Secretary Kerry Delivers Remarks at the Saban Forum

Secretary Kerry Delivers Remarks at the Saban Forum

SECRETARY KERRY: (Applause.) Thank you. Thank
you. Thank you, Tamara, for a very, very generous introduction, and thank you for the great
work that you are now doing at the Saban Center at Brookings. And good afternoon to everybody.
Welcome to a rather remarkable – I’ve been noticing the numbers of people. I don’t know
if you can get the President of the United States as an opening act, but I’ll take it.
(Laughter.) It’s really a pleasure for me and a great
honor for me to be here with all of you. And as I’m looking at the faces, particularly
in the front row here, and General Allen and others, it’s as if a bunch of us just sort
of time warped ourselves from meetings in Jerusalem yesterday, and here we are. (Laughter.)
So from yesterday morning in Jerusalem to this afternoon in Washington, it’s a pleasure
to be here. Welcome to all of you who have traveled from Israel and from the territories. It is a very special pleasure to be here with
Haim and Cheryl Saban. I am so personally graced by their friendship, and got to know
them well during the course of my elected political life. But it’s really nice to be
able to come here today and congratulate both of them in person for the incredible work
that they have done to further a strong relationship between the United States and Israel. And
this forum, as all of you have seen in the last 24 hours, has become an invaluable expression
not just of their personal commitment, but of our ability to be able to come together
to talk about complicated issues. It is already the 10th anniversary, and during
that short span of time it is safe to say that this has become really the premier venue
for U.S.-Israel public dialogue. And I guess it’s no surprise because there is a lot to
talk about. I’m also – I’ll just share with you quickly.
Haim and I are about the same age, and when we were each in high school – Haim in Tel
Aviv, and me in New England – we both picked up the bass guitar and we dreamed of making
it big as rock stars. (Laughter.) If you ever heard the music that my band mates and I made
– and you can go on YouTube and actually hear it – you’d know that my first true act of
public service was when I stopped playing public gigs. (Laughter.) And maybe that’s
why I winded up as – wound up as Secretary of State and Haim became a Hollywood mogul.
But from garage band to the present is quite a journey. I’m looking at this front row here. Mr. Foreign
Minister, it’s a pleasure to see you here. You and I will have the privilege of having
breakfast tomorrow morning, and I congratulate you again on coming back to these duties,
and I look forward to working with you. It’s going to be very, very important. I’m also
privileged to see Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni. We’ve become great friends and worked
very closely together over time. She took me to Sderot, where I saw those rockets that
come out of the Gaza Strip, and we’ve spent many hours together sharing thoughts about
the possibilities. And Mr. Prime Minister, wonderful to see you
again, Ehud. Thank you for continuing to be a voice in this process. And Boozhi – I just
had a chance to spend some time with Boozhi and the leader of the opposition, as you all
know, and having been in the opposition and been in the majority, I know the important
role that he plays and will play in the future. And I congratulate him on his victory. I think I want to also recognize our President
of the Brookings – where is Strobe? Somewhere here. Strobe, thank you. Great service, not
just here but obviously as former Deputy Secretary of State and many other ways. And I value
his counsel. He has come over to help me think about Nagorno-Karabakh and other frozen conflicts.
And I’m privileged – we all are privileged to have his continued public input. And Ted
Piccone, congratulate you on taking over from Martin while he is now with us working the
cause, as you have said. And I am grateful for Martin’s dedication and willingness to
do some very, very difficult, time-consuming and patience-requiring work, and I thank him
for doing that. I will share some thoughts with all of you
on a number of things here today, and I wish I could stay. There’s nothing I love more
than the give and take. I love to take the questions. I know you have plenty of them.
And it would serve well probably to be just answering questions. But unfortunately I have
to go from here to the Kennedy Center honors, which I preside over this evening. So my time
is a little bit limited, and I apologize for that. As was mentioned by Tamara in her
introduction, late last night I got back from my eighth visit to Israel – Mr. Justice Breyer, it is wonderful to see you here.
