Wednesday on CNN’s “The Lead,” host Jake Tapper grilled Obama administration’s deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes and said, “There seems to be a moral equivalence argument being made that might rub a lot of people the wrong way,” referring to Israelis “building homes” and Palestinian terrorists “killing people.”
Partial transcript as follows:
TAPPER: Part of the problem might be — there might be a disconnect for Americans, is the notion that, on one hand you have Israelis building housing settlements, and let’s posit for the sake of argument that they are destructive to the peace process, but on the one hand you have Israelis building housing settlements, and yet on the other hand you have Palestinian leaders who have been credibly accused of inciting violence that has resulted in innocent Israelis being killed. Hamas, a group the United States government categorizes as a terrorist organization, governs Gaza. If the West Bank had elections tomorrow, there is fear that Hamas would win the elections. The question for a lot of voters would be, why are you focusing on the Israelis?
RHODES: Jake, we’ve given Israel $38 billion in defense assistance in the last ten years. We defended Israel when they went to war in Gaza twice to stop the rocket fire coming from Hamas. Time and again we’ve supported their right to defend themselves. The resolution condemned incitement and violence. That’s one of the reasons we abstained because it had that balance. Secretary Kerry today condemned incitement, condemned violence. This is not a question of whether or not we’ve called out Palestinian sectarianism. We have. And we’ve saved Israeli lives with our defense for the Iron Dome Missile Defense System that has shot down rockets coming from Gaza. The problem with the settlements that people need to understand is that this is building deep inside of the West Bank. And what you hear in the United States often is rhetoric about support for a two-state solution. The reason this is worth focusing on, these are not just housing settlements, these are construction that are placed on Palestinian land, on what anybody who has looked at this issue understands to be a future Palestinian state. Jake, there is a term about building inside the blocks, that means building outside of the 1967 lines but within what people generally expect to be the borders of an Israel in a two-state solution. This is not even what’s happening. This is building deep inside the West Bank. I think part of what we’re trying to do is bring more attention on that and have people like you reporting on that. This is changing the facts on the ground and making a two-state solution nothing more than a talking point.
TAPPER: I hear what you’re saying, but you still didn’t, respectfully, answer the question which is, voters out there, American citizens out there, might think on one hand you have people building homes and you’re calling them illegal and detrimental to the peace process, but it’s construction. Ultimately people can leave houses. On the other hand you have people killing people and that’s just final. And that there seems to be a moral equivalence argument being made that might rub a lot of people the wrong way and confuse them.
RHODES: There is no moral equivalence. There is no justification to more terrorism. No settlement construction should ever justify terrorism or incitement to terrorism. There is no question on that. Secretary Kerry made that clear today. The fact of the matter is, Jake, describing them only as people building houses, they are displacing Palestinians from their homes, they’re taking land that everybody who has looked at the issue thinks would be part of a Palestinian state and they’re making the possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state with the territory connecting itself impossible. The question is, if it is U.S. policy, which it has been to support a two-state solution, why should we be silent in the face of policies that clearly are going to make that impossible? And as I mentioned, Jake, this government has been very clear about its intentions. Prime Minister Netanyahu saying himself this is the most pro-settlement government in Israeli history. The Israeli Knesset advancing a law to legalize the outposts deep in the West Bank. If it’s America’s interests to pursue a two-state solution, why should we be silent when there are policies being pursued that make a two-state solution impossible?
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