John Kerry may be the only adult in America outside the bubble of academia who thinks now is the right time to pursue peace between Israelis and Palestinians. He is certainly the only one in the Middle East who believes that.
Since assuming his role as America’s top diplomat, the former Massachusetts senator has seemingly made Israeli-Palestinian peace his number one priority. He has visited the region five times since February in order to achieve this herculean task, including a recent four day visit where he shuttled back and forth between Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian leaders.
Mel Gibson has a greater chance of being named the Jewish Federation’s person of the year than Kerry does of achieving his goal. As anyone not named John Kerry could tell you, the conditions on the ground aren’t exactly optimal for achieving a lasting peace. What’s more, Kerry is not only expending energy and the prestige of the of the United States on an adventure doomed for failure, he is doing so at the expense of many other hotspots.
For example, there’s every other country in the Middle East. Kerry may not have noticed, but the region is on fire — in some cases literally.
In Egypt, millions of Egyptians flooded the streets of cities all throughout the country Sunday demanding that their Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, resign. After winning the presidency last year, Morsi consolidated power while allowing the Egyptian economy to crater.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan — President Obama’s best friend in the Middle East — is also facing mass protests for his increasing Islamization of the country, which threatens to permanently alter the secular nature of the state.
In Syria, a peaceful uprising against the dictatorial Assad regime has turned into a brutal civil war with terrorist groups fighting on both sides. It is estimated that 100,000 people have died so far in the over two-year long conflict. An estimated 1.5 million Syrians have fled the country as refugees.
In Jordan, there is some fear that the regime of King Abdullah — a sensible and moderate American ally in a region where sense and moderation are in rare supply — could be threatened by the turmoil engulfing the region. Among other things, Jordan faces the burden of hosting hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees.
Lebanon has never really been a bastion of stability, but the tensions in Syria threaten to destabilize it further as the war spills over into the country. And lest it be forgotten, one of the country’s largest political parties and perhaps its most powerful armed force also happens to be a terrorist organization that has pledged fealty to Iran and its Islamic Revolution (i.e. Hezbollah).
But wait, there’s more! Yemen is a mess and is a base for Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. Violence in Iraq is surging and there are fears that the country could relapse into sectarian war. Despite sanctions, Iran continues its quest for nuclear weapons, a prospect that not only gravely threatens Israel and America’s Arab allies, but the U.S. itself.
So, with all the problems facing just the Middle East, why is Kerry so focused on Israeli-Palestinian peace?
The reason, of course, is Kerry has apparently bought into the notions sold by many elite foreign policy hands that the key to stability in the Middle East is through Arab-Israeli peace and that the opportunity for a two state solution is rapidly fading. Most of the problems in the region (and sometimes outside the region), they argue, can be tied to the festering conflict, and if a two state solution is not achieved now, the situation on the ground may prevent it from ever being achieved.
There isn’t much to support the second notion and the Arab Spring should have disabused Kerry of the ridiculousness of the first notion. Just think about it: If Kerry was able to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict tomorrow, would a single one of the crises listed above disappear? Not a chance. Morsi would still be mismanaging Egypt and seeking dictatorial powers. Erdogan would still be trying to Islamicize Turkey. Iran would still be building nuclear weapons. The war in Syria would continue unabated. While al-Qaida does mention Israeli-Palestinian conflict as one of their many gripes, their quarrel isn’t with the precise location of Israel’s borders. It is with Israel’s existence.
What makes Kerry’s efforts particularly insane is that there is absolutely no prospect he will be successful. None. Even if Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu miraculously agreed on a deal, Abbas couldn’t deliver on it because he doesn’t control all the territory he is supposedly negotiating on behalf of. Gaza is controlled by Hamas, a terrorist group whose very charter calls for not only the destruction of Israel, but for Jewish genocide. They aren’t particularly interested in a peace deal.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. In five trips to the region, Kerry hasn’t even persuaded Abbas to meet with Netanyahu yet! Still, Kerry believes he can achieve progress by September. Good grief.
Such foolishness is not cost free. Kerry’s inevitable failure will further weaken American prestige in the region by showing America to be feckless and delusional. Kerry’s focus on Israeli-Palestinian peace also diverts his attention from other problems that he may actually be able to have positive effect on.
This is amateur hour at the State Department.