Thank you. A good New Englander, folks – a Red Sox Nation fan and all of that –
(laughter) – my eighth visit as Secretary of State.
Now, I am not a masochist. (Laughter.) I am undertaking this because
I believe in the possibilities. And as many of you know, I have spent
almost 30 years in the United States Senate, and I’m proud of my 100 percent voting
record for Israel, but I’m proud also that I built up relationships in the Mideast with
leaders in Arab countries and elsewhere who learned that they could come to
trust me. And I believe that I approach this great challenge with a huge sense
of responsibility about building trust and ultimately building a process that will
test and provide guarantees to people about this concept called peace. On this visit, I spent most of the time focused
on Israel’s security concerns because for years and years and years, it has been clear
to me from every prime minister that unless a prime minister can look the people of Israel
in the eye and make it clear to them that he has spoken for Israel’s security to a certainty,
you cannot make peace. It is a prerequisite. And for anyone who feels somehow there
might be an unfairness in that, all you have to do is look at the history and understand
why that’s a fundamental reality. And I mean all of the history. Every time I visit, I can feel in my gut,
and I see it as well as hear it firsthand, just how vulnerable Israel can be
and just how important it is for the United States’ commitment to
Israel’s security to remain ironclad. Ours is a commitment that spans decades. In
1973, it was the driving force behind the 32‑day airlift that the United States conducted
to deliver vital military assistance to Israel, to the forces, in order to help turn the tide
of the Yom Kippur War. About a decade later, our commitment to Israel’s security spurred
the U.S.-Israeli development of ballistic missile defense technologies to keep Israelis
safe from rockets and missiles. Those systems – and newer technologies – continue to protect
Israelis from the range of threats that they still face today. President Obama and I – and I think you heard
this from the President in his Q&A earlier today – remain deeply committed – indeed,
determined – to ensuring Israel has the ability to defend itself, by itself. That’s why in
fact, by any measurement, President Obama’s administration has done more than any before
to make Israel more secure, including: funding Iron Dome, which has saved untold lives by
intercepting hundreds of rockets that might otherwise have struck schools, hospitals,
or homes; deepening our day-to-day security, our partnership at the military level, at the
intel level, on an ongoing basis; negotiating a new, long-term memorandum of understanding
to lock in U.S. military assistance for the future; providing access to the most sophisticated
U.S. military technology, such as precision munitions, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter,
the V-22 Osprey – which Israel is the only country in the world to receive from the United
States; and engaging in extensive training and joint exercises in areas of special operations,
missile defense, and search-and-rescue. Unprecedented levels. These examples and a lot more, should make
crystal clear our commitment to preserve Israel’s qualitative military edge, so that
Israel can defend itself, by itself, against any threat. And when Israel or if Israel were
to come under attack, whether by terrorists on its borders or by an international
organization, we will always stand up for Israel’s right to defend itself. And the
United States is always particularly prepared to be the first and fastest to Israel’s
side in any time of crisis. Now we approach this challenge believing that
Israel has to be strong to make peace – but that peace will also make Israel stronger.
And we are convinced that the greatest security will actually come from a two-state solution
that brings Israel lasting peace. Shared prosperity throughout the region, good relations among
neighbors, peace of mind for the people of Israel and for Palestinians alike – none
of this is possible without addressing Israel’s legitimate security concerns,
and ensuring that, as a result of peace, Israelis not only feel more secure,
but are more secure, not less. Now that is why security led our agendas in
Jerusalem and Ramallah this week. Now, I want to make it clear, we’ve been at this I guess
since April, when we announced the resumption of talks, and the months preceding were obviously
dedicated to trying to get there. By necessity, we have had to do some groundwork, some due
diligence in order to be able to address these legitimate concerns and questions in a way
that they have never been addressed before. In Ramallah this week, we engaged in that
discussion as well as in Jerusalem. General John Allen – who is sitting right here in
the second row – has done extraordinary work. He commanded our coalition forces in Afghanistan;
trained up 350,000 troops there, not to mention the tens of thousands in Iraq. This is a man
who knows how to build capacity. He recently retired as a four‑star Marine Corps General,
and he is one of the best military minds in America. And he has been asked by the President
and me and the Secretary of Defense to lead this effort of a security dialogue with the
IDF. He is helping us make sure that the border on the Jordan River will be as strong as any
in the world, so that there will be no question about the security of the citizens, Israelis
and Palestinians, living to the west. I will tell you point blank, and I’ve read
all of the history of these negotiations and I’ve lived part of the history of these negotiations.
