US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry land at Ben Gurion Airport..
(photo credit: ISRAEL AIRPORTS AUTHORITY)
I’m sorry. I just don’t get it when the vault keepers of all things pro-Israel declare Barack Obama and John Kerry have stabbed Israel in the back and thrown Benjamin Netanyahu under the bus, or any other distorted violence-laden description of how they perceive last week’s UN Security Council Resolution and Kerry’s Wednesday speech.
They can barely contain their “I told you so’s” at the Obama administration – in their view – finally revealing its true colors toward Israel as the sun sets on eight years of paralysis in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Granted, there were many flawed elements in Kerry’s elongated swan song – its over-emphasis on settlements, its under-emphasis on terrorism and its assumption that the Palestinians would ever accept a future state that didn’t include all the territories Israel won in the Six Day War and a physical return of refugees instead of compensation.
But the essence of his speech – a manifesto about the future of the region that admittedly could have been stated eight year ago – was not anything that a large minority, if not a majority, of Israelis agree with.
Kerry’s six points seem like a perfectly valid starting point for long-elusive negotiations.
At worst, beyond putting the onus for the impasse mostly on Israel, he can mainly be accused of an ongoing naivety that has not been tarnished by repeated rejections during his tenure.
If Kerry and Obama are anti-Israel for suggesting that increasing settlement activity in areas that would conceivably be part of a Palestinian state pose a threat to any chance of a two-state solution, then they join such haters of the country like Labor’s Isaac Herzog and Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid.
It’s valid to take issue with the US premise and retort – as Netanyahu and his spokesmen have done repeatedly – that the conflict has nothing to do with settlements.
But to label Obama and Kerry, who say that it does have something to do with the conflict, as traitors, antisemites, working for Israel’s demise and divorced from reality, are simply revealing that for them, being ‘pro-Israel’ is really siding with Israel no matter what and admitting the two-state solution is dead.
Which may be fine, but then, what is their plan? And, in fact, what is Netanyahu’s? Instead of providing a glimpse into what he sees as Israel’s responsibility in pushing forward a solution, he has instead had one hissy fit after another since the resolution passed last week. He basically declared diplomatic war on the current US administration and the countries that voted for the resolution.
What did he expect? How many hints and warnings did he need to receive that the US was losing patience with his kowtowing to the far-right element in the coalition that was pushing the bill to legalize the outposts? Netanyahu’s reactions to the resolution and his statements following Kerry’s speech were condescending and unflinching in their attack on the leaders of Israel’s greatest ally. He and Obama have fundamental disagreements over the root cause of the conflict, but instead of letting it remain as a personal struggle, he’s blown it up into the worst-ever bilateral crisis between the two countries.
Netanyahu’s ace up his sleeve is the knowledge that in three weeks, Donald Trump will take over and become a rubber-stamping “yes man” for whatever moves the Israeli government takes. As enticing as that may seem for the prime minister and his ministers, it’s not going to make the problem go away.
It’s easy to put the focus on Kerry and say, “Where is the speech about the genocide taking place in Syria? What about all the other far more severe situations in the Middle East that are being ignored by the UN?” And it’s easy to put the focus on the Palestinians and blame them for refusing to accept Israel’s existence, fomenting hate toward Israel among their children and continuing their terrorism campaign. PLO Executive Committee member Mustafa Barghouti had already rejected the bulk of Kerry’s six pillars almost before the secretary of state finished outlining them.
But eventually, even after pointing out the flaws in everyone else, the spotlight needs to turn inward. What kind of Israel do we want in the future? Even without a partner for peace, do we want settlement expansion to be the answer? Where is the vision? In all the indignant reactions by our government to the UN resolution and to Kerry’s speech, none of those questions was answered – or even asked.