There’s an old saying: it’s better to keep one’s mouth shut and be thought a
fool than to speak and prove it. US Secretary of State John Kerry seems to have
a bit of a problem in this regard.
What is remarkable isn’t how Kerry has
painted himself into a corner, not just staking his term as secretary of state
on making Israel-Palestinian peace, but how he has done so in a matter of
“If we do not succeed now, we may not get another chance,” Kerry
told the American Jewish Committee. “I have heard all of the arguments for why
it is too difficult to end this conflict,” he added. “Cynicism has never solved
anything. It has never given birth to a state, and it won’t.”
exactly. The problem is not cynicism but naivete. The cynicism is based on long
experience and a careful evaluation of the political, economic, and strategic
factors involved. Second, Kerry apparently hasn’t been informed that the last
chance was lost 13 years ago at the Camp David meeting in 2000. No amount of
wishful thinking will make it otherwise. In fact, neglecting to realize this
• PLO, Palestinian Authority and Fatah
leader Yasser Arafat turned down an independent Palestinian state with its
capital in Jerusalem and around $20 billion in aid as a starting point in
• He launched a five-year-long war of terror against
Israel in which around 2,000 Israelis were killed.
• When offered an even
better deal by president Bill Clinton, Arafat turned it down.
• Even when
besieged in his headquarters – saved only by US intervention from total,
humiliating defeat – Arafat still rejected compromise.
• In the 13 years
since the Camp David meeting the Palestinians have not pursued any serious
• About half the territory and people the PA claims to
negotiate for is not even under its control but is being ruled by Hamas which
advocates genocide against the Jews and is totally opposed to peace on any
Hamas would do everything possible to wreck any deal made by the
PA, and has about 20% to 30% support in the West Bank.
• In the present
climate of Islamist triumphalism, Hamas has more state support than the PA and
the PA is terrified of being “traitorous moderates.”
• The PA strategy is
clearly to get maximal recognition of a state without having to make a deal with
Kerry’s recent offer of $4 b. (for tourism development! How much
will the US government be willing to pay the PA for pretending to negotiate?) –
was turned down by the PA within 24 hours.
Might some of these facts be
relevant? Kerry toed the typical line that unless Israel gets a two-state
solution, it will have to choose between its Jewish and democratic
Ludicrous. If that didn’t happen when Israel occupied the whole
of the territories captured by it in 1967 and governed the Arabs there on a
daily basis – a period of 27 years in the West Bank and about 35 in the Gaza
Strip – it isn’t going to happen now. There was a time when Israelis advocated
annexation of these territories, but that hasn’t been true for many years. Of
course, Israel will not have to choose.
Who cares how many Palestinians
there are; they aren’t being ruled by Israel and they are not Israeli
Absent as usual from Kerry’s analysis are the risks Israel
would take on if it accepted a Palestinian state under current
Consider these statements by Kerry: The belief that a
security fence and the status quo could bring Israel security are “lulling
themselves into a delusion.... The absence of peace is perpetual
conflict....We will find ourselves in a negative spiral of responses and
The problem, however, is the unspoken premise that
if the status quo changed and there was an independent Palestinian state, the
conflict would go away. In fact what would happen is that the conflict would
continue, under worse strategic conditions for Israel.
“I am confident
that both sides are weighing the choices that they have in front of them very,
No, they’re not. Both sides are pretending to weigh
choices to avoid insulting you. A serious analysis of the factors involved show
that nothing is going to happen.
An accurate view of reality should be
the foundation for policymaking.
A case can be made for Kerry showing
himself as working hard for peace to defuse any possible effect on events
elsewhere in the region. But by working too hard, spending too much of his time
on the issue, and making absurd claims that he is going to succeed, Kerry is
setting himself up for an embarrassing fall.
Also, by promising quick
results he is destroying the the US’s chance to pretend it is laboring around
the clock to supposedly ease (what?) the Syrian civil war, Iran’s nuclear
program, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood regime, etc.
The author is the
director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and
editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) journal. His
forthcoming book, Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East is
to be published by Yale University Press.