I was on the lawn when the famous handshake took place. And I’ve had many, many a meeting
over the course of time as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and as a Senator.
Never before – ever – has the United States conducted such an in-depth analysis of Israel’s
security requirements that arise from the potential of a two-state solution. Never. Understanding the importance of this analysis,
we are examining every potential security scenario – something on the border; something
in the future; terrorism in the future; a weakness of the Hashemite Kingdom. Whatever
it might be. We are coordinating with Jordanians and the Palestinians to create a layered approach
that both guarantees Israel’s security and fully respects Palestinian sovereignty. That’s
a threading of a needle, but it is a critical threading of a needle that has to happen in
order to achieve an agreement. General Allen is joined by dozens – literally,
I think there are about 160 people: military experts, intel experts and others working
to analyze this so what we put on the table is deadly serious, real, because these stakes
are real. And we have highly qualified defense officials working with dozens of organizations
in the United States, including the Office of the Secretary of Defense; the Defense Security
and Cooperation Agency; the Defense Threat Reduction Agency; DARPA, which is the Pentagon’s
research arm that created the Internet; not to mention the Joint Staff and the United
States Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. They’re all hard at work, analyzing what began,
frankly, back in 2011 as a preliminary analysis was made, and now is becoming state of the
art as we ramp it up for this possibility of peace. They’re all hard at work in close
consultation with their IDF counterparts. And we will engage in further close evaluation
with Shin Bet, with Mossad, with every aspect, and with the Palestinians – and with the Palestinians,
which is critical. We have a separate team assessing Palestinian
security needs in the context of statehood. We anticipate that the United States will
continue to play a leading role in building – helping to build Palestinian capacity, helping
to build their capabilities to maintain law and order; to cooperate in an effective judicial
system; to counter terrorism and smuggling; and manage border security, customs, immigration.
Needless to say, for a period of time this will obviously involve Israeli participation.
It has to. But there also have to be objective standards by which we measure the performance. The former police commissioner in my hometown
of Boston, Ed Davis, who is widely respected in the law enforcement community, was in the
West Bank in August offering his strategic counsel. And we will work at this as professionally
as anybody has ever done. We will not leave things to chance. There are serious responsibilities
that come with statehood, and I have shared that notion with my friends in the West Bank.
And they take it seriously. They do. It will take time to train, build, equip, and test
Palestinian institutions to ensure that they’re capable of protecting Palestinian citizens
– their primary responsibility is that – and also of preventing their territory from being
used for attacks on Israel. Now, I’ve heard all the arguments. We pulled
out of Lebanon. Look what we got – we got rockets. We pulled out of Gaza. Look what
we got – we got rockets. Well, yeah, we did. But we also didn’t settle any of the issues.
Unilateral is not an answer. You’ve got to resolve the fundamentals of this conflict.
