In remarks to reporters before his meeting Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Secretary of State John Kerry strongly denounced the current wave of terrorist attacks against Israelis; however, in his statement just hours later following a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Kerry didn’t mention the word “terrorism” even once and even expressed sympathy with the “very dire” situation of Palestinians.
According to a transcript of his remarks before the Netanyahu meeting posted on the State Department website, Kerry strongly condemned the daily violence, which he described as “acts of terrorism” and supported Israel’s right to defend itself against the Palestinian attacks.
“I expressed my complete condemnation for any act of terror that takes innocent lives and disrupts the day-to-day life of a nation,” Kerry said. “Israel has every right in the world to defend itself, and it has an obligation to defend itself, and it will and it is.”
Also notably, even while he blasted terrorism, Kerry never said that Palestinians have been behind the daily stabbing, car ramming and shooting attacks.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, looks on as Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem Tuesday. (Atef Safadi/Pool Photo via AP)
Following his meeting with the Palestinian leader in Ramallah, Kerry expressed sympathy with the “very dire” situation of Palestinians, and though he did mention "extraordinary concerns" over "the violence," he never mentioned "terrorism" or the fact that the recent attackers have been Palestinians.
“We had a long and very constructive and serious conversation with President Abbas, and I want to say that I know that the situation for Palestinians in the West Bank, in Jerusalem, in Gaza is, at this moment, very dire, that there are extraordinary concerns, obviously, about the violence,” Kerry said.
To Abbas, the secretary of state emphasized the Obama administration’s commitment to a “two-state solution,” that is, a separate state for Israelis and Palestinians.
“I want to make it very, very clear tonight that I am here at the request of President Obama to see what we can do to try to help contribute to calm and to restore people’s confidence in the ability of a two-state solution to still be viable, to be achieved at some point. We are committed to that, two states with two peoples living side by side in peace and security, and President Obama and the United States will continue to work as hard as possible to achieve that end,” Kerry added.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, leans in to begin his meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)
It is unclear if Kerry privately censured Abbas over the recent violence, because unlike with the Netanyahu meeting, the State Department did not post on its website a readout of the secretary’s meeting with the Palestinian leader.
Another subtle word change occurred at Kerry’s meeting Tuesday with Reuven Rivlin, Israel’s president, who serves a largely ceremonial role.
In his public remarks with Rivlin, Kerry referred to the daily attacks only as “violence” not “terrorism,” which he said with Netanyahu. As was consistent with his other public statements during the day, the secretary of state did not describe the violence as being perpetrated by Palestinians.
Calling the attacks “a challenge to all civilized people,” Kerry told Rivlin, “[W]e all have a responsibility to condemn that violence, to make it clear that no frustration, no politics, no ideology, no emotion justifies taking innocent lives.”
“So I am pleased to stand here with you, as I stood earlier with the prime minister, to express our outrage at this kind of violence, to condemn this violence, and to make it clear that Israel not only has a right to defend itself; it has an obligation to do so. And the United States will continue to stand with Israel in support of your desire to live in peace and stability without that violence,” Kerry added.
Israel has pointed to incitement to violence from the Palestinian Authority — including promoting unfounded claims that Israel wishes to limit Muslim access to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque — as inspiring the attacks, many of which have been perpetrated by teenagers.