Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry described his complex relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his tenure under President Barack Obama in his upcoming bool”Every Day Is Extra”.
In excerpts from the book obtained by Jewish Insider, Kerry says it was Netanyahu’s willingness to “make difficult compromises” to make peace with the Palestinians, even at the risk of losing hisown coalition, which helped him convince a “skeptical” President Obama that the peace process was worthwhile.
Kerry recalled a conversation he had with Netanyahu after Obama’s 2013 speech in Israel.
“I met Bibi at the King David Hotel,” said Kerry, using the nickname Netanyahu. “He looked me in the eye and said,’John, I’m willing to try, but there are two things you should know: first, everyone in this region lies all the time and you Americans have a hard time understanding that; second, the most I can do may be less than the least Abbas could ever accept.
He also recalls talks with then-opposition leader Tzipi Livni, who emphasized that it was “imperative for Israel to achieve a lasting peace” with the Palestinians.
Kerry said Netanyahu, at the last minute, rejected a regional security plan drafted by U.S. General John Allen that would have required a gradual withdrawal of Israeli troops from Judea and Samaria. The plan required US troops to protect the border of a future Palestinian state, with Israeli troops on standby to resume security control of Judea and Samaria “in full force within a matter of hours” if needed.
But on the morning of the meeting between all three of them to begin implementation; Netanyahu rejected the plan and insisted that Israel needed to maintain a long-term military presence in Judea and Samaria.
“It was now clear to all of us that Bibi was not interested in really addressing security issues in a way that would allow for the eventual withdrawal of the Israel Defense Forces,” Kerry recalled. “It was then when I realized this wasn’t about security.”
The former senior diplomat also said the Obama administration considered the release of Jonathan Pollard in an attempt to save the peace process. He said Obama did not believe that Netanyahu would allow the creation of a Palestinian state, but was still willing to consider making a gesture of goodwill to Israel.
Kerry said that ultimately the decision by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to join several international organizations in violation of past agreement, is what torpedoed U.S. peace efforts, and gave Netanyahu “ammunition” to blame the Palestinians for the failed process.
Kerry also referred to the Obama administration’s 2016 decision not to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution stating that Israel’s settlement activity violated international law.
“We all understood the political storm we would face if we vetoed the resolution. However, President Obama was not willing to make a decision that, in his opinion, was contrary to U.S. interests simply because of politics”, Kerry writes.