And if all of you take the time to examine the history of Wye plantation, in Madrid,
and Oslo, and all of the efforts before, what happened is they always left the final-status
agreement to the future. And that leaves it to mischief, and it leaves it to all the worst
forces that can fill a vacuum. It is essential, in my judgment, to reach for a full agreement
and to have a framework within which we can try to work for that. After waiting so long
for statehood, the Palestinian people deserve effective state institutions. And Israel and
Jordan must know that they will have a reliable and responsible neighbor – not a failed state
– living between them. Now, I believe and President Obama believes
that strong diplomacy is essential. Make no mistake: security is only one essential part
of this equation. Backed by the unquestioned potential of our powerful armed forces and
alliances, we have to also engage in strong, smart diplomacy. And that is diplomacy, backed
by force, which can achieve outcomes that force alone often cannot actually produce. Diplomacy, for example, is today succeeding
in removing the threat of Syria’s chemical weapons. As the civil war was raging just
north of major population centers in Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu raised with me his
concerns about those weapons potentially falling into the hands of Al-Nusrah, al-Qaida, Ahrar
al-Sham, or the Iraqi State of the Levant. I mean, this is a real threat – falling into
the hands of Hezbollah or any other al-Qaida-affiliated terrorist. And we were growing in our concern
of that, and so, incidentally, were the Russians. We consulted closely with Israel about those
contingencies, but, frankly, neither of us had a perfect solution. As much as some yearned
for a military strike on Syria – and I’ve heard it all – bombing Syria’s chemical weapons
stores would not have effectively removed the threat and it would have entailed enormous
risks to innocent civilians. Now at one point that was our option; it was our only option.
At best, we believed that we could deter and degrade Syria’s chemical weapons capability
through targeted military strikes. And don’t forget, President Obama made his decision
and announced publicly that he was ready to take action. But in the end, it was diplomacy that resulted
in a peaceful process of accounting not for some, but of giving us the ability to account
for all of these weapons and eliminate these weapons that pose such a threat to Israeli
citizens and others in the region. The process to remove and destroy those weapons, I can
report to you today, is on track to be completed by the middle of next year. And we, the United
States, will provide the capacity to destroy those weapons, and we are working with the
Russians to contain them and move them and ship them to take them out of Syria itself,
proving that diplomacy can be so powerful, it can defuse the world’s worst weapons. So that brings us obviously to Iran. We are
using diplomacy to fully and verifiably address the threat that is posed by Iran’s nuclear
program. It is a real threat. We have always taken it as such. We have no illusions – none
whatsoever. Let me restate something that President Obama has made clear since day one,
and reiterated again this afternoon: We will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.
Period. Not now, not ever. Now, believe me, the United States fully understands
that Israel perceives a nuclear Iran as an existential threat. Why? Because it is. And
we understand that. And while we may sometimes favor a different tactical choice – tactical
– the United States and Israel have always shared the same fundamental strategic goal.
As we move forward in this negotiation, we will continue to consult very closely with
Israel, as with our other friends and allies in the region and around the world whose input
is critical to us in this process. This week, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s National
Security Advisor Yossi Cohen will travel to the United States for direct conversations
with our Iran experts, and that will help us to coordinate and shape our positions with
respect to a comprehensive agreement going forward. As we enter negotiations for a final,
comprehensive agreement, we absolutely do so with our eyes wide open, and, as yet, I
have to say, unconvinced that Iran will absolutely make all the decisions, the hard decisions
necessary to reach such an agreement. But these negotiations will not be open-ended.
And given what we all know of its history – the history of Iran with respect to its
nuclear program: a hidden mountainside site; unbelievable numbers of centrifuges; new,
faster, speedier, more effective centrifuges, all the things that we know – we have a right
to be skeptical, and that’s why this is not about trust, not about words; it’s about actions.
It’s about testing the process, testing their commitment. This is about living up to verifiable,
transparent, internationally accepted standards, and only diplomacy can get you to the place
where you establish what that is. Now let me make something else clear. I am
convinced beyond any doubt that Israel becomes safer the moment this first-step agreement
is implemented. Let me repeat that. Israel will be safer the day this begins to be implemented
than it was the day before. And I say that because with implementation, we will then
sit down with our P5+1 united colleagues and partners, and sit down with Iran, for the
comprehensive discussion that Prime Minister Netanyahu has always said he favors. And we
will do so, with all due respect, with one important advantage: we will have ensured
that Iran’s program will not advance while we negotiate. As we negotiate, Iran will forfeit its entire
stock of 20 percent enriched uranium, which Prime Minister Netanyahu highlighted in his
2012 speech at the United Nations, and which is relatively a short step away from weapons
grade. As we negotiate, Iran will be unable to grow
its stock of 3.5 percent enriched uranium, or unable to stockpile or increase the number
of centrifuges that are operating at Fordow and Natanz. We will for the first time be
able to inspect and go into the workshops and the storage facilities for these items.
