Secretary of State John Kerry had numerous conversations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and other Israeli and Palestinian officials about the violence erupting in Gaza. The New Republic describes those meetings and one conversation in particular between Kerry and Netanyahu.
The prime minister opened the meeting by playing Kerry a video on one of his favorite topics: Palestinian incitement. It showed Palestinian children in Gaza being taught to glorify martyrdom and seek Israel’s destruction. “This is the true obstacle to peace,” Netanyahu told Kerry.
“It’s a major issue,” Kerry replied. “And nothing justifies incitement. I hate it. I’ve read Abbas the riot act about it. You know I have. But it is worthwhile to try to understand what life looks like from the Palestinian point of view.”
“This has nothing to do with the occupation and the settlements,” Netanyahu said.
Kerry pressed on: “When I fought in Vietnam, I used to look at the faces of the local population and the looks they gave us. I’ll never forget it. It gave me clarity that we saw the situation in completely different ways.”
“This isn’t Vietnam!” Netanyahu shouted. “No one understands Israel but Israel.”
Kerry tried explaining himself again: “No one is saying it’s Vietnam. But I’ve been coming here for thirty years, and I’m telling you, what’s building up in the Palestinians has only gotten worse. I’ve seen it. It doesn’t matter if it’s right or wrong; it just is. It can’t be solved if you can’t see it how they see it.”
Reason Magazine first noted the incident in the piece and called it “unsurprising.” Kerry, often mocked by conservatives for regularly pointing out his service in Vietnam, was criticized by a group of Vietnam Veterans during his 2004 Presidential run for office for accusing American soldiers of horrific war crimes during the 1970’s.