John Kerry may go down as one of America’s worst secretaries of state, perhaps surpassed only by his predecessor Hilary Clinton. Together they carried out President Obama’s agenda to turn on our most fervent allies, such as Israel, make catastrophic deals with enemies such as Iran and, in a nod to Nero, fiddled while Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya and Yemen.
Neither Kerry nor Clinton have had a significant foreign policy accomplishment, though some still contend that Kerry’s negotiation of the Iranian nuclear deal represents Obama’s single foreign policy success.
Those who are not sycophantic supporters of the president see the nuke deal as a disaster on multiple levels. The Iranians are already flouting the agreement while the IAEA and Obama administration ignore the violations or conceal them from the public. The agreement’s time frame is a blink in the context of Middle East history, the verification regime is riddled with loopholes, and even Obama admits nothing will prevent Iran from getting a bomb when the deal expires. The great accomplishment of the deal was to extend the breakout time from 3 months to perhaps 1 year. It’s mystifying why anyone finds this comforting.
One of the worst aspects of the deal is that the Iranians have used it to successfully blackmail Obama. Any action we take that is objectionable to Iran immediately prompts a threat from Tehran that they will renege on the deal. Kerry and Obama are so petrified of losing their signature achievement that they are paralyzed from taking any action against Iran’s violations or broader threats posed by their ballistic missile development, sponsorship of terrorism, interventions in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Libya, and bullying of its Gulf neighbors.
Contrary to Obama’s naïve notion that Iran would moderate its views after signing the nuke deal, the opposite has happened. Iran’s has also not abandoned its constant attacks on the “Great Satan” and the “Little Satan” have continued unabated. Iranian leaders still threaten to destroy Israel while also boasting of their victory over the U.S. Iran now feels safe to arrest American citizens, capture US Navy personnel and use their military to harass American troops in the Gulf. Iran has also been allowed to interfere in Syria, Iraq and Yemen with impunity. They do so knowing that Obama will not act for fear of Iran cancelling the nuke deal.
Obama lost all credibility in the region when he failed to bomb Syria after Assad ignored his red line and used chemical weapons against his people. Instead, he was snookered by Putin, who convinced him to let Syria dispose of the weapons. The weapons were not all destroyed, however, and they continue to be used in Syria’s apocalypse. Meanwhile, Kerry has futilely tried to negotiate a ceasefire with the Russians while they bomb rebels and civilians alike
American’s top foreign policy priority in the Middle East for more than 40 years was to keep the Soviets/Russians from gaining a foothold in the region. The goal was finally accomplished in the early 1970s when Egypt threw the Soviets out. From that point until Obama’s arrival, the Russians were kept at bay, holding only a naval base in Syria. But look at the Russians now. Suddenly they seem to be everywhere. They are engaged in large-scale military operations in Syria to wipe out not just ISIS but any opposition to Bashar Assad. Vladimir Putin understood that if Assad fell, Russia would likely lose its last foothold in the region. Now Russia is expanding relations with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Middle East nations. Kerry still doesn’t understand the consequences of his catastrophic failure to rein in the Russians.
Given all these problems, did Kerry use his last foreign policy address to lay out a plan to save the people being slaughtered in Syria?
No, he didn’t.
Did he speak about Russia’s role in murdering helpless civilians?
No, Putin’s his buddy.
Did Kerry express concern for the tens of thousands of Shiites and Sunnis butchering each other?
No, that wouldn’t fit his mantra of Islam as a religion of peace and the administration’s refusal to acknowledge the existence and threat of radical Islam.
So what did Kerry talk about at the Saban Forum in Washington?
The evil Israelis.
Sounding much like the Iranians and other enemies of Israel, Kerry parroted the tired old arguments that showed how deeply out of touch he has become as secretary. Specifically, Kerry accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government of suffering from a lack of leadership, and explicitly cited Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s recent comments lauding the demise of the two-state solution as “profoundly disturbing.”
Kerry also challenged Netanyahu’s claim that failure to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is at the heart of the failure to reach an agreement.
If the Palestinians are unwilling to accept the reality that Israel is a Jewish state, then what reason is there to believe they are prepared to coexist no matter what concessions Israel offers?
Hours after Netanyahu emphasized in his video address before the same forum that settlements are not the cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Kerry said, “I cannot accept the notion that [settlements] don’t affect the peace process, that they aren’t a barrier to the ability to create peace.”
Like many of his predecessors Kerry is ignorant of history. Even though their claim to the land is much more justifiable than that of the Arabs, Jews have accepted a two-state solution since Lord Peel’s proposal to partition Palestine into two states in 1937. The Palestinians have rejected that solution from that time to the present.
The secretary also criticized proposals voiced by Israeli legislators to first negotiate an agreement with neighboring Arab states, and only then sit at the table with the Palestinians. Previously, the administration had been gung ho about the Arab peace initiative, but instead of trying to capitalize on the new ties between Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, to fashion a regional peace agreement, Kerry has swallowed the Arabist line that the Palestinian issue is the core issue in the region. He ignores that the Palestinian issue is irrelevant to every major problem we’re facing in the region, from Iran, Syria and Iraq to ISIS, al-Qaeda and Hezbollah.
Historical experience cannot faze the Arabists. Thus, while the Arab states have demonstrated for decades now that they don’t care about the Palestinians (they won’t go to war for them, provide the amounts of aid they promise, or support them anywhere but the UN where rhetoric replaces deeds). If it is in their interests, Arab states will make a deal with our without the Palestinians as both Egypt and Jordan did.
Furthermore, Kerry’s unwillingness to recognize the religious war under his nose has prevented him from understanding the cause of the slaughter across the region. His failure to understand how the Arab-Israeli conflict has changed from political to religious allows him to pursue the fantasy of a two-state solution while ignoring that the domination of radical Islamic thinking among Palestinians ensures they will