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"As is" reference - not a United Nations document

Source: United States of America
7 December 2013

Remarks at the Saban Forum

John Kerry
Secretary of State

The Willard Hotel
Washington, DC
December 7, 2013



I’m looking at this front row here. Mr. Foreign Minister, it’s a pleasure to see you here. You and I will have the privilege of having breakfast tomorrow morning, and I congratulate you again on coming back to these duties, and I look forward to working with you. It’s going to be very, very important. I’m also privileged to see Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni. We’ve become great friends and worked very closely together over time. She took me to Sderot, where I saw those rockets that come out of the Gaza Strip, and we’ve spent many hours together sharing thoughts about the possibilities.


Now we approach this challenge believing that Israel has to be strong to make peace – but that peace will also make Israel stronger. And we are convinced that the greatest security will actually come from a two-state solution that brings Israel lasting peace. Shared prosperity throughout the region, good relations among neighbors, peace of mind for the people of Israel and for Palestinians alike – none of this is possible without addressing Israel’s legitimate security concerns, and ensuring that, as a result of peace, Israelis not only feel more secure, but are more secure, not less.

Now that is why security led our agendas in Jerusalem and Ramallah this week. Now, I want to make it clear, we’ve been at this I guess since April, when we announced the resumption of talks, and the months preceding were obviously dedicated to trying to get there. By necessity, we have had to do some groundwork, some due diligence in order to be able to address these legitimate concerns and questions in a way that they have never been addressed before. In Ramallah this week, we engaged in that discussion as well as in Jerusalem. General John Allen – who is sitting right here in the second row – has done extraordinary work. He commanded our coalition forces in Afghanistan; trained up 350,000 troops there, not to mention the tens of thousands in Iraq. This is a man who knows how to build capacity. He recently retired as a four-star Marine Corps General, and he is one of the best military minds in America. And he has been asked by the President and me and the Secretary of Defense to lead this effort of a security dialogue with the IDF. He is helping us make sure that the border on the Jordan River will be as strong as any in the world, so that there will be no question about the security of the citizens, Israelis and Palestinians, living to the west.

I will tell you point blank, and I’ve read all of the history of these negotiations and I’ve lived part of the history of these negotiations. I was on the lawn when the famous handshake took place. And I’ve had many, many a meeting over the course of time as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and as a Senator. Never before – ever – has the United States conducted such an in-depth analysis of Israel’s security requirements that arise from the potential of a two-state solution. Never.

Understanding the importance of this analysis, we are examining every potential security scenario – something on the border; something in the future; terrorism in the future; a weakness of the Hashemite Kingdom. Whatever it might be. We are coordinating with Jordanians and the Palestinians to create a layered approach that both guarantees Israel’s security and fully respects Palestinian sovereignty. That’s a threading of a needle, but it is a critical threading of a needle that has to happen in order to achieve an agreement.

General Allen is joined by dozens – literally, I think there are about 160 people: military experts, intel experts and others working to analyze this so what we put on the table is deadly serious, real, because these stakes are real. And we have highly qualified defense officials working with dozens of organizations in the United States, including the Office of the Secretary of Defense; the Defense Security and Cooperation Agency; the Defense Threat Reduction Agency; DARPA, which is the Pentagon’s research arm that created the Internet; not to mention the Joint Staff and the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. They’re all hard at work, analyzing what began, frankly, back in 2011 as a preliminary analysis was made, and now is becoming state of the art as we ramp it up for this possibility of peace. They’re all hard at work in close consultation with their IDF counterparts. And we will engage in further close evaluation with Shin Bet, with Mossad, with every aspect, and with the Palestinians – and with the Palestinians, which is critical.

We have a separate team assessing Palestinian security needs in the context of statehood. We anticipate that the United States will continue to play a leading role in building – helping to build Palestinian capacity, helping to build their capabilities to maintain law and order; to cooperate in an effective judicial system; to counter terrorism and smuggling; and manage border security, customs, immigration. Needless to say, for a period of time this will obviously involve Israeli participation. It has to. But there also have to be objective standards by which we measure the performance.

The former police commissioner in my hometown of Boston, Ed Davis, who is widely respected in the law enforcement community, was in the West Bank in August offering his strategic counsel. And we will work at this as professionally as anybody has ever done. We will not leave things to chance. There are serious responsibilities that come with statehood, and I have shared that notion with my friends in the West Bank. And they take it seriously. They do. It will take time to train, build, equip, and test Palestinian institutions to ensure that they’re capable of protecting Palestinian citizens – their primary responsibility is that – and also of preventing their territory from being used for attacks on Israel.

Now, I’ve heard all the arguments. We pulled out of Lebanon. Look what we got – we got rockets. We pulled out of Gaza. Look what we got – we got rockets. Well, yeah, we did. But we also didn’t settle any of the issues. Unilateral is not an answer. You’ve got to resolve the fundamentals of this conflict. And if all of you take the time to examine the history of Wye plantation, in Madrid, and Oslo, and all of the efforts before, what happened is they always left the final-status agreement to the future. And that leaves it to mischief, and it leaves it to all the worst forces that can fill a vacuum. It is essential, in my judgment, to reach for a full agreement and to have a framework within which we can try to work for that. After waiting so long for statehood, the Palestinian people deserve effective state institutions. And Israel and Jordan must know that they will have a reliable and responsible neighbor – not a failed state – living between them.


