Secretary of State John Kerry paid yet another visit to Israel on Thursday. Reports described him as hoping to “salvage” the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Many people, particularly in Israel, had already predicted that, with the Palestinians—just as in 1937, 1948, 2000-01, and 2008—incapable of coming to terms with the Jewish state’s existence, there would be nothing to salvage in the first place.
Kerry’s timing was flawed in a more specific sense as well, with Iran, in recent weeks, having “totally eclipsed” the Palestinian issue in Jerusalem. Kerry was described as reassuring Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu that, despite the interim deal with the mullahs, the sanctions on Iran would not significantly erode.
On that score, there are about as many optimists among Israeli officialdom as there are Fatah members who celebrate Israeli Independence Day.
It was not enough, though, that Israel—like the Sunni states in the region—was stunned and appalled first by President Obama’s highly public flip-flop on Syria and then by the fatally flawed deal with Iran(retired Admiral James A. Lyons has given one of the best analyses of what’s wrong with it). In this atmosphere, Kerry also made it his business on Thursday to outline security arrangements for Israel—after the rise of the putative Palestinian state—in the Jordan Valley itself.
Israel’s Army Radio reported that officials from the U.S. Agency for International Development are already stationed in the Jordan Valley to learn about security arrangements. Kerry, in his press conference with Netanyahu, said U.S. Gen. John Allen had already been offering Netanyahu his “thoughts” on the issue.
If not for the Palestinians’ repeatedly demonstrated inability to reach an agreement even on the most generous Israeli terms possible, it would amount to a sinister attempt to ride roughshod over what Netanyahu—rightly—posits as a fundamental Israeli security need under any agreement: a continued Israeli, not foreign, military presence along the Jordan.
Meanwhile Palestinian spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, blasted what she called—of course—“U.S. bias in favor of Israel….” Ashrawi also called for another Geneva conference—like the one two weeks ago that served up nuclear-threshold-state status to Iran—to “end the occupation and establish a Palestinian state….”
Anything else, Ashrawi warned, would “plunge the entire region into violence….”
One observation prompted by those words is that much of the region—particularly Syria and Iraq, but with Lebanon and Egypt hardly free of the affliction—is already “plunged into violence” without the slightest input from the “Palestinian issue” that somehow, despite all the slings and arrows reality can deliver, retains such mythic status in Washington.
Another is that, even with Washington already having pressured Israel into releasing batches of convicted Palestinian terrorists from prison, and now pressuring it to contract to a width of nine miles and give up its vital security border, the Palestinian accusation that the U.S. is actually taking Israel’s side, seasoned with a threat of cataclysmic violence, surfaces again in a way that is predictable, inevitable, de rigueur—and, for all that, ignored by those mystically convinced that securing Palestinian goals is a supreme interest.
And so, on Friday, John Kerry again flies off, leaving Israel to cope with regional reality. A reality in which Israel had been muddling through with the Palestinian issue more or less successfully—that is, until Kerry’s recent initiative revived tensions and instability; a reality in which Iran is laughing and gloating its way to a future without sanctions and with all its nuclear capabilities intact.
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