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Opinion How awful was John Kerry’s speech on Israel?

Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s dreadfully long and condescending speech rationalizing the U.S. decision to abstain from a one-sided vote casting Israel as an international law breaker will convince no one not already in agreement with the Obama administration’s Israel-bashing posture. It will fortify the new Congress, the president-elect (who tweeted before the speech: “We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect. They used to have a great friend in the U.S., but . . . not anymore. The beginning of the end was the horrible Iran deal, and now this (U.N.)! Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching”) and pro-Israel groups to make a definitive break with this administration’s rhetoric and policy. How bad was it? Here are 10 reasons it was among the very worst foreign policy addresses in U.S. history (the others being some of President Obama’s and Kerry’s previous harangues):

1. Kerry continued to insist the explosion of settlement activity necessitated the action. Administration officials cite a “100,000” person increase in population beyond the 1949 armistice lines. Rick Richman ably responds:

The figure of 100,000 sounds significant until you realize that 80 percent of it has been in the settlement blocs “everyone knows” Israel will retain in any conceivable peace agreement. The 20,000 person increase east of the separation barrier, established to stop the wave of Palestinian mass murders against Israelis, translates into less than one percent of the population in the disputed territories, over a period of eight years.

It is ludicrous to argue that the settlements are an “obstacle to peace,” because they were not an obstacle to offering the Palestinians a state on three separate occasions: (a) in July 2000 at Camp David; (b) in the Clinton Parameters six months later; and (c) in the Olmert offer at the end of the one-year Annapolis Process in 2008. Each time, the Palestinians rejected a state on substantially all of the West Bank and Gaza with a capital in Jerusalem. Since then–as Rhodes’ numbers show–the vast majority of Israeli settlement activity has been within settlement blocs that no one can realistically expect Israel to dismantle.

Israel already committed to a 10-month settlement freeze with no reciprocal move by the Palestinians. Moreover, the vast number of additional units are within the confines of existing blocs pursuant to an agreement memorialized in an exchange of letters between President George W. Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2004.

2. There is genocide occurring in Syria. Russia has invaded multiple countries. Iran is chiseling away on the JCPOA and seeking to destabilize multiple countries. Egypt and Turkey are engaged is an unprecedented crackdown on civil liberties. But in the final days of the administration, Kerry chose to single out our ally Israel. No wonder our friends do not trust us.

3. He revealed that the United States didn’t have the courage to vote for the resolution although it had a hand in it. He acknowledged telling other countries the United States would not block it if it was “balanced and fair.” The resolution, incidentally, never required the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

4. Kerry never addressed the role of Iran, Syria and others who fund Hamas and its attacks on civilians.

5. He blatantly cast Hamas (terrorism) as equivalent to home building for Jews, much of it in Israel and in Jewish blocs elsewhere “The truth is that trends on the ground — violence, terrorism, incitement, settlement expansion and the seemingly endless occupation — are combining to destroy hopes for peace on both sides, and increasingly cementing an irreversible one-state reality that most people do not actually want.” This is moral idiocy.

6. He asserted that the Palestinian state must be contiguous. This raises the question whether he is demanding  some connective corridor between Gaza and the West Bank. This would be a new demand.

7. He hypocritically acknowledged only direct negotiations can solve the crisis. He and the resolution, however, do not demand, for example, Palestinians give up the right of return. He is either intentionally obtuse or lying about the resolution’s predetermination of key issues between the parties.

8. Kerry neglects to mention that Palestinians are not supportive according to recent polling of the steps needed to achieve peace: “A deal that would mark a final end to the conflict and an end to claims was supported by 64 percent of Israeli Jews, but only 40 percent of Palestinians. Making the new Palestinian state entirely demilitarized gets the backing of 61 percent of Israeli Jews but only 20 percent of Palestinians.” The speech was designed to hold one party, Israel, responsible for the conflict.

9. The speech was pointless, simply an empty rhetorical jab designed to respond to criticism of the administration.

10. Kerry is very concerned about Israel’s democracy. If only he would spend as much time criticizing the Palestinian Authority for lack of elections, massive corruption and failure to establish viable civil institutions.