As we negotiate, international inspectors will have unprecedented access to Iran’s key
facilities, which we don’t have today. We will have daily access to Fordow, daily access
to Natanz, and regular access to the Arak heavy-water reactor site. And they are required
to give us the plans for that site. As we negotiate, the Arak facility, which
is still under construction and which could have provided an alternative path to a bomb,
will be prohibited from installing any new components whatsoever, or testing additional
fuel. As we negotiate, our Treasury Department will remain absolutely determined to enforce
our core sanctions architecture, which has deprived Iran of more than $80 billion in
oil revenue since 2012. So in a year and half, we’ve deprived them of $80 billion, and in
this deal we’re going to let $4 billion be released? You think that makes a difference,
while 25 billion – 15 to 25 billion will be put away, still escrowed, still deprived over
the course of these six months? And by the way, none of it happens all in one day; it
happens seriatim, sequentially, as the process is implemented. We also have prevented, as
you know, access to the international banking system. We will work with our international
partners to ensure that that commitment does not waver. As we negotiated, I’ve personally instructed
every bureau at the State Department and each of our missions around the world to remain
vigilant for any sign that any sanction is being skirted. And as we negotiate, we will
continue to be perfectly clear that, for Iran, the price of noncompliance, of failing to
satisfy international concerns about the nuclear program, will be that we immediately ratchet
up new sanctions, along with whatever further steps are needed to prevent Iran from acquiring
a nuclear weapon, including – as President Obama just made clear – a military option,
if that were necessary. So there shouldn’t be an ounce of doubt. This
is a debate we shouldn’t be having. The real question is what’s going to happen with the
final agreement. The United States stands squarely behind our Israeli friends and allies
in the region and in the world. And the result of all of these steps that we are taking is
that Iran’s breakout time, the period required to produce enough weapons-grade material intended
for nuclear weapons, will have been increased because of our diplomacy. Now, we are obviously well aware that even
a comprehensive agreement wouldn’t solve all our problems with Iran, and we don’t pretend
that they do. It wouldn’t address their support for Hezbollah. It won’t deal with Syria – although
it would have some impact, ultimately. It doesn’t deal with other terrorist organizations,
or their attempt to destabilize our partners throughout the region. Whatever the outcome
of the upcoming negotiations, Iran will still have much work to do. But I am convinced that
we have taken a strong first step that has made the world, and Israel, safer, even as we
work to solve this problem once and for all. So once again, I want to emphasize: A careful
balance of strength and diplomacy gives us the best chance to reach our common goal,
and to do so without having to resort to force. Now, I want to come back to the peace process
for a moment, because there is another existential threat to Israel that diplomacy can far better
address than the use of force. And I am referring to the demographic dynamic that makes it impossible
for Israel to preserve its future as a democratic, Jewish state without resolving the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict in a two-state solution. Force cannot defeat or defuse the demographic
time bomb. Israel’s current state of relative security and prosperity does not change the
fact that today’s status quo will not be tomorrow’s or the future’s. The only way to secure Israel’s
long-term future and security will be achieved through direct negotiations that separate
Palestinians and Israelis, resolve the refugee situation, end all claims, and establish an
independent, viable Palestinian state, and achieve recognition of Israel as the homeland
of the Jewish people. Now, President Obama and I are absolutely
committed to reaching a final-status agreement that recognizes two states for two peoples,
living side-by-side in peace and security. There’s no mystery about what a two-state
solution looks like. For many years the broad contours of an eventual solution have been
absolutely clear, and they were crystallized for the world in December of 2000 when President
Clinton laid down the parameters for a final-status agreement. They were reaffirmed through the
Annapolis process during the Bush Administration. A basic framework will have to address all
the core issues – borders, security, refugees, Jerusalem, mutual recognition, and an end
of claims. And it will have to establish agreed guidelines for subsequent negotiations that
