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February 4, 2014 10:06 am

ADL Upbraids Kerry for Making it More Likely ‘That Boycotts Will Ensue’ if Peace Talks Fail

avatar by Joshua Levitt

Secretary of State John Kerry with Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat (left) and Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni (right) on July 30 in Washington, DC. Credit: State Department.

The Anti-Defamation League on Tuesday sent an open letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry,  upbraiding him for a speech at the weekend on Israel-Palestinian Authority peace talks that it said worked “to create a reality of its own,” with his “tough talk.”

His comments, the ADL said, will make it more likely “that the talks will not succeed…” “that Israel will be blamed if the talks fail” and “that boycotts will ensue.”

For what he didn’t say, the ADL pointed to the “historical amnesia” that forgets that it was the Palestinian side that has walked away from every previous international peace agreement proposal.

The open letter, signed by ADL National Director Abraham Foxman, began by noting the organization’s “great respect” for Kerry’s “exemplary and devoted efforts” to encourage a peace agreement between Israeli and the PA. “We have all witnessed the suffering and loss on all sides as the conflict continues year after year, decade after decade. We welcome your perseverance and optimism in trying to accomplish something that has eluded others time and again,” it said.

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Then it began a critique of the U.S.’s top diplomat discussion of the peace talks at a security conference in Munich on Saturday.

“In speaking about the price Israel will pay if the peace talks break down and Israel is blamed, you may have thought you were merely describing reality,” the ADL wrote. “But as the key player in the process, the impact of your comments was to create a reality of its own.”

“Describing the potential for expanded boycotts of Israel makes it more, not less, likely that the talks will not succeed; makes it more, not less, likely that Israel will be blamed if the talks fail; and more, not less, likely that boycotts will ensue,” it said.

“Your comments, irrespective of your intentions, will inevitably be seen by Palestinians and anti-Israel activists as an incentive not to reach an agreement; as an indicator that if things fall apart, Israel will be blamed; and as legitimizing boycott activity.”

“The absence of similar tough talk about the consequences for Palestinians should the talks fail” was “particularly troubling,” the ADL said, suggesting “a historical amnesia about why there has been no peace and no solution all these years.”

“Israel always must be willing to compromise for peace and at different times it is not unreasonable to ask Israel to do more. But the core of the conflict was and remains Palestinian unwillingness to accept Israel’s legitimacy and permanence as a Jewish state.”

“That is why the Palestinians rejected the 1947 partition, that is why they rejected recognizing Israel after the 1967 war, and that is why Israeli offers at Camp David in 2000 and Annapolis in 2008 were rejected or allowed to go unanswered,” the ADL said. “It is Palestinians who must hear the message that not only has their rejectionism been the major obstacle to peace, but it has also been the main source of their suffering and misery over the years.”

The ADL encouraged Kerry to push the PA to understand that now “is time… to make the qualitative leap toward peace and acceptance of the legitimacy of the Jewish state.”

While the ADL noted that Kerry may be bringing these matters to the attention of PA negotiators, in private, it said his “comments in Munich, however, threaten to undo all this by ignoring the historic compulsion of the Palestinians to look for ever new reasons and incentives to reject the Jewish state. Concerns of the kind you expressed therefore would have been better left unsaid or at most discussed in private conversations with Israeli representatives.”

Concluding, the ADL said, “We wish you continued success in moving this process forward. We urge you to understand, however, that those who are most against peace are the ones who will benefit the most from the unintended encouragement in the comments you expressed in Munich.”

On Monday, The Algemeiner reported that Kerry also made the mistake in his Munich speech of saying that “Last year, not one Israeli was killed by a Palestinian from the West Bank,” though a report from the Shin Bet a week before about terror activity in 2013 detailed at least five Israeli deaths, nearly all of them in high-profile attacks.

Kerry has been pushing Israel and the PA to reach a framework agreement withing a nine-month time frame that would conclude this April.

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