Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Secretary of State John Kerry: The End of an Error

MR. KELLY: I mean, we’re not – but it’s – we are less than a year into this Administration, and I think we’ve accomplished more over the last year than the previous administration did in eight years.

QUESTION: Well, I – really, because the previous administration actually had them sitting down talking to each other. You guys can’t even get that far.
Daily press briefing, November 17, 2009, with State Department spokesperson comparing accomplishments on Israel-Palestinian peace

It's only natural that the Obama administration would want to sell what it thinks is the superiority of its policies. As his term in office wore on, Obama certainly got better at it -- to the extent that he was able to push through a deal with Iran, despite opposition by Congress and a majority of Americans.

But drawing opposing parties like Israel and the Palestinian Arabs into an agreement has proven to be far more difficult than merely running roughshod over native opposition.

Just ask John Kerry.

John Kerry having one of those...years Credit: AP

Making the Iran deal a reality turned out to be only the beginning. Since then, every effort has been made by the Obama administration to maintain the agreement by overlooking the Iranian violations, ignoring its aggressive behavior, and conceding to Iran's hostage demands.

This has turned out to be something of a pattern. As journalist Eli Lake describes in Secretary of State John Bolton Would Be the Anti-John Kerry, for the past four years Kerry has been bending over backwards in order to meet America's adversaries halfway.

The results?
As he finishes up his tenure, Iran tests missiles, arrests Americans and still demands new concessions from the U.S. China builds artificial islands in the South China Sea. And Russia continues to bomb civilians in Syria. Meanwhile, the Israelis and Palestinians are further away from a negotiated settlement than they were when Obama took office.
And speaking of Israel and the Palestinians, David Horovitz examines Why John Kerry failed to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace, noting the growing turmoil in the Middle East during Obama's terms in office -- turmoil that only got worse during Kerry's tenure as Secretary of State:
  • Terrorist groups gained footholds in Syria, Jordan, and Iraq
  • Iran has grown emboldened -- and richer
  • After Egypt's Hosni Mubarak was allowed to fall from power, his successor, Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, was not supported in his battle against Muslim extremism
  • The US failed to intervene effectively in Syria -- even after Assad crossed Obama's red line and started gassing his people
  • The millions who fled Syria in turn added to the refugee crisis in Europe
The difference with Israel appears to be in part that Israel is an ally -- and while Kerry has shown a unique ability to bend over backwards for our enemies, friends are another matter.

At the Saban Forum last week, Kerry did not hesitate to criticize Israel.

The question though is whether those criticisms were even accurate.

In response to Kerry's comments, Joe Settler writes about John Kerry, Straw Men and the Saban Echo Chamber in The Jewish Press.
I was honestly baffled at Kerry’s absolute insistence that an Israeli peace with the other Arab countries, including Egypt and Jordan, is predicated on peace with the “Palestinians.”

Kerry insisted that while the Arab countries need Israel’s expertise in areas like agriculture, technology and finance, they refuse to take it because of the “Palestinian” conflict.
But, as the article notes, Kerry's comments just do not fit the reality:
  • Jordan takes Israel’s water, its parliament just approved a natural gas deal with Israel and Israelis manage agricultural farms there
  • Egypt is discussing major cooperation projects with Israel, where Israel will provide aid to Egypt in such areas as solar energy, agriculture, desalination, and expanding tourism
  • Kurdish controlled Iraq provides oil to Israel
  • Turkey's Erdogan is making deals with Israel, especially regarding Israel’s natural gas.
As for other Arab countries which are nowhere near to having peaceful relations with Israel:
Lebanon, for as long as it remains controlled by the Hezbollah terrorist organization and the Islamic regime in Iran, will never make any peace.

Syria, doesn’t exist anymore as a country, and no one is rushing there to eat Hummus in Damascus.

Iraq? Yemen? The Islamic State of Iran (who aren’t even Arabs, and don’t care about “Palestinians”)?

We already have quiet business happening with some of the Gulf states.

That pretty much just leaves Saudi Arabia, and personally, besides overflight permission for El Al, I could pass on them.
If anyone is wondering why Kerry applied only the carrot and not the stick to Iran, it seems to be because he was too busy using it on Israel. But the inaccuracies in his criticisms of Israel are part of the reason why taking Kerry as a serious negotiator has been problematic, just as the willingness of the Obama administration to appease just about everybody else led to the Arab world not taking it seriously.

In his closing weeks, Obama will try to trumpet his triumphs, but many will not take him seriously.
As for Kerry, the one accomplishment which might arguably be called a success -- the Iran deal -- is even now, before Donald Trump assumes office, showing signs of unraveling.

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