On Monday, June 3, Secretary of State John Kerry gave a long and rambling speech before the American Jewish Committee Global Forum. The speech was primarily hogwash, but what is most striking about it is that, with slight variation, it could have been given twenty years ago. The American administration still seems to think that Israeli Jews have the power to bring peace between the Jews and the Arabs in the Middle East. The American administration still conceives of the conflict as between a powerful Israeli “Goliath” versus an oppressed “Palestinian” minority. And the American administration still believes that if only Israel would do this, that, or the other then the “Palestinians” will be placated and peace will reign.
This is what I like to call The Oslo Delusion. The foremost characteristic of the Oslo Delusion is the inability to learn anything significant from the failure of the Oslo “peace process” and thus to think that if we continue to exercise the counterproductive policies of the past that they will now yield different results. These attempts to try the same things over and over and over again, while hoping for different results, is what Einstein famously called the very “definition of insanity.” John Kerry, of course, is not insane. He merely continues to conceive of the conflict within the failed paradigm of the Clinton administration.
So long as American administrations continue to look at the conflict within ideological models that failed in the past then efforts will continue to fail going forward into the future. Let’s look at some examples of Kerry’s delusional thinking on the subject. He said this:
Security for Israel grows with the empowerment of moderates in the West Bank and Gaza and throughout the region so that extremists are isolated rather than promoted and empowered.
This sentence neatly demonstrates the schizophrenic contradiction at the heart of Obama administration foreign policy. How can Kerry speak of promoting and empowering moderates when the administration did precisely the opposite in Egypt? The United States supported the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, and thus the rise of radical Islam throughout the Middle East, and yet Kerry speaks of empowering moderates? Who are these moderates? How can we consider Mahmoud Abbas a moderate when his PhD thesis concerned itself with promoting Holocaust denial, when he encourages violence and hatred toward Jews in Palestinian Authority media, and when he refuses to negotiate unless all his demands are met prior to negotiations?
Kerry seems to think that the regional Arab society is filled with moderates who want nothing more than to raise their children in peace, but for the fact of a minority of extremists in their midst who do all that they can to harass the Jews and prevent peace. This is false. It is the regional Arab culture itself which is immoderate. Arab media, and Arab culture, more generally, throughout the Middle East is riddled with highly toxic forms of anti-Semitism in which Jews are depicted as a sublime and transcendent evil. It’s not a matter of isolating extremists, but of confronting a deeply racist and imperial nation, the Arab nation, that so often teaches its children that Allah wants them to kill Jews.
Kerry said this:
I have heard all of the arguments for why it is too difficult to end this conflict. And I know some of you are skeptical. I understand where that comes from. And some people are beyond skeptical; they’re even cynical. I know it’s hard. After all, there’s a reason why this problem hasn’t been solved yet.
There is a reason that the problem has not been solved yet, but there is very little evidence to suggest that Kerry knows what it is. The reason that the problem has not been solved is because the greater Arab nation’s way of solving the problem is by destroying the hated enemy within their midst. As I have so often pointed out, the Jews of the Middle East are six million people with their backs to the Mediterranean being confronted by four hundred million Arabs who, for the most part, refuse to accept Jewish sovereignty on Jewish land for religious reasons. Israel’s very existence is an affront to Islam because any land that was at any time part of the Umma must, according to Islamic doctrine, remain part of the Umma. Furthermore, hostility toward the tiny Jewish minority in the Middle East is hard-coded into Islam due to the fact that violence against Jews is foundational within the Muslim faith.
Muhammed, after all, was the premier Jew hunter of his day.
Now, some say that in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, it’s too messy, it’s too uncertain. But in reality, the dawn of a new era in the region is exactly the kind of time to recast Israel’s relationships, to change the narrative with a new generation that is starting to make its voice heard.
This line indicates that the Obama administration has learned nothing concerning the nature of the Arab Spring. They hold onto this rubbish like a life-raft. This “new era” that Kerry extols is nothing less than the rise of a genocidal, misogynistic, and violently homophobic political movement and it has absolutely nothing to do with the emergence of a younger, more enlightened generation into Arab politics as Kerry likes to suggest. These “new” voices are not new and they do not represent some Arab version of the western peace movement of the 1960s. We are talking about people who gather in Tahrir Square and chant for the death of the Jews and the conquest of Jerusalem, when they aren’t raping white, western journalists. Kerry needs to understand that neither Timothy Leary, nor Allen Ginsberg, are in that crowd and that these little gatherings do not represent a Gathering of the Tribes, like we saw in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park in 1967. This sort of youthful idealism may have been appropriate for John Kerry when he was still in his twenties and just back stateside from the war in Vietnam, but it is wholly inappropriate for a full-grown Secretary of State.
