Israel's steps toward legitimizing illegal outposts in the West Bank and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's choice of David Friedman as U.S. ambassador to Israel drove then-U.S. President Barack Obama to refrain from vetoing the UN Security Council anti-settlement resolution, according to a new book written by former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
In Kerry's memoir slated for release next week, entitled "Every Day Is Extra," he describes the Obama administration's attempt to promote the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and his impression of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Quotes from the book were published Friday on the Jewish Insider website.
The Security Council resolution passed in December 2016, less than a month before Trump took office in the White House. A week prior to the vote, Trump had announced he'd appoint David Friedman as the U.S. ambassador to Israel. Kerry claims this also played a role in Obama's considerations.
"President-elect Trump had announced he was going to appoint an ambassador to Israel who was a hard-core proponent of the settlements and an avowed opponent of the two-state solution," Kerry writes. "At the same time, the Israelis had shown themselves to be completely disdainful of our policy by starting a process of formally legalizing outposts … We could not defend in the UN Israeli actions that amounted to a massive and unprecedented acceleration of the settlement enterprise.”
Kerry writes that Netanyahu stressed to him he'd be willing to take risks to reach a peace deal, even if it would put his coalition at risk. This allowed Kerry to convince Obama it was worth rejuvenating the diplomatic discourse between the two entities.
However, according to him, "Bibi was raising the bar, perhaps impossibly." In this context, he quotes words said to him by Netanyahu in 2013: "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."
Kerry also describes how Netanyahu rejected the security plan proposed by Gen. John Allen, adding he then concluded "that this wasn’t about security."
Of Netanyahu's 2015 speech in Congress, which was orchestrated unbeknownst to the White House, Kerry says that "As an unwavering supporter of Israel who always viewed my differences with Bibi through a political, not personal lens, I was disappointed in him… I thought we deserved better than a speech that hit below the belt."
Another confrontation between the two took place during the days of 2014's Operation Protective Edge, when Kerry blamed Netanyahu for leaking his proposal for a truce. An "element of personal trust had been lost," writes Kerry, quoting what he told the premier in a phone call: "This is outrageous, the humanitarian cease-fire was your idea. And now you leak this document to make it sound like I am trying to advance Hamas’s position?"
In the book, Kerry describes meeting Netanyahu at the time of the Gaza war, after the FAA ordered to stop flights from the U.S. to Israel after a missile fell close to Ben-Gurion International Airport. "It was the few times I saw Bibi very subdued, absent his normal energy and bravado," he writes. "To see the leader of Israel under siege like that really touched me… I saw Bibi in that moment more vulnerable than I’d ever seen him before."
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