will fill out the details in a full-on peace treaty. This is the stuff of our strong diplomacy
when it comes to peacemaking. Now, we, the United States, obviously, cannot nor should
we make all the hard decisions – only the leaders themselves, the governments themselves,
can do that – but we can serve as the facilitator, the honest broker, and the full partner in
an effort to reach agreement. And for all the talk about our disengagement or declining
influence in the Middle East – just ask yourself about my eight trips. In the Middle East,
the fact is that both parties still look to us to play this role. We are doing so, we
are deeply engaged, and we will remain so through thick and thin. Now, I understand that there are many who
are skeptical of whether American diplomacy can achieve this breakthrough to peace. Steps
that destroy trust, by the way, like continued settlement activity and incitement, only feed
that skepticism on both sides. But I believe that if you indeed care about
Israel, and everybody here does, if you care about its security, if you care about its
future, if you care about Palestinians achieving their legitimate aspirations for self-determination,
which we do also, we need to believe that peace is possible. And we all need to act
on that belief. Now, after so many decades of disappointments,
I’m not a starry-eyed Pollyanna-ish idealist who comes at this and thinks you can just
wipe it away and make it happen overnight. I understand it’s difficult. If it were easy,
it would have been done. It’s no surprise that skepticism – even cynicism – is widespread.
Doubts that peace is possible, regrettably, often blind people to even having a good discussion
about all the benefits that peace can bring. I ask you to imagine what a two-state solution
will mean for Israel, Palestine, Jordan, and the region. Imagine what it would mean for
trade and for tourism – what it would mean for developing technology and talent, and
for future generations of Israeli and Palestinian children. Imagine Israel and its neighbors
as an economic powerhouse in the region. It is long past time that the people of this
great and ancient part of the world became known for what they can create, and not for
the conflicts that they perpetuate. It is long past time that Jerusalem – the crucible
of the world’s three great monotheistic religions – becomes known, not as the subject of constant
struggle, but as the golden city of peace and unity, embodying the aspirations of Israelis
and Palestinians alike. Peace is possible today because we have courageous
leaders who have already taken significant political risks for peace – and the time is
approaching when they will have to take even more. They have shown real courage – both
President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu. President Abbas has made tough choices and
he has stayed the course, despite people in his team saying you ought to get out of here,
look at those settlements. They’re making a fool of you. Believe me, that battle’s been
going on, because I deal with it every week. And at the same time there’s been Israeli
soldiers shot and killed in the West Bank and other acts of incitement. Prime Minister Netanyahu has made tough choices
and just this week he reaffirmed his commitment to a Palestinian state. And he said: “Israel
is ready for an historic peace.” Peace is possible today because the Arab League
has also made tough choices, for the first time they came to Washington, they met with
me, and they came out and announced for the first time that the new map will look different
than the 1967 borders. It will accommodate realities on the ground. The Arab Peace Initiative
holds out the possibility of normalizing relations with Israel, and strengthening security in
the region. Just think of how much more secure Israel would be if it were integrated into
a regional security architecture and surrounded by newfound partners. Think of an end to the
unjust but also inexorable campaign to delegitimize Israel in the international community. The United States has fought these efforts,
often alone, at every opportunity, most recently in our successful effort to secure Israel’s
entry this week into the Western European and Others Group at the UN in Geneva. And
we fought hard for that. But think of the new markets that would open up and the bridges
between people that peace would build. Think of the flood of foreign investment and business
opportunities that would come to Israel, and how that will change the lives of everyday
people throughout the region. As Stanley Fischer, the former governor of
the Bank of Israel, has said: A peace agreement with the Palestinians could boost Israel’s
GDP in a short period of time by as much as 6 percent. Israel would also enjoy a normal,
peaceful relationship the minute this agreement is signed with 22 Arab nations and 35 Muslim
nations – 57 countries in all. It is not beyond our imagination to envision
