The Kerry Fiasco


By Jerold S. Auerbach

Who could have imagined it? Secretary of State John Kerry is making his predecessor James Baker seem like Israel’s best friend. Back in 1990, Baker complained that Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir was thwarting Bush administration efforts to launch Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations (sound familiar?). He flamboyantly revealed the White House telephone number, instructing the Israeli government: “When you’re serious about peace call us.” The frustrated secretary, advised to consider how his blatant hostility might play out to American Jewry, memorably responded: “Fuck the Jews, they didn’t vote for us anyway.”

During the past several weeks, Kerry has repeatedly berated Israel while blithely undermining his own credibility. First, he blamed the Jewish state for stymied negotiations with the Palestinians, now in their fourth month of going nowhere (exactly where they have always gone). Then he dismissed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s repeated warnings that the United States was abandoning its Middle East allies, Arab states and Israel alike, by caving in to Iranian pressure to lift biting financial sanctions that have inhibited its nuclear development. Finally, with the announcement by Israel’s Housing minister that settlement construction would soon resume, quickly rescinded by Netanyahu, Kerry went ballistic.

Kerry’s fundamentally flawed analytical framework is grounded, as criticism of Israel inevitably is, in the distorted perception that Jewish settlements in the biblical homeland of the Jewish people pose the fundamental obstacle to Middle Eastern peace. “We do not believe the settlements are legitimate,” Kerry declared on Israeli television during his recent visit. “We think they are illegitimate. And we believe that the entire peace process would in fact be easier if these settlements were not taking place.” They send the message, to Kerry at least, that “perhaps you’re not really serious.” About any Palestinian obstacles to peace, including their resistance to partition that dates back to 1937, Kerry remained silent.

Astonishingly, Kerry warned on Israeli and Palestinian television that unless Israelis wanted “a third intifada,” they must surrender to Palestinian demands. Otherwise, “you may wind up with [Palestinian] leadership that is committed to violence.” Palestinian terrorism, after all, is Israel’s fault. Only the recent, and promised future, Israeli release of Palestinian murderers from prison, where many were serving multiple life sentences for their horrific crimes, earned Kerry’s grudging praise for Netanyahu’s “seriousness” – but not a word of consolation to families of the victims.

When Kerry realized that greener peace pastures might lie elsewhere, he hastily exited the Middle East for Geneva, where he imagined that he could seal a deal of capitulation with Iran over its nuclear program – thereby heightening Israeli vulnerability. When France pulled the rug out from under Kerry’s inclination to imitate Neville Chamberlain at Munich, the secretary of state lost it once again, returning to Washington with yet another stain on his diplomatic c.v. to plead with senators not to toughen sanctions against Iran lest it offend the ayatollahs – and protect Israel.

Once again, the perfidy of Israelis – like malevolent Jews ever since Shylock – loomed large for Kerry. “Every time anybody would say anything about ‘what would the Israelis say,’ according to a Senate aide, they’d get cut off and Kerry would say, ‘You have to ignore what they’re telling you, stop listening to the Israelis on this.” What could they possibly know about their own security needs? Illinois Senator Mark Kirk complained: “It was fairly anti-Israeli. I was supposed to disbelieve everything the Israelis had just told me.” Should the Senate Banking Committee decide not to ease sanctions against Iran when they are most effective it would, of course, be Israel’s fault.

As Secretary Kerry’s diplomatic fiascos multiply, he seems ever more determined to blame Israel for his own incompetence. About the Palestinian Authority’s demand for the “right of return” to Israel claimed by millions of descendants of 1948 refugees, he remains silent. He is oblivious to nearly a century of international guarantees, dating from the British Mandate and endorsed by the American government, for the right of Jews to “close settlement” west of the Jordan River. Most ominously, he now seems willing to sell Israel for a mess of Iranian diplomatic pottage.

It is enough to generate longing for the good old days when Secretary of State Baker was riding high in Foggy Bottom.

Jerold S. Auerbach is author of the forthcoming Jewish State/Pariah Nation: Israel and the Dilemmas of Legitimacy. This article first appeared in American Thinker, (www.americanthinker.com). 

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