Kerry: U.S. Will Not Interfere in Israeli Election

Secretary of state says there's 'not an inch of daylight' between the U.S. and Israel on strategy regarding Iran's nuclear program.

Barak Ravid
Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to the Saban Forum in Washington, Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014.Credit: AP
Barak Ravid

The United States will not involve itself in any way "in the choice of the Israeli people" during the forthcoming election, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday night during an address to the Brookings Institution’s Saban Forum, currently being held in Washington.

"We will work with whatever government is elected, whatever its composition," he stressed.

In a wide-ranging speech that covered issues from the Israel-Palestine conflict to the Islamic State (which Kerry called by its Arabic name Daesh) and the nuclear negotiations with Iran, the secretary stressed that engagement with the world – and the Middle East in particular – was not a choice for the U.S.

"The U.S. relationship with Israel, and with many Arab states, actually makes us safer," Kerry said. "By helping our friends to become stronger, we become stronger ourselves. Turbulence in the Middle East is also a real threat to our own prosperity."

Kerry reiterated the vow by President Barack Obama that Iran will not get nuclear weapons.

“We may disagree on tactics, but when it comes to core strategic goals, there is not an inch of daylight between the U.S. and the State of Israel," he said. "That’s why P5+1 has engaged in tough negotiations with Iran, that resolves all of the international community’s concerns.”

At the same time, the secretary painted the negotiations in a very positive light. "One year ago, Iran’s nuclear program was racing full-steam ahead today Iran has lived up to every commitment made in the interim agreement," he said.

“If this [peaceful] effort fails, we have been crystal clear – we will do what we have to do.”

Regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict, Kerry said that the U.S. "flat-out rejects the notion that Israeli-Palestinian peace is a pipe dream.” Only the two-state solution "will preserve Israel as a Jewish state and as a democracy,” he added.

From left: Martin Indyk, VP at the Brookings Institution, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Haim Saban and Tamara Wittes, Director of the Saban Center, Dec. 7, 2014.

"The secretary stressed that following the election in Israel, whenever both sides are ready to return to negotiations and make hard choices, the U.S will be willing to be involved and to assist.

Saying that the status quo between Israelis and Palestinians was not sustainable, he maintained that "progress was made and gaps were narrowed” during the nine-month negotiations under his auspices that ended earlier this year.

"All the alternatives to peace are unacceptable," he said. "We can’t ignore the greater issues that need to be resolved and it's important to keep hopes of lasting peace alive. We must continue to build the Palestinian economy and create conditions for negotiations." 

Much of the secretary's speech was devoted to the Islamic State, which, he said, "claims to be fighting for Islam, but its actions are an insult to Islam."

He credited the U.S.-led military action in Iraq and Syria with substantially altering the balance against the jihadist organization. “Daesh has been forced to abandon bases it has stopped using large convoys," he said.

“In Syria, we’re striking Daesh targets, attacking its command facilities, damaging its oil facilities. We are working to establish regional sites for training opposition forces."