US Secretary of State John Kerry appears to have backed down on controversial comments he made last week, in which he appeared to suggest that the January terrorist attacks in Paris against Jewish shoppers and Charlie Hebdo journalists had some “legitimacy.”
Kerry met Tuesday with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem, following a meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Rivlin welcomed Kerry as “a leader of Israel’s greatest friend, and most important ally – the United States of America. We always say our friendship is one of shared values, and a shared vision,” citing both countries’ strong democratic values as well as the shared threat of Islamic terrorism.
“The terrible scenes we have seen, around the world, have shaken us all – and we continue to send our prayers to the injured and those who lost loved ones,” Rivlin continued. “Sadly of course, in Israel we are not strangers to the horrors of terrorism.
“The pain is the same, in Tel Aviv, as it is Paris, in Gush Etzion, as it is in Mali. And as it is in Sharon, Massachusetts, and I extend again, my deepest condolences, to the family of Ezra Schwartz; a US citizen murdered while here in Israel to study and volunteer.”
“All free nations are facing the threat of radical Islam – which is the product of hate not of faith – and all of us must work together against this great evil,” he added. “We do not need to apologize for our belief in freedom. At the same time, while the world continues to face this threat, it does not take away from our duty, here, to find a way, to build trust between us and the Palestinians; between us and our neighbors. We can and must, show the world, that we can live together in peace.”
In his response, Kerry expressed his sympathy with Israel, and emphasized that “no frustration, politics, ideology, or emotion, justifies taking innocent lives.”
“This is a difficult time, we all know that,” he said of the current wave of Arab terror sweeping Israel.
“When citizens can be murdered, like Ezra Schwartz, my citizen from Massachusetts, who was on a mission here to learn and to share. And when as the citizens can be gunned down, like a soldier yesterday, and in the marketplace in Jerusalem. This is a challenge to all civilized people,” he added, apparently confusing some of the details of yesterday’s fatal stabbing attack north of Jerusalem, as well as a separate stabbing attack in central Jerusalem.
“We all have a responsibility to condemn that violence, to make it clear that you no frustration, no politics, no ideology, no emotion, justifies taking innocent lives.”
Those comments stand in stark contrast to controversial comments uttered by America’s top diplomat last week, in which he contrasted the recent “indiscriminate” attacks on restaurants and other venues in Paris to January’s attack against Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket.
“There’s something different about what happened from Charlie Hebdo, and I think everybody would feel that,” Kerry told journalists at the US Embassy in Paris, following the recent ISIS attacks which killed 130 people.
“There was a sort of particularized focus and perhaps even a legitimacy in terms of – not a legitimacy, but a rationale that you could attach yourself to somehow and say, ‘Okay, they’re really angry because of this and that.’ This Friday was absolutely indiscriminate.”
Those comments drew widespread shock and anger, with some commentators noting Kerry appeared to be suggesting that targeting Jews and journalists had some kind of “legitimacy.”
Speaking in Jerusalem on Tuesday, Kerry concluded by expressing the United States’ “solidarity” with Israel during the current violence.
“I stand here with you 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, but has an obligation to do so,” he said, echoing comments made earlier prior to his meeting with Netanyahu.
“The United States will continue to stand with Israel in support of your desire to live in peace and stability, without that violence.”