U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned Israel on Thursday that it could face a third Palestinian uprising and deepening international isolation if the American-brokered peace negotiations failed.
"Well, the good news is that both leaders are committed to proceeding forward, both leaders know that there are difficulties but we work through these difficulties. I think each of them are deeply committed on behalf of their people," Kerry said during a televised interview on Channel 2.
Kerry addressed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's earlier statements that it was agreed that Israel would be able to continue construction beyond the Green Line during negotiations in exchange for releasing Palestinian prisoners:
"That is not the agreement. The agreement, specifically, was that there would be a release of the pre-Oslo prisoners,104, who’ve been in prison now for many, many years, who would be released in exchange for the PA not proceeding to the UN during that period of time.
"Now, the Palestinian leadership made it absolutely clear: they believe the settlements are illegal. They object to the settlements, and they are in no way condoning the settlements, but they knew that Israel would make some announcements. They knew it. But they don’t agree with it. And they don’t support it. They disagreed with it. In fact, they said, 'We don’t agree. We do not think you should be doing settlements.' We, the United States, say the same thing. We do not believe the settlements are legitimate. We think they’re illegitimate. And we believe that the entire peace process would in fact be easier if these settlements were not taking place," Kerry said in the interview.
Kerry warned of the potentially dangerous outcome of another deadlocked peace process. "The alternative to getting back to the talks is the potential of chaos. I mean, does Israel want a third Intifada?" he asked, referring to the danger of a new Palestinian uprising to follow those that erupted in 1987 and 2000.
"I believe that if we do not resolve the issues between Palestinians and Israelis, if we do not find the way to find peace, there will be an increasing isolation of Israel, there will be an increasing campaign of delegitimization of Israel that has been taking place in an international basis, that if we do not resolve the question of settlements, and the question of who lives where and how and what rights they have, if we don't end the presence of Israeli soldiers perpetually within the West Bank, then there will be an increasing feeling that if we cannot get peace with a leadership that is committed to non-violence, you may wind up with leadership that is committed to violence," he said.
Kerry warned of the dangers of maintaining the status quo and of some Israelis' perceived complacency. "I know there are people who have grown used to this ... 'Oh we feel safe today. We have the wall, we’re not in a day-to-day conflict, we’re doing pretty well economically.' Well, I’ve got news for you [Israel], Today’s status quo will not be tomorrow’s or next year’s. Because if we don’t resolve this issue, the Arab world, the Palestinians, neighbors, others, are going to begin again to push in a different way."
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon responded to Kerry's statements in the interview. "There is no need to fear threats of whether there will or won't be a third Intifada," he said.
"We have been in an open and ongoing conflict [with the Palestinians], which as far as the Palestinians are concerned does not end in 1967 lines. There is Sheikh Munis -- Tel Aviv, Majdal -- Ashkelon. We got out of the Gaza Strip and they continue to attack us. They raise their youth to believe that Haifa and Acre are Palestinian ports and more. There is no sign of compromise here. Therefore we are likely not going to solve this based on what we thought. This does not mean we want to control them, they have political autonomy and good thing they do. We will have to be smart, and not fear threats of whether there will or won't be a third Intifada," he said.
The Israeli Right was largely upset by Kerry's statements in the Channel 2 interview. "I don't remember the last time the U.S. released terrorists, and it demands that we do so as a goodwill gesture to the Palestinians, who in return continue their incitement and rile up the next generation of terrorists," Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon said.
Coalition Chairman MK Yariv Levin said it is Israel's prerogative to build where it chooses. "Israel's right to build anywhere on its land cannot be questioned. Given the reality in the Middle East, Secretary of State Kerry's statements, despite their good intentions, only encourage Arab extremists and bring down the chances for peace. I call on the American government to make it clear to the Palestinians that they must refrain from any attempt to harm Israel in international bodies," Levin said.
Kerry expressed optimism on Thursday after meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordanian King Abdullah in Amman, it Kerry's second meeting with Abbas in 24 hours.
Israel Hayom has learned that there exists an agreement with Palestinians in which they would sign an accord with Israel declaring an end to the conflict and to their demands. Netanyahu has put an emphasis on including a clause calling Israel the Jewish homeland and explained that agreeing to it will make it clear to Palestinians and Israeli Arabs that they cannot make any more sovereign claims inside Israel. Justice Minister and chief negotiator Tzipi Livni supports Netanyahu's demand, but Finance Minister Yair Lapid does not.
Livni supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict such that each nation provides a home for each people, Israel for the Jews and Palestine for the Palestinians. In the past Livni was the one that convinced the Bush administration that a Palestinian state would be the solution for the Palestinian refugee problem.