Say, remember when these two were such good friends that each was rumored to be on the other’s short list for running mate? Good times, good times. Yesterday on Capitol Hill, John Kerry and John McCain threw rhetorical punches at each other that had McCain talking about twigs, and Kerry talking about the table used in the Vietnam peace talks. The sparring went on for several minutes, with McCain warning Kerry that he’s about to hit a “trifecta” of foreign-policy failures:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Tuesday accused Secretary of State John Kerry of presiding over a “trifecta” of foreign policy disasters.

McCain lambasted his former Senate colleague at a hearing in which Kerry faced wide-ranging criticism about the administration’s handling of crises in the Middle East and Ukraine.

“I think you’re about to hit the trifecta,” McCain declared.

“Geneva II [a Syrian peace meeting] was a total collapse, as I predicted to you that it would be. … The Israeli-Palestinian talks, even though you may drag them out for a while, are finished,” McCain said. “And I predict to you that, even though we gave the Iranians the right to enrich, which is unbelievable, that those talks will collapse too.”

Kerry hit back: “It’s interesting that you declare it dead, but the Israelis and the Palestinians don’t declare it dead,” Kerry said of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

“We’ll see,” McCain interrupted.

“Well, yeah, we will see,” Kerry shot back.

“It has stopped. It has stopped. Recognize reality,” McCain retorted.

Actually, Kerry did finally declare the talks all but dead, and blamed Israel for it. However, McClatchy throws a flag on that claim:

Appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry said both sides had taken steps in recent days that stood in the way of progress. But he said a turning point came when an Israeli housing agency published tenders for 700 new apartments.

“Seven hundred settlement units were announced in Jerusalem and, poof, that was sort of the moment,” Kerry said.

Not exactly:

The announcement on the housing units came as the Palestinians were refusing to agree to continue the peace talks.

Looks like Kerry has a lot of difficulty recognizing reality these days. Damon Linker at The Week has a clearer view of why Kerry’s very public push is an exercise in futility:

Kerry’s frantic drive to settle the nearly seven-decade-long clash between the Israelis and Palestinians has come to nothing. Everyone who cares about Israeli security and the suffering of the Palestinians wished him well in his efforts, just as everyone knowledgeable about the conflict understood that those efforts would fail.

And yet surprisingly few on either side have drawn the proper conclusion — which is that, for now at least, there simply is no solution to the conflict. …

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has had an intractable quality from the beginning: two peoples with competing, exclusivist claims to one small parcel of land. That’s one important reason why every attempt to broker a lasting peace agreement over the past 66 years has fallen to pieces in the end — because the end is unreachable.

For one thing, each group insists on making Jerusalem its capital city and claims to be unwilling to accept anything short of that. Yes, it’s at least possible that this tension could be finessed by some kind of dual-sovereignty agreement. But there’s no finessing this: the Israel government demands that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the historic homeland of the Jewish people (meaning it will not be permitted to become a binational state), while the Palestinians insist on a “right of return” to land within Israeli territory, which would instantly transform it into a binational state — and one in which Jews make up a minority of the population.

That, my friends, is the very definition of an intractable conflict.

Yes, that’s about right. Until the Palestinians realize they can’t talk Israel into national suicide, talks are pointless, except on lower-level ancillary issues such as water policy (a particularly difficult issue in the West Bank) and security arrangements. Kerry’s presence is not just valueless, it stirs the pot even further.

McCain wasn’t the only Senator to get tough with Kerry. Jim Risch (R-ID) said that it looks as though American foreign policy is “spinning out of control,” which got Kerry irritated all over again. Risch had better not expect to make Kerry’s next VP short list.