I had low expectations for John Kerry’s Israeli/Palestinian peace initiative. I saw it mostly as another sign the Obama administration was giving up on doing much before 2016. THe recent failure of talks doesn’t change that view, but I do give some grudging respect to Kerry and Obama for how they handled it. They can now say they gave it an honest try. And their equally honest admission of failure lays bare both parties disinterest in genuine peace. More importantly, they edge closer to identifying Israel as the main obstacle. Read Kerry’s words carefully below, especially the last sentence.
“Both sides, whether advertently or inadvertently, wound up in positions where things happened that were unhelpful,” he said, and went on to explain how the current crisis was created. “Clearly, going to these treaties is not helpful, and we have made that crystal-clear,” he said. “Unfortunately, prisoners were not released on the Saturday they were supposed to be released. And so day went by, day two went by, day three went by. And then in the afternoon, when they were about to maybe get there, 700 settlement units were announced in Jerusalem and, poof, that was sort of the moment. We find ourselves where we are.”
A lot disappears in that “poof.” If Kerry follows through (as he should) and diverts his attention elsewhere, this will eventually be seen as a watershed moment. He is essentially washing his hands of the situation. Something Obama did for the first 6 years of his presidency. None of this will halt ritual declarations of support for Israel. But Kerry’s is not alone in his increasing exasperation. The next President (and her advisors) will probably do a better job of hiding that, but I’d expect to see less and less genuine effort to save Israel from itself…
I hasten to add that there are huge numbers of smart, thoughtful Israeli’s and people-who-care-about-Israel who aren’t desperately trying to find a peaceful solution. And the Palestinians are hugely to blame as well.
But the rational arguments for peace seem overpowered by inertia, fear, and the existential need for a defining external conflict – partly to distract from the deep internal existential conflict of secular vs orthodox. None of this bodes well for the Israel’s future. But hopefully the US will at least burn fewer cycles trying to pretend that isn’t the most likely path forward.