The United States will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
The United States may do so, but it will not come from the reposed efforts of this administration. Furthermore, the Jews of the Middle East are in no position to depend on the Obama administration for Jewish survival in that part of the world. Any Jews who suggest that Israel should depend on a foreign government for their own protection is, in essence, denying a central tenet of Zionism. Zionism is about Jewish self-reliance. One would have to be a fool to depend on the Obama administration.
we must recognize the Palestinians’ fundamental aspirations – to live in peace in their own state with its own clear borders – that has to be our mission as well.
Leaving aside for the moment just what constitutes a “Palestinian,” the fact of the matter is that living “in peace in their own state with its own clear borders” has never been a priority among the regional Arabs who have perpetually refused precisely that offer. Decade after decade after decade they scream from the hillsides that this is not what they want and decade after decade after decade allegedly well-meaning American politicians insist to them that it is what they want. What I say is that it is long past time to take these people at their word. What they tell their own people, in Arabic, is that they want the end of Israel through the violent Jihad. That is what they want, not peace in another Arab dictatorship next to democratic Israel.
Palestinians also deserve to see their daily lives grow and the benefits of economic growth and development. And that is why last weekend at the Dead Sea I described an economic investment initiative for the Palestinian Territories led by Quartet Representative Tony Blair that will be different in scope and in process than anything that has preceded it.
Excuse me, but no one gets economic growth and development because they “deserve” it. They get economic growth and development because they have earned it. That’s how Israel got it. That’s how the United States got it. You cannot wean people off of charity by giving them still more charity and that is precisely what Kerry is recommending. Furthermore, even if it were true that people should get money merely because by virtue of being human they “deserve” it, doesn’t the whole notion of “deserving” suggest that one has done something in order to deserve anything? I fail to see how a culture that is primarily famous for giving the world the suicide bomber can be said to deserve western corporate cash.
I understand that many of you are asking, “Ma Nishtana?” (Laughter.) “What makes this different from every other time?”
Well, the difference is that what happens in the coming days will actually dictate what happens in the coming decades. We’re running out of time. We’re running out of possibilities. And let’s be clear: If we do not succeed now – and I know I’m raising those stakes – but if we do not succeed now, we may not get another chance.
This is one of the biggest canards in the ongoing discussion around the Arab-Israel conflict in the west today. They constantly tell us that the status quo is unsustainable and that we are running out of time. I am not a big fan of the status quo either and have continually suggested that Israel needs to declare its final borders – whatever those borders may be – move the IDF to behind those borders and then toss the keys over its shoulder. There is, however, little to actually indicate that the status quo cannot go on and on and on, just as it has done for decades. I do not recommend it, but it is not up to me. In fact, it’s not even up to Israel. It’s up to the greater Arab nation.
So no one has a stronger voice in this than the American Jewish community. You can play a critical part in ensuring Israel’s long-term security. And as President Obama said in Jerusalem, leaders will take bold steps only if their people push them to. You can help shape the future of this process. And in the end, you can help Israel direct its destiny and be masters of its own fate, just as Prime Minister Meir dreamed that it would be.
And this is really what Kerry’s speech is all about. Like Obama speaking in Israel, Kerry seeks to encourage Jewish people to pressure the Israeli government to do whatever it is that Barack Obama wants Israel to do. Kerry, much like J Street, is seeking to influence American Jews to pressure Israeli Jews to follow Obama’s lead and do things like kick Jewish people out of their homes in Judea.
Kerry says that no one has a stronger voice on the question of Arab-Israel peace than does the American Jewish community, but this is entirely false. Peace will come when the great Arab nation decides that it wants peace in that tiny section of the Middle East, but not one day before. American Jews have zero influence with the Arab nation and the Jews of the Middle East have agreed to the two state solution since at least 1937, through their acceptance of the British Peel Commission which offered the Arabs almost the entirety of the mandate and the Jews a tiny sliver of land between Tel Aviv and Haifa.
But even that was unacceptable to the great Arab majority.
If John Kerry and the Obama administration want to see a peaceful resolution to the Arab-Israel conflict they might consider that pressuring the Jews to accept what we have always accepted and failing to pressure the Arabs to accept what they have never accepted might not be the best strategy, particularly given the fact that we see it fail and fail and fail, over and over and over again.
Maybe it’s time to try something different.
Perhaps John Kerry and Barack Obama are pressuring the wrong people.
Mike Lumish is the editor of Israel Thrives