Secretary of fate

Secretary Kerry, like a dozen or so of his predecessors, will fail unless he holds the Palestinians to accepted international norms of behavior.

Kerry, Livni, Erekat in peace talks (photo credit: Screenshot)
Kerry, Livni, Erekat in peace talks
(photo credit: Screenshot)
John Kerry’s recent statement that Israel would not want a third intifada should the present round of peace talks fail has caused a small firestorm in Israel.
Those on the Right accuse Kerry of encouraging Palestinian violence, while those more in the political center see Kerry acting as a mafia don: nice peace and economic growth you’ve got there Israel – shame to see it all blow up. Make a deal – or else.
There are two aspects of Kerry’s statement which really should be understood for their enormous implications.
At the same time Kerry was warning Israel to make a deal or face certain terror, he categorically described West Bank settlements as “illegitimate” in the eyes of the US government.
While his position is nothing new, one has to immediately ask why Secretary Kerry did not say that potential violence against civilians (his “third intifada”) would be illegitimate.
Since the end of World War II, the nations of the world have through the UN and various treaties attempted to make the willful attack on civilian populations a major no-no. Such attacks are considered war crimes and even in the US, the very definition of an overseas terror attack is one directed at a civilian population for the purpose of influencing political decisions.
Why then did Secretary Kerry not state the following: “No matter what should come of the present talks, there is no room, no justification for attacks directed towards civilian targets.
The US will not stand by should Palestinian groups – whoever they may be – use the success or failure of the current talks as a pretext for harming civilians. Attacks against civilians in buses, restaurants or other venues are illegitimate in the eyes of the US government.”
The obvious reason Kerry suggested a possible intifada instead of demanding that such an uprising not occur is that he believes that a) the Palestinians have legitimate grievances against the Israelis and b) he sees violence as one of the tools – like negotiations – the Palestinians have at their disposal for moving forward their cause.
In this respect, Kerry is very like Yasser Arafat, who used negotiations, threats and actual violence to push Israel in directions that served his overall goal of either destroying Israel or flooding it with several million Arabs through a supposed “right of return.”
Kerry’s lack of denunciation of violence against civilians dovetails beautifully with his encouragement of prisoner releases; these terrorists were just doing their jobs in moving the Palestinian cause forward – when the time comes, why should they not be sprung from jail? I doubt Kerry would dare anger his colleagues by arguing for the release of the aged Sirhan Sirhan from California jail. Yet, his support and active encouragement of releasing Palestinian murderers is no less painful for families here than would his support for Sirhan’s release be for Bobby Kennedy’s family.
The second critical point related to Kerry’s comments concerns the low esteem in which he holds the Palestinians.
He did not suggest that failed peace talks might lead to Gandhi-like civil disobedience or mass fasting in protest; no, he suggested the one thing he associates with Palestinians: violence.
He immediately assumed and suggested that failed talks mean terror waves, even though military leaders on the ground and up through the Israeli defense minister have stated categorically that they do not see an intifada on the immediate horizon.
While many experts have been caught off-guard in the past – think Arab Spring – the bottom line is that Israelis do not expect Palestinian violence to surge even if the talks fail. Kerry’s knee-jerk “if you fail with these talks, there will be blood” shows that the secretary of state does not have a very respectful view of his Palestinian “peace partners,” as he assumes that if they don’t get what they want the only tool in their toolbox is violence.
Secretary Kerry has traveled a great deal and accomplished nothing. I had the chance to think about his failed efforts while stuck in a traffic jam caused by his motorcade making its way to his Jerusalem hotel the other night.
Secretary Kerry, like a dozen or so of his predecessors, will fail unless he holds the Palestinians to accepted international norms of behavior and treats Israel as an ally and not as a member of his protection racket. He might take some time to also explain to the Palestinian people that if they want an internationally recognized state, then violence against civilian targets is “illegitimate” and will not be tolerated.
President Obama could have done the same during his visit to Ramallah earlier this year; he chose not to, ostensibly because his views are the same as those of his secretary of state.The author is and IP consultant. He and his son were wounded in a suicide bombing in 2002. Several of those involved in the attack were released from Israeli jails in 2011.