On 28 December 2016, US Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a comprehensive speech about the United States’ vision for a two state solution. Kerry’s address was remarkable for its candor: he insisted that settlements did not increase Israel’s security; he referred to Israel’s establishment as the Palestinian nakba; said that Israel must choose between either Jewish or democratic, but could not be both; among other remarks. The speech was also typical in its overemphasis on Palestinian violence as a root cause of the conflict as opposed to a symptom of setter-colonialism.
In this interview, Jadaliyya Co-Editor Noura Erakat joins MSNBC`s "All In With Chris Hayes" to comment on the speech. Noura discussed the Obama Administration`s odd timing of the speech as an effort to distance itself from what Trump will usher in the region. She also explains that it is not that the region is marching to an aparhteid reality on the ground, it already is a reality.
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Chris Hayes: Joining me now Human Rights Attorney Noura Erakat. Assistant Professor at George Mason University. And what was your reaction to the Kerry speech today?
Noura Erakat: I thought it was remarkable, I did not expect that to come out of his mouth. I think that is what the US administration, this administration has thought. I think it is the thinking behind closed doors of every US administration up until this point. And what was remarkable is that they basically bared, made it clear to everyone as well and intersubjectively acknowledged it. Here is the problem however, the Obama administration is basically sharing this speech with twenty-three days left in office. They can do little to nothing now in order to make it meaningful with marshaling its political pressure.
CH: How do you make sense of the timing here? Because I think there is a lot of sort of head scratching about this timing. There is head scratching on the timing of both of these things that have happened in quick succession. That essentially the critics of the Obama administration say you are a coward. That you made sure to sign the aid deal in the run up to the election because you knew that would be politically popular, and then after the election in the lame-duck session you allow this to come forward at the Security Council and give this speech. What is your read on the timing?
NE: Look the Obama Administration is incredibly pragmatic; they are not doing this because of moral reasons. They are doing this because it is not that costly and because the Obama Administration has an interest to dissociate itself from what is to come. The Trump administration is going to consolidate Israel’s apartheid projects, cement it, accelerate it in a reckless way and the Obama Administration has laid the groundwork for that to happen. It had the opportunity to do this in 2011/2012 during the statehood bid. It had the opportunity to do this in 2015, to set a timetable to end the occupation. It had the opportunity not to increase military aid from 3.0 to 3.8 billion dollars over the next ten years. Everything the Obama Administration has done has set the stage for what Trump wants to do. And so this is an effort to wash their hands and to change their legacy so that they are not associated with what Trump is about to do.
CH: Let me ask you this. You mentioned, you said Israel’s apartheid project. I mean one of the messages I think of the speech today, John Kerry who I think would very strongly disagree with that language specifically, is that essentially that it is on some road, Israel, given current settlement growth, to the two-state solution being no longer achievable. It seems likely to me that, that is kind of dawning awareness. And I have to say, you know things that I have read of you, other folks in this sort of Palestinian rights community. It seems to me the folks that I read primarily have basically given up on the two-state solution. Are we moving toward some moment where people just sort of officially throw in the towel on that?
NE: I think this is a great learning moment for US audiences to check out a map. If you cannot make it to the region--and many people cannot because Israel denies entry to those who are interested in human rights specifically--this is a great moment to show a map and let people decide for themselves. The Occupied Territories are twenty-two percent of mandatory Palestine, Israel has never declared its borders and has expanded them. The settlements that we are talking about are not part of what, on the perimeter of the West Bank to expand Israel’s defensible borders. The settlements are built in the middle. They bisect the West Bank. They sit--
CH: No I understand that but that-Noura let me just say, you are citing the facts on the ground and that is something that gets cited—
NE: So that speaks for itself Chris, you are saying that Kerry would disagree with me—
CH: Right but that is my question. What you are saying is, what you are saying without saying is: I do think that the ship has sailed on a two-state solution. It just seems to me—
NE: Oh but it is not without saying it. I am just trying to illustrate for those who do not already see it for themselves, the ship sailed a long time ago. This threat, this idea that we are going to get to an apartheid situation is actually not true because we are already there. We have been there, the settlers and Palestinians are inextricably, they are not separated, they are inextricably populated. The only thing that separates them is the vast difference in treatment, the different set of laws that apply to Jewish Israelis and to Palestinians even if they live side by side. That is an apartheid reality.
CH: So then do you think there is anything that the US could do at this point? I mean it seems to me that here is, here is what we are looking down the barrel of, from your perspective. A kind of Leninist heightening of the contradictions. I mean should it be the case that essentially your position is that essentially Israeli government and the US government say they are for a two-state solution, and they are not really. And basically the whole thing is sort of a bad-faith farce, while things are changed on the ground. That what you are going to get now is something that looks more like just an honest, you know we will support Israel in whatever they do and we support the settlements.
NE: I think that the United States has unfortunately spoken one thing about law and policy and their support for a Palestinian state, but has done a different thing altogether on the ground. And has made this apartheid reality very possible. I really--it should strike everyone as quite odd and strange that there is this hoopla reaction to condemning settlements. Settlements are settler-colonies they are a war crime under international law. This should not be controversial. If you are not against settlements then you are for apartheid explicitly. The question we should be asking is not whether you are for resolution, but what are you going to do when what is on the ground is nothing else but the apartheid reality. What are going to do then?
CH: Noura Erakat thanks for being with me, appreciate it.
NE: Thank you.