There has been a definite escalation of tension – not between Iran and Israel or
Israel and the Palestinians – but between the US secretary of state and the
Israeli prime minister.
A clearly infuriated and frustrated John Kerry in
a now highly publicized joint interview with Israel’s Channel 2 diplomatic
reporter Udi Segal and Palestine TV’s Maher Shalabi warned on November 7: “The
alternative to getting back to the talks is the potential of chaos. Does Israel
want a third intifada?” It was an extraordinary threat – particularly as a wave
of “low-level” terror attacks, several of them lethal, is already taking place –
because of the negotiations.
Israelis aren’t surprised by the attacks; we
have come to expect terror as the accompaniment to peace talks over the last
couple of decades.
But I wasn’t the only one doing a double take as Kerry
appeared to be turning the heat on Israel during the interview, while basically
excusing Palestinian violence.
Kerry made similar comments in meetings
with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and with Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud
In the interview, the US secretary of state cautioned that “if we
do not resolve the issues between Palestinians and Israelis, if we do not find a
way to find peace, there will be an increasing isolation of Israel, there will
be an increasing campaign of the delegitimization of Israel that has been taking
place on an international basis.”
Kerry perhaps won’t be happy to be part
of that delegitimization, but he’ll do it anyway.
Israeli officials are
evidently trying harder than Kerry to keep things calm – particularly since
Israel recently released more than 50 terrorists just for the pleasure of
sitting down to talk with the Palestinians.
The defense and security
establishment is insisting that the current wave of attacks is not the start of
a new uprising but the work of individual perpetrators acting on their
They might be operating as loose cannons, but the terrorists who
have in recent weeks killed three soldiers (two of them off-duty) and a
civilian, tried to kill a nine-year-old girl, dug booby-trapped tunnels from
Gaza and thrown rocks and Molotov cocktails at Israeli drivers are not acting in
a vacuum. Their inspiration is the nonstop incitement in the Palestinian and
Arab media and mosques.
Equally disturbing are the double standards
constantly being applied against Israel. Had police arrested the 16-year-old
Palestinian on Wednesday before he stabbed to death a 19-year-old soldier who
was sleeping on a bus, rather than after he had taken the life of Pvt. Eden
Atias, human rights groups would doubtless have issued condemnations of the
detention of the Palestinian youth.
Kerry also laid out quite clearly
where he stands on the “settlement” issue: They are “illegitimate.”
a mystery to me what exactly the Israelis and Palestinians are meant to be
discussing if Kerry has already determined an end result neither side can live
My mind and Kerry’s obviously don’t work in similar
Anyway, it now seems the Palestinians have two figures involved at
the top level of the talks – neither of whom has been elected to represent them:
Kerry, the supposedly impartial American facilitator, and Abbas, whose term as
elected PA president expired in January 2009. So much for American support of
It’s worth noting that until the US decided to force another
round of talks on Israel and the Palestinians, both were enjoying a period of
relative peace, stability and growth – and not just relative to neighboring
Syria and Egypt.
TO THEIR dubious credit, not much can unite Israel and
the Arab world as much as the serious doubts about the way US President Barack
Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are conducting foreign policy in the
Saudi Arabia, formerly considered one of America’s strongest
allies in the area, recently turned down a seat on the United Nations Security
Council to protest US foreign policy – the Saudis and the non-Shi’ite regimes in
the Persian Gulf being at least as concerned by the Iranian nuclear threat as
With Obama zigzagging over who should be in control in
Egypt – who did he think would take over from Hosni Mubarak other than the
Muslim Brotherhood? – and backing down on the Syrian chemical weapons issue,
even traditional American allies are looking to strengthen ties with Russian
President Vladimir Putin. (And everybody but Obama has learned from the North
Korean example, it seems.) Moving from the sublime to the ridiculous: Saudi
Arabia this week reached an agreement with Jordan giving the latter the
prestigious Security Council seat in return for a place on the United Nations
Human Rights Council.
Admittedly, the Human Rights Council doesn’t have
much of a name to lose, given that it was previously chaired by Libya during the
time of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime. But still, it is hard to imagine how the UN
body intends to live up to its mandate when its members include China, Cuba,
Russia and Saudi Arabia.
The UNHRC, however, should find it easy to
continue to pass regular motions condemning Israel (our policies on gay rights,
women’s rights and holding regular democratic elections being somewhere between
incomprehensible and reprehensible to some of its members).
nuclear program, despite the best efforts of the US, remains a danger greater
even than that of another intifada – and not only to Israel.
Iranian regime and Binyamin Netanyahu get full points for consistency (a word
Kerry and Obama might need to look up): For some two decades the Iranians have
been working on their nuclear program and all the time Netanyahu, as prime
minister and out of power, has been warning that this is a threat to the
In a second celebrated interview this week, Kerry told NBC’s Meet
the Press regarding the US stand on Iran’s nuclear program: “We’re not blind,
and I don’t think we’re stupid.”
I didn’t even bother to do a double take
as I heard him say it.
Through Kerry’s best intentions and worst efforts,
Netanyahu has managed (or mismanaged) to get himself into a situation where
Israel’s final borders, security and the Iranian issue have all become tied into
a massive noose-shaped knot.
In a speech in the Knesset on Wednesday,
Netanyahu cautioned the Palestinians against continued incitement and explained
to the world, or at least the US: “There are not just two possibilities on the
Iranian issue: A bad deal, or war... There is a third possibility – and that is
continuing the pressure of sanctions.
I would even say that a bad deal is
liable to lead to the second, undesired, result.”
The prime minister
obviously does not want any extra conflict with the Americans (or the
Palestinians and Iranians, for that matter). Neither do I, but I also think the
world would be a safer place were the US secretary of state to apply pressure in
the places that really need it.
Frankly, the Middle East is enough of a
mess without the help of friends like Kerry.
The writer is the editor of
The International Jerusalem Post.