Diplomacy

Kerry Comments on “Jewish state” Recognition Generate Controversy, Confusion

Controversy swirled last week regarding testimony given to Congress by Secretary of State John Kerry, in which Kerry told the House Foreign Relations Committee that “I think it’s a mistake for some people to be raising again and again” Israel’s demand that the Palestinians recognize the country’s Jewish character “as the critical decider of their attitude toward the possibility of a [Palestinian] state, and peace, and we’ve obviously made that clear.”

“‘Jewish state’ was resolved in 1947 in Resolution 181 where there are more than 40– 30 mentions of ‘Jewish state,'” Kerry continued. “In addition, chairman Arafat in 1988 and again in 2004 confirmed that he agreed it would be a Jewish state. And there are any other number of mentions.”

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post on Friday, a State Department official followed up on Kerry’s comments noting that the US has repeatedly reaffirmed Israel’s status as a Jewish state. “The United States’ position that Israel is the Jewish State has been clear for years and has been consistently made clear by the president and secretary,” the official said. “Secretary Kerry repeated this again yesterday to Congress.”

Coverage typically took the statements to be a criticism of Israel’s long-standing demand that any comprehensive agreement include a Palestinian recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, if only as a badly needed confidence-building signal indicating that the Palestinians were ready to end their territorial claims against Jerusalem.

Noting the context of the claims, however, Jewish Telegraph Agency Washington bureau chief Ron Kampeas suggested that Kerry was “slamming [the Palestinians], not Israel, on the issue” and that he was following the lead of members of Congress in expressing “frustration [with] Palestinians” over their resistance to compromising on the condition.

It would indeed be strange for Kerry to blame Israel for insisting on the condition, inasmuch as he had emphasized as recently as last December that a U.S.-backed framework agreement would aim at “achiev[ing] recognition of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people.”

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