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Secretary of State John Kerry’s highly anticipated year-end speech Monday outlining the Obama administration’s hopes for peace in the Middle East included a line that left many confused.

But there’s a reasonable way to interpret what he said – one that makes sense when you place it against the backdrop of the Obama administration’s tense relationship with Israel.

“Despite our best efforts over the years, the two state solution is now in serious jeopardy,” Kerry said. “The truth is that trends on the ground — violence, terrorism, incitement, settlement expansion and the seemingly endless occupation — are destroying hopes for peace on both sides and increasingly cementing an irreversible one-state reality that most people do not actually want.”

He added, “Today, there are a similar number of Jews and Palestinians living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. They have a choice. They can choose to live together in one state, or they can separate into two states.”

This is where the secretary’s remarks raised eyebrows:

But here is a fundamental reality: If the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or democratic — it cannot be both — and it won’t ever really be at peace. Moreover, the Palestinians will never fully realize their vast potential in a homeland of their own with a one state solution.

To many listeners, the secretary of state’s remarks on Israel’s choice between being Jewish and democratic raised some flags.

“Wow. Now there’s two things the United States government has not previously declared to be opposites,” said RedState contributor Dan McLaughlin. “Imagine an American Secretary of State declaring that a nation can be Islamic or democratic, but cannot be both.”

The Washington Free Beacon’s Alyssa Canobbio said, “My jaw is on the ground.”

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself appeared less-than-thrilled with Kerry’s remarks, and said as much in remarks delivered afterward.

“A speech that was almost as unbalanced as the anti-Israel resolution passed at the U.N. last week,” Netanyahu said. “Israelis do not need to be lectured about the importance of peace by foreign leaders.”

Other listeners were left simply confused, with some seemingly asking what Kerry had meant by saying Israel cannot be both Jewish and democratic.

Here’s what I think Kerry meant: If there is to be a one-state solution for Palestine and Israel, placing the peoples under one government’s control, it can’t be an only Jewish government, as that would be undemocratic to the non-Jewish members of the state.

That’s it. That’s what Kerry meant. He wasn’t proposing that to be Jewish is to be undemocratic, as a few social media users suggested he had said.

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But as to the overall purpose of Kerry’s speech, and whether a year-end scolding for one of America’s staunchest allies was really such a good idea, the secretary is on his own in terms of explaining himself.

It’s hard to look at his speech yesterday and see it as anything other than as a petulant and bitter cheap shot from a frustrated and retiring government official.

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