The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller
 U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, says goodbye to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas after their second meeting in Amman, Jordan on Saturday, June 29, 2013. On his fifth trip to the Middle East, Kerry held talks with Abbas on Saturday for the second time in two days, continuing his rushed round of shuttle diplomacy to restart talks between Israel and the Palestinians. At center is Saeb Erekat, Palestinian chief negotiator. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)

Middle East experts find Kerry focus on Israeli-Palestinian peace ‘baffling’

Jamie Weinstein and Charles Rollet

Try as you may, it isn’t easy finding too many Middle East experts who think Secretary of State John Kerry’s focus on Israeli-Palestinian peace makes much sense or has any chance of success.

Since assuming the post of America’s top diplomat in February, Kerry has visited the Middle East five times in hope of jump starting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Despite hours of talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders with the goal of achieving significant progress towards peace by September, Kerry has not yet even persuaded Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

None of the four scholars who responded to Daily Caller inquiries could understand Kerry’s emphasis on the conflict, and some were outright dismissive of the idea that he could broker any sort of solution.

Kerry would have an easier time convincing Greenpeace to dine on whale steak and spotted owl than in brokering peace between Israel and Palestinians,” Michael Rubin, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told TheDC.

What’s more, Rubin said, with all the fires flaring around the world, it makes little sense that Kerry would devote so much time to a problem that isn’t currently in a position to be resolved.

“Egypt is imploding, and Turkey is going south fast. Antagonism between Europe and America is at an all-time high. China is bullying U.S. allies in southeast Asia. And what is Kerry doing? Off tilting at windmills,” he said.

Nathan Brown, a nonresident senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for National Peace, told TheDC he finds Kerry’s decision to focus on the Israeli-Palestinian peace “baffling.”

“He may get formal negotiations started if he’s lucky. I can’t see him getting any farther,” Brown said of Kerry’s prospects for success.

Steven Bucci, a foreign policy scholar at the Heritage Foundation, echoed those sentiments.

“There is little or no chance of Kerry achieving anything significant between now and September,” Bucci told TheDC. ”This effort is misplaced and cosmetic.  The growing tension between Israel and Iran is far more significant and dangerous.  That is where Secretary Kerry should be focused.”

Charles Dunne, director of Middle East and North Africa programs at Freedom House, also finds Kerry’s decision to focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict bizarre considering the more pressing issues currently at play in the Middle East.

“I think Secretary Kerry would benefit from a sense of perspective,” he told TheDC. ”Important as the Arab-Israeli talks are — or potentially are — there are two other far more important crises on the front burner:  Egypt and Syria.  The collapse of the current Egyptian government….and with it a jump into a political void, while Syria has just notched the 100,000th casualty in its civil war….[Y]ou don’t get a sense of urgency from the Secretary on these two crises.”