Why does Kerry think he will be anymore successful than Hillary Clinton at creating peace between the Israelis and Palestinians?
The new U.S. Secretary of State, the Honorable John F. Kerry, has been spending a tremendous amount of his time attempting to bring the Palestinians and the Israelis back to the negotiating table. He just completed his fourth trip to the region in as many months, a number equal to the total of his predecessor’s visits in her four years at the State Department. Hillary Rodham Clinton failed at this task miserably. With that background, one wonders why John Kerry thinks that he will be more successful than Ms. Clinton? Why the “full court press” now?
Underlying Secretary Kerry’s peace crusade is the Obama administration belief—advocated by many in the U.S. Foreign Service—that solving the Israeli-Arab conflict is the key to solving the Middle-East’s many problems. Crack that nut, so to speak—and everything else will fall into place, or so the thinking goes. It’s a pipe dream that has been around for a long time, one especially popular with Democratic administrations since the time of Jimmy Carter.
When one adds the recent resurrection of the 2002 Saudi Arabian “Arab Peace Initiative” by the Arab League, and the repetitive Obama declaration that the 1967 borders with minor mutually-agreed upon border adjustments should serve as the starting point of negotiations, one begins to see why Mr. Kerry thinks his crusade can succeed.
Left out of most media interpretations is an honest accounting of U.S. foreign policy vis-a-vis the Middle-East during the last four and a half years. Any truthful analysis needs to admit that the U.S. has fumbled badly and that few political successes can be chalked up. The so-called “Arab Spring” has turned into winter everywhere it has sprung, pro-Western dictators being replaced by virulently anti-West jihadists or Islamist Arab governments that arrived via the ballot box but that are anything but democratic. Even Turkey—once a moderate, Western oriented secular state—is slipping into a dictatorship as the AKP Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan transforms that country into a neo-Ottoman Islamic nation, arresting and imprisoning opponents to his rule, while making himself the richest man in Turkey. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of the modern Turkey, must be spinning in his grave faster than an Iranian centrifuge.
Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen, Iraq, Jordan, and Syria—all are less stable or fragmented. And meanwhile Iran gets exponentially closer to being an atomic power.
So, the administration is desperate to show a success somewhere in the region, a region that is seeing a resurgence of Russian power, at least in regards to Syria and the eastern Mediterranean, as well as the introduction of China as a player and concerned participant, particularly concerning oil.
The only achievement that the administration can claim is the apparent “rapprochement” between Jerusalem and Ankara, credited to President Obama’s direct involvement during his March visit to Israel. His success was due in part to Israel’s prior apology for the Turkish deaths in the MV Mavi Marmara incident of May 31, 2010, as well as the agreement to ship Israeli gas to Europe via the Turkish pipeline. Given those two points and Turkey having aligned itself against the government of Bashar al-Assad’s Syria following hostilities on their mutual border, Obama’s phone call succeeded with Prime Minister Erdoğan. However, few in Israel expect this renewed relationship to thrive as it did in its heyday twenty years ago. Many Israelis are waiting for the other shoe to drop in the renewed bond with the mercurial Erdoğan. And Jerusalem has not forgotten that Erdoğan continues to insist that a Palestinian Authority (i.e., Fatah)—Hamas rapprochement occur before Israeli-Palestinian negotiations begin.
Meanwhile, Washington isn’t reading the fine print. To which fine print am I referring? Start with the fine print in the Hamas Charter of 1988. That document specifically calls for the destruction of the State of Israel and categorically denies the right of existence to a Jewish state anywhere in the Middle-East. Put simply: how does one negotiate peace with an entity that refuses to recognize the right of the other to exist? We’re not talking about hudnas (temporary truces that Hamas needs for its own welfare). Hamas will not join with the P.A. in any permanent agreement with Israel short of Israel dismantling itself “lock, stock, and barrel”. And that won’t happen!
Next, let’s look at the fine print of the Arab League’s “Arab Peace Initiative”. First of all, that document calls for a return to the 1967 borders. The new “breakthrough” exciting Washington is that the League agrees for the first time to minor border adjustments. What the P.A. thinks on that point is unclear. However, that is a moot point as Israel has absolutely no intention to return to the 1967 borders or anything remotely resembling them. A five mile wide waistline is a death warrant, and Israel is not about to cede the high ground above the Ben Gurion Airport to anyone that could cut off one of Israel’s most important commercial link with the outside world. The 2005 retreat from Gaza and the subsequent rise of Hamastan taught the Israelis an unforgettable lesson: radicals love to rocket the Israeli heartland. So too, were Hamas to return in force to the West Bank—currently controlled by the P.A. (Fatah) with Israeli help, Jerusalem could expect daily rocket and mortar attacks on the capital. In American terms, that’s like a hostile Confederacy taking over Virginia right up to the D.C. borderline. How long would we tolerate that?
Let’s look at the other fine print in the “Arab Peace Initiative”. Anyone bother to notice that it continues to call for the Palestinian “Right of Return” to all areas west of the 1949 Armistice “Green Line”? The so-called “Right of Return” is a code name for the demographic destruction of Israel by swamping her with Palestinians who will vote her out of existence in the first and only election following their return. No Israeli government will ever agree to such a blanket Right of Return. Suicide is not an option, despite John Kerry’s optimism that the Arabs will honor their commitments to peace.
Given the current situation in which Egypt is daily becoming more hostile to Israel under the Moslem Brotherhood dominated government, and the chaos in Syria that is spilling over into Lebanon and Jordan, Israel cannot afford to retract into indefensible borders. When the Palestinians remove all incitement against the Jewish state from their textbooks and agree to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, then one can begin negotiations with a hope in their ultimate success. At present, given Palestinian and general Arab attitudes towards Israel—notable rare exceptions duly noted—the coming of the messiah seems more likely to occur.
Late news flash: P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday, May 23, 2013 informed Kerry that the P.A. will not come to the table until Israel places a 100% freeze on all settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, a demand that President Obama rejected back in March during his visit to Israel. It seems now that Secretary Kerry may need to find a new destination to rack-up his frequent–flyer miles.
But when we’re talking about the Middle-East, surprises are always a part of the equation, so stay tuned.