an impossibility.

Of course, we all recall Mr. Netanyahu’s clear and vocal declaration that “as long as” he “is in office there will be no Palestinian state”. In his tradition of deceptions and lies, which you undoubtedly aware of firsthand, he later provided what could have been seen as a retraction and a conciliatory message. But his statement remained indelible in our memory. Despite that statement, Mr. Netanyahu continued the course of lies and deceptions and even recently said during a “60 Minutes” interview that he is fully committed and focused on achieving peace with the Palestinians through the implementation of the Two State Solution.

As you are well aware, Mr. Naftali Bennett, Israel’s Minister of Education and a member of Netanyahu’s cabinet who holds extreme right religious-nationalist views declared the same during an Israeli TV interview following your speech and went on to say that as President Obama’s tenure comes to a close and as your departure from government is in sight, the Two State Solution finally and permanently has been removed from consideration. Moreover, Israel’s Minister of Culture Ms. Miri Regev, a bluntly outspoken ultra nationalist zealot who is known for her shameless harangues, declared during a radio interview that “Who is Obama? he is history. We now have Trump”. She went on to say, in a brazen display of thankless verbosity that President Obama and Secretary Kerry demonstrated a clear relentless hatred of Israel.

Of course, nothing could be farther from the truth. Apparently, the Israeli Prime Minister and his government believe that the United States foreign policies must be formulated primarily in the pleasure of Israel. They are all conveniently refuse to accept the fact that America’s interests are global and that Israel, albeit important, is only a part of the overall approach. It should be made clear that the kind of un-waivered and unprecedented support rendered by all American administrations must not be considered as an eternal guarantee.

About the Author
Arie, a retired consulting engineer, had been born in Israel, served in the IDF and is a resident of Boston since 1978. lifelong interests include history of Israel (including the formerly Palestine) and US/Israel relations. Other interests include studies in philosophy and theology.