Sunday, May 26, 2013

At World Economic Forum, Will Kerry Add To His List of Diplomatic Blunders?

Before tackling today's news from the World Economic Forum, let's take a look at Kerry's track record so far.

Secretary of State John Kerry is nothing if not consistent as he goes gallivanting around the world exhibiting his diplomatic prowess:
Now, in his latest exhibition of his diplomatic prowess, Kerry now is telling Israel that Israeli ‘prosperity’ prevents sense of urgency about peace:

Israelis’ “sense of security” prevents them from feeling sufficient urgency to resume peace talks with the Palestinians, US Secretary of State John Kerry said in Jerusalem Thursday, warning of fast-approaching “challenges” that required a change of approach for the Jewish State.

“I think there is an opportunity [for peace], but for many reasons it’s not on the tips of everyone’s tongue,” Kerry told reporters before entering a meeting with President Shimon Peres. “People in Israel aren’t waking up every day and wondering if tomorrow there will be peace because there is a sense of security and a sense of accomplishment and of prosperity.”
And in the world of diplomacy that Kerry inhabits -- "a sense of security and a sense of accomplishment and of prosperity" is a bad thing.

In response to his comments, Shoshana Bryen explains the full extent of Kerry's ignorance of Israel's current diplomatic situation in the Middle East:
"At this moment" Israel is a stable, educated, increasingly energy independent, democratic, prosperous country with a military that appears willing and able to defend the people from threats over the horizon. It has a clear understanding with the Kingdom of Jordan for security along the Jordan River that protects both neighbors. It has an almost clear understanding with the President of the United States (and certainly has one with Congress) that the main threat to its security lies in the nuclear aspirations of Iran.

This, says Kerry, is "the moment" Israel should feel a pressing imperative to dump King Abdullah and cut a deal with a Palestinian polity that is bifurcated between a kleptocratic, autocratic, openly anti-Semitic West Bank ruled by a man whose sole elected term ended in 2009, and a corrupt, Islamist, Gaza ruled by terrorist-worshipping, Iranian-sponsored Hamas. Hamas and Fatah are at war with one another and their only point of agreement appears to be that the independence of Israel in 1948 was a mistake waiting to be "rectified." A deal with Mahmoud Abbas, old, ailing, and very unpopular at home, would be a temporary deal at best. If Hamas wins its war, Israel will have stripped itself of vital territory only to find its heavily populated coastline under the same rocket and missile fire that southern Israel now absorbs. And Jordan would similarly find hostile forces aligned with Iran overlooking the Kingdom.
These comments from Kerry only reinforce the impression that he really does not understand Israel. As Bret Stephens has pointed out, Israelis cannot help but be keenly aware of the need for real peace:
Nearly every Israeli has a child, sibling, boyfriend or parent in the army. Nearly every Israeli has been to the funeral of a fallen soldier, or a friend killed in a terrorist attack. Most Israeli homes and businesses come equipped with safe rooms or bomb shelters; every Israeli owns a gas mask. The whole country exists under the encroaching shadows of Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, and the prospect of a nuclear Iran. How many Americans, to say nothing of Europeans, can say the same about their own lives?
Kerry's inability to grasp this point underlies his disqualification from being Secretary of State in the first place -- he really cannot see past his nose and grasp the realities on the ground.

Kerry's blindness to Middle East realities may be best exemplified by his failure to grasp the situation in Syria, acting as Assad's Man in Washington:
For the last decade, he [Kerry] has been the federal government’s highest-ranking apologist for Assad. It was Kerry who made numerous efforts to undermine the Bush administration’s attempt to isolate the Syrian dictator after their courtship of him ended in failure in 2003. Kerry has made repeated visits to Syria, meeting with Assad five times between 2009 and 2011.

Dinner with a tyrant: John Kerry and his wife dining with Bashar Assad
and his wife in 2011. Credit: The Weekly Standard
The Washington Free Beacon reported back in September about Kerry's well-known trust in Assad and Syria:
As he [Kerry] said last year, “my judgment is that Syria will move; Syria will change, as it embraces a legitimate relationship with the United States and the West and economic opportunity that comes with it and the participation that comes with it.”

Kerry has always been confident that Israeli concessions, namely handing over strategically vital territory to Assad, would prompt peace. As disclosed by WikiLeaks, he has told Middle East leaders that Israel should surrender the Golan Heights to Assad and hand over East Jerusalem to the Palestinians.
So much for Kerry's "judgement".
So much for Kerry's belief in even more unilateral concessions from Israel.

One can only wonder what qualifications Obama thinks Kerry has for the job of Secretary of State.
Then again, given Obama's admissions of ignorance of what actually goes on in his administration, such a question would be pointless.

Now the World Economic Forum has a news release with Kerry's solution to Middle East peace -- throw even more money at it:
Kerry Announces US$4 Billion Economic Plan to Break Israeli-Palestinian Impasse

John Kerry, US Secretary of State, in a passionate speech at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa, announced plans for a US$ 4 billion economic programme designed to kickstart the Palestinian economy and provide the basis for sustainable peace. “It is time to put in place a new model of development … that is bigger and bolder than anything proposed since the Oslo Accord (10 September, 1993),” he said.

The plan, put together by a group of international regional experts, would increase Palestine’s GDP by 50% and cut unemployment from 21% of the workforce to 8% in just three years. Kerry said that US$ 4 billion dollars can make an enormous difference in a relatively small area with a population of just 4 million. “The intention is not just to make it transformative, but to make it different from anything ever seen before,” he added.
Is this really supposed to impress us?

This is nothing new: There was a time the growth of the Palestinian economy was comparable to Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea.

Palestinian Growth in the 1970's before Intifada --
Comparable to Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea. Credit: World Bank

The obvious question is: given the known corruption and incompetence of the Abbas regime, when can we expect the details of how the US will keep the money from going directly into the hands of Abbas, and prevent the Arabs from squandering yet another opportunity.

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