Kerry: ‘Violence, settlements, demolitions’ imperiling the vital two-state solution
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Kerry to Saban Forum: 'Settler outposts are regularly being legalized while demolition of Palestinian structures is increasing. You get it?'

Kerry: ‘Violence, settlements, demolitions’ imperiling the vital two-state solution

Secretary delivers bitter critique: 'Terror attacks are devastating hopes of Israelis... but Palestinian hopes are also being dashed by what they see every day'

Rebecca Shimoni Stoil is the Times of Israel's Washington correspondent.

Secretary of State John Kerry addresses the Brookings Institution's annual Saban Forum on December 5, 2015 (YouTube screen capture)
Secretary of State John Kerry addresses the Brookings Institution's annual Saban Forum on December 5, 2015 (YouTube screen capture)

WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State John Kerry warned on Saturday that the current trends in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were leading to a one-state solution, and said Israel would not be able to maintain its Jewish and democratic nature in such a reality.

Speaking at the Saban Forum at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC, Kerry also warned Israel about the dangers of the possible collapse of the Palestinian Authority. He said such an event would lead to a situation that would threaten the security of both Israel and the Palestinian people.

Kerry excoriated Israeli building in Area C of the West Bank as increasing Palestinian disillusionment and distancing the prospects for a two-state solution. In pointed remarks, Kerry called out Israeli government ministers who have voiced skepticism toward a two-state solution.

“The status quo is simply not sustainable and the fact of the matter is that current trends, including violence, settlement activity, demolitions, are imperiling the viability of a two-state solution,” Kerry warned. “And that trend has to be reversed to prevent this untenable one-state reality from taking hold.”

‘We understand there was only one Palestinian building permit granted for all of area C for all of last year’

Kerry, who was criticized this fall for seeming to assert a connection between settlement growth and the recent upswing in terror attacks against Israelis, emphasized that although “settlements are absolutely no excuse for violence — and we are clear about that,” at the same time “continued settlement growth raises honest questions about Israel’s long-term intentions and will only make separating from the Palestinians much more difficult.”

“I can’t stress enough that the terror attacks are devastating the hopes of Israelis who want to believe that peace is possible and the violence must stop,” Kerry emphasized, “but Palestinian hopes are also being dashed by what they see every day. They’re focused on a reality that few others see – that the transition to greater Palestinian civil authority contemplated by the Oslo process has in many ways been reversed.”

Kerry did not reserve his criticism exclusively for Israel. He took the Palestinian leadership to task for incitement, for failing to condemn terror attacks, and for launching anti-Israel initiatives in international bodies — moves that Kerry said did nothing to benefit the Palestinian cause.

“Do they really believe that boycotts and efforts to delegitimize Israel, or passing biased resolutions in international bodies, are going to help them achieve a Palestinian state?” he asked.

“Are Palestinian officials really doing everything possible to prevent all forms of incitement? Don’t these terrorist attacks against innocent civilians deserve public condemnation? And how can Israelis be assured that the Palestinians are truly prepared to end the conflict and allow them to live in peace as part of a two-state solution?”

Kerry said the Palestinian leadership must do more to prevent and combat anti-Israel violence. But he also said that Israeli leaders cannot allow the Palestinian Authority to disintegrate. If that happens, Kerry said, Israel would be forced to assume all governance in the West Bank and potentially accept a one-state solution that would compromise Israel’s future as a democratic Jewish state.

“Nearly all of Area C, which comprises 60 percent of the West Bank, is effectively restricted for any Palestinian development, much of it claimed for Israeli state land or settlement councils,” Kerry told attendees.

“We understand there was only one Palestinian building permit granted for all of area C for all of last year and settler outposts are regularly being legalized while demolition of Palestinian structures is increasing. You get it?

“Some officials in Israel have reportedly argued that it may not be in Israel’s interest to have a Palestinian Authority,” he said. He added that he knew that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had acknowledged the importance of having the Palestinian leadership remain intact, but noted that “circumstances force us to consider [the collapse of the Palestinian Authority] seriously because there are valid questions as to how long the PA will survive if the current situation continues, mark my words.”

At the same time, Kerry slammed suggestions made by Palestinian leaders, including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, that the Palestinian Authority could be dissolved, and that Palestinians could end security cooperation with Jerusalem.

‘My friends, we’ve got to be clear eyed about this. We can’t come to a forum like this, we can’t have meetings under the norms of diplomacy and pretend’

Kerry described a situation teetering on the brink of disaster. “The sense of distrust has never been more profound,” Kerry warned. “The Israeli and Palestinian people deserve better. But the current path is not leading to a more peaceful future.”

“I am concerned that unless significant efforts are made to change the dynamic – and I mean significant – it will only bring more violence, more heartbreak, and more despair,” he continued.

“Many of those arguing for the dissolution of the PA simply don’t believe in two states,” Kerry complained. “Many current Israeli ministers have been clear that they oppose the vision of a Palestinian state, not just now – but ever.”

“My friends, we’ve got to be clear eyed about this. We can’t come to a forum like this, we can’t have meetings under the norms of diplomacy and pretend. We have to be honest about what a one-state solution looks like,” Kerry said. “How does Israel possibly maintain its Jewish and democratic character when from the river to the sea there would not even be a Jewish majority?”

Watch the full speech here; starts about 21 minutes in:

Kerry asked if Palestinians “would be relegated to a permanent underclass” and if there would be “segregated roads” for the mixed population to travel on. “Would there be different laws applied in the Palestinian enclaves? Would anybody really believe that they were being treated equally?”

Kerry questioned whether in such a case, Israel would ever achieve peace with its Arab neighbors.

“The one state solution is no solution at all for a secure, Jewish, democratic Israel living in peace,” he declared.

Times of Israel staff and AP contributed to this report.

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