Respected statesman and former U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger told a New York audience on Tuesday that considering the widespread upheaval in the Middle East, it is a mistake for Israel to pursue a comprehensive peace deal with the Palestinians.
After describing the regional turmoil, Kissinger advised against seeking a “permanent settlement” until “the fundamental issues that I described here move to some resolution.”
The renowned diplomat said “the overall solutions will have to be discussed within the context of a solution of the various upheavals and the settling down of these upheavals.”
In the meantime, he counseled, Israel should “make contributions by the understanding it shows for the psychological and historical problems of the people with which it lives in the same territory. But things cannot be accomplished in a final manner in a single negotiation.”
Kissinger’s comments were made before a crowd of 500 at the Waldorf Astoria as he received the Theodor Herzl Award from the World Jewish Congress (WJC). Other attendees at the black-tie gala included Barbara Walters who presented the honor, WJC Chairman Ronald Lauder, Ralph Lauren and Google’s Eric Schmidt.
Kissinger also outlined his assessment of the foreign policy landscape and had words of advice for the leaders of the United States. He spoke as an American but with sympathy and reverence for the Jewish state. Speaking at a time in which U.S.-Israel ties have seen significant strain, Kissinger continuously stressed the fundamental importance of the relationship.
“In the years ahead,” he said, “there are a number of principles that the United States has to keep in mind. What it will defend or seek to achieve even if it has to do so alone. What it has to achieve only together with others, and finally, what is beyond its capacity.
“The survival of Israel and the maintenance of its capacity to build the future is one of those principles that we will pursue even if we have to do so alone.”
“It is crucial for the United States to develop a conception of the future that we can sustain over a long period of time,” he said. “And part of that consensus must be a realization that Israel is, has been, a representative of the principles in which America believes. It is the one country on whose geopolitical support America can always count.”
Describing the singular standard to which Israel is held in international diplomacy, Kissinger said, “It is in the unique position that for every other country, the recognition of its existence is taken for granted as the basis of diplomacy. Israel is asked to pay a different price before it is recognized and participates in the international system.”
Addressing the recent resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe and around the world, Kissinger said the award came “at moment of enormous upheaval in the world. A period in which many of the institutions with which we have been familiar are under attack and in which the Jewish people have again become, in some countries, the object of severe attacks.”
Referring to his journey as a refugee escaping the Holocaust in Germany as a teen, he lamented “what can happen to societies when they take a wrong turn, and the disaster that can happen to the Jewish people under those conditions.”
“In America we have come to think that peace is something that can be contracted in a single effort…” he concluded. “The fact is that we are engaged now in a process without end, but a process which needs our convictions and our commitments and in which the friendship between Israel and the United States is an essential element.”