Now, I want to come back to the peace process for a moment, because there is another existential threat to Israel that diplomacy can far better address than the use of force. And I am referring to the demographic dynamic that makes it impossible for Israel to preserve its future as a democratic, Jewish state without resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a two-state solution.

Force cannot defeat or defuse the demographic time bomb. Israel’s current state of relative security and prosperity does not change the fact that today’s status quo will not be tomorrow’s or the future’s. The only way to secure Israel’s long-term future and security will be achieved through direct negotiations that separate Palestinians and Israelis, resolve the refugee situation, end all claims, and establish an independent, viable Palestinian state, and achieve recognition of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people.

Now, President Obama and I are absolutely committed to reaching a final-status agreement that recognizes two states for two peoples, living side-by-side in peace and security. There’s no mystery about what a two-state solution looks like. For many years the broad contours of an eventual solution have been absolutely clear, and they were crystallized for the world in December of 2000 when President Clinton laid down the parameters for a final-status agreement. They were reaffirmed through the Annapolis process during the Bush Administration. A basic framework will have to address all the core issues – borders, security, refugees, Jerusalem, mutual recognition, and an end of claims. And it will have to establish agreed guidelines for subsequent negotiations that will fill out the details in a full-on peace treaty.

This is the stuff of our strong diplomacy when it comes to peacemaking. Now, we, the United States, obviously, cannot nor should we make all the hard decisions – only the leaders themselves, the governments themselves, can do that – but we can serve as the facilitator, the honest broker, and the full partner in an effort to reach agreement. And for all the talk about our disengagement or declining influence in the Middle East – just ask yourself about my eight trips. In the Middle East, the fact is that both parties still look to us to play this role. We are doing so, we are deeply engaged, and we will remain so through thick and thin.

Now, I understand that there are many who are skeptical of whether American diplomacy can achieve this breakthrough to peace. Steps that destroy trust, by the way, like continued settlement activity and incitement, only feed that skepticism on both sides.

But I believe that if you indeed care about Israel, and everybody here does, if you care about its security, if you care about its future, if you care about Palestinians achieving their legitimate aspirations for self-determination, which we do also, we need to believe that peace is possible. And we all need to act on that belief.

Now, after so many decades of disappointments, I’m not a starry-eyed Pollyanna-ish idealist who comes at this and thinks you can just wipe it away and make it happen overnight. I understand it’s difficult. If it were easy, it would have been done. It’s no surprise that skepticism – even cynicism – is widespread. Doubts that peace is possible, regrettably, often blind people to even having a good discussion about all the benefits that peace can bring. I ask you to imagine what a two-state solution will mean for Israel, Palestine, Jordan, and the region. Imagine what it would mean for trade and for tourism – what it would mean for developing technology and talent, and for future generations of Israeli and Palestinian children. Imagine Israel and its neighbors as an economic powerhouse in the region.

It is long past time that the people of this great and ancient part of the world became known for what they can create, and not for the conflicts that they perpetuate. It is long past time that Jerusalem – the crucible of the world’s three great monotheistic religions – becomes known, not as the subject of constant struggle, but as the golden city of peace and unity, embodying the aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians alike.

Peace is possible today because we have courageous leaders who have already taken significant political risks for peace – and the time is approaching when they will have to take even more. They have shown real courage – both President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu. President Abbas has made tough choices and he has stayed the course, despite people in his team saying you ought to get out of here, look at those settlements. They’re making a fool of you. Believe me, that battle’s been going on, because I deal with it every week. And at the same time there’s been Israeli soldiers shot and killed in the West Bank and other acts of incitement.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has made tough choices and just this week he reaffirmed his commitment to a Palestinian state. And he said: “Israel is ready for an historic peace.”

Peace is possible today because the Arab League has also made tough choices, for the first time they came to Washington, they met with me, and they came out and announced for the first time that the new map will look different than the 1967 borders. It will accommodate realities on the ground. The Arab Peace Initiative holds out the possibility of normalizing relations with Israel, and strengthening security in the region. Just think of how much more secure Israel would be if it were integrated into a regional security architecture and surrounded by newfound partners. Think of an end to the unjust but also inexorable campaign to delegitimize Israel in the international community.

The United States has fought these efforts, often alone, at every opportunity, most recently in our successful effort to secure Israel’s entry this week into the Western European and Others Group at the UN in Geneva. And we fought hard for that. But think of the new markets that would open up and the bridges between people that peace would build. Think of the flood of foreign investment and business opportunities that would come to Israel, and how that will change the lives of everyday people throughout the region.

As Stanley Fischer, the former governor of the Bank of Israel, has said: A peace agreement with the Palestinians could boost Israel’s GDP in a short period of time by as much as 6 percent. Israel would also enjoy a normal, peaceful relationship the minute this agreement is signed with 22 Arab nations and 35 Muslim nations – 57 countries in all.

It is not beyond our imagination to envision that a new order could be established in the Middle East, in which countries like Jordan, Morocco, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the GCC states, a newly independent Palestine, and an internationally recognized Jewish State of Israel join together to promote stability and peace.


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PRN: 2013/1538


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