John Kerry has had a bad year-plus as Secretary of State. He inherited the “reset button” relationship with Russia from his clueless predecessor Hillary Clinton, and that has turned into a new version of the Cold War as Vladimir Putin restarts Russian imperialism. Kerry, however, has caused much of his own misery by insisting on an agreement with Iran that gets them economic aid while giving up nothing on their nuclear development plans. Kerry also insisted that he knew how to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, only to fall on his face repeatedly as the two sides refuse to bend to his will. On Friday, Kerry lashed out by “warning” Israel that it would become an “apartheid state” if it didn’t get serious about meeting the Palestinian demands for peace, reports Josh Rogin at the Daily Beast:
If there’s no two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict soon, Israel risks becoming “an apartheid state,” Secretary of State John Kerry told a room of influential world leaders in a closed-door meeting Friday.
Senior American officials have rarely, if ever, used the term “apartheid” in reference to Israel, and President Obama has previously rejected the idea that the word should apply to Jewish State. Kerry’s use of the loaded term is already rankling Jewish leaders in America—and almost certain to Israeli leaders abroad.
It wasn’t the only controversial comment on the Middle East that Kerry made during his remarks to the Trilateral Commission, a recording of which was obtained by The Daily Beast. Kerry also repeated his warning that a failure of Middle East peace talks could lead to a resumption of Palestinian violence against Israeli citizens. He suggested that a change in either the Israeli or Palestinian leadership could make achieving a peace deal more feasible. He lashed out against Israeli settlement-building. And Kerry said that both Israeli and Palestinian leaders share the blame for the current impasse in the talks.
After this got published yesterday, a big debate broke out over the value of Rogin’s scoop. Some suggested that this wasn’t really news, and that Rogin was milking Kerry’s use of “apartheid” for sensationalism. Kerry didn’t call Israel an apartheid state now, the argument went, but warned that anything less than a two-state solution would force Israel to keep Palestinians in a second-class status in a singular state if the West Bank and Gaza were annexed rather than spun off into a new state.
That’s true, and it’s why some Israelis generally prefer either a two-state solution or a transfer of authority of the West Bank to Jordan, the latter of which is a pipe dream; Jordan wants nothing to do with it. Both sides have legitimate grievances, but grievances can be mitigated and compensated, and borders drawn through negotiations — but if that’s all there was to the conflict, it would have been solved at Wye River. Giving Palestinian full citizenship in Israel would create the same result as a capitulation on the “right of return”: the end of the Jewish state entirely. Unfortunately, that’s what the Palestinians ultimately want, which is why the peace talks went nowhere, and why they’ll continue to go nowhere.
Kerry doesn’t seem to have learned this, which makes this part of his fit of pique a little more humorous than Kerry probably thinks:
Kerry also said that at some point, he might unveil his own peace deal and tell both sides to “take it or leave it.”
Really? Take it or leave it — or what? The US will quit trying to mediate in the dispute? At least with the track record of incompetence in this area from the Obama administration and the longer track record of utter failure in every American administration in memory, that may be an improvement.
The Palestinians are already thumbing their noses at Kerry, and moving the dispute to the UN:
The Palestine Liberation Organisation’s central council on Sunday adopted a plan to pursue attempts to join 60 United Nations bodies and international agreements.
The council, under the auspices of president Mahmud Abbas, “affirms the need for the Palestinian leadership to continue membership of UN agencies and international conventions”, the Palestine People’s Party secretary general Bassam al-Salhi said in a statement.
The council also said Israel was to blame for failed international and US efforts to find a negotiated settlement to the Middle East conflict.
That would force the US to cut off the PA, but the new reconciliation agreement with Hamas will force that move anyway. That will cost Abbas about $400 million a year in aid, but it does serve as a pre-emptive answer to Kerry and the Obama administration to Kerry’s ultimatum: They’re leaving it.
Update: Jeff Dunetz offers his perspective on why the peace talks failed … again:
There is plenty of blame to go around for the failure of the latest round of negotiations. Hillary Clinton made settlements an issue; Bibi Netanyahu should have gone for a settlement freeze instead of a prisoner release, and the Obama administration was naïve in believing Abbas wanted peace, thought they could get peace by pressuring and blaming only one side.
In the end the biggest reason for the failure of the talks lies with one simple fact. The Palestinians don’t want peace. Think about it, name some concessions the Israeli’s have made, from giving up control of Gaza almost nine years ago to the latest prisoner release (on top of all the other prisoner releases). Now try to name some concessions by the “moderate” Palestinian Terrorists. Have they even stopped inciting their people to hate Jews, or recognized the Jewishness of Israel?
While neither the mainstream media or the Obama administration will recognize the truth, the ultimate blame for killing this latest round of talks should rest firmly in the laps of the Palestinians.
Until both sides agree to a permanent two-state solution that recognizes the Jewish character of one and the Palestinian Arab character of the other, there really isn’t much to discuss.