that a new order could be established in the Middle East, in which countries like Jordan,
Morocco, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the GCC states, a newly independent Palestine,
and an internationally recognized Jewish State of Israel join together to promote stability
and peace. Ben Gurion knew from the start that if his
young state were to do more than just survive, if Israel were to succeed, it would need more
than just strong defenses. He said Israel would need strong ties throughout the Middle
East. He wrote as much into Israel’s Declaration of Independence, promoting, quote, “bonds
of cooperation” with Israel’s neighbors. That didn’t happen right away, of course. But Israel
has always known it’s strongest when it extends its hand in peace, when it is in the high
moral ground. That’s why the Declaration of Independence of Israel went on to state from
day one that Israel would, quote, “do its share in a common effort for the advancement
of the entire Middle East” – the entire Middle East. That was the vision of the founding
fathers. Now, I understand that some think the current
upheaval in the region makes this an inopportune time to try for peace. But I happen to agree
with what Prime Minister Netanyahu wrote in a rather remarkable open letter to the citizens
of Israel, that he wrote at the beginning of these negotiations. He wrote that the dawn
of a new era in the region is exactly the right time to recast Israel’s relationships
and to change the narrative with a new generation that is starting to make its voice – its voices
heard. Recent events have in fact created both the incentives and the opportunities
to pursue peace urgently. So we meet today on the anniversary of Pearl
Harbor, a day that reminds us and it reminds the world of the horrible costs that war entails.
Like so many Israeli citizens – including many of you here in this room – I wore the
uniform of my country, and I’ve seen war. That is part of what makes me such a passionate
advocate for peace. As someone who has been committed to Israel’s
struggle for peace and security for 30 years, I also know that diplomacy doesn’t happen
without strength. I am proud to see how Israel has used both sides of this coin in order
to become a powerful, beautiful country, an amazing country blooming out of the desert,
technologies that could be used throughout the region, and how Israel is fighting to
keep alive a flame that makes it a light unto nations, to build its first-class defenses
and alliances that allow it to negotiate from a position of strength. We know that diplomacy without strength is
blind to the world’s perils. But we also believe that strength without diplomacy is blind to
the world’s promise. If diplomacy, backed by the credible threat of military force,
can erase the menace of chemical weapons in Syria, if it can prevent the menace of nuclear
weapons in Iran, if diplomacy can solve the existential, demographic threat to Israel’s
future as both a Jewish and a democratic state – if we can fully address these threats near
and far without going to war, Israel, the region and the world will be more secure.
And so will the United States. My friends, as everyone here knows, the world
is mourning the loss of a great leader right now, Nelson Mandela. Mandela was a stranger
to hate. He rejected recrimination in favor of reconciliation, and he knew the future
demands that we move beyond the past. Just think of the lessons that he taught the world,
which have special significance at this moment in history: He said, “It always seems impossible
until it is done.” Now all of us who seek peace, and the skeptics
who think it can’t be achieved, should bear in mind those words. And as the sun sets on
this Sabbath, let me leave you with a favorite line from the Psalms that I understand is
recited in the evening prayer service. It is a prayer for overcoming danger, a prayer
that we might know, all of us, true security: “Shelter us in the shadow of Your wings,”
the Psalmist wrote, “for You are a protector. … Spread over us the shelter of Your peace.” Through the grace of God, and hard work here
on earth, may all us come to know the shelter of peace. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

Danny Hutson

1 thought on “Secretary Kerry Delivers Remarks at the Saban Forum

  1. #SecKerry: "If diplomacy, backed by the credible threat of military force, can erase the menace of chemical weapons in #Syria, if it can prevent the menace of nuclear weapons in #Iran, if diplomacy can solve the existential, demographic threat to Israel’s future as both a Jewish and a democratic state – if we can fully address these threats near and far without going to war, #Israel, the region and the world will be more secure. And so will the United States."

    Watch #SecKerry's full remarks at the Saban Forum below and read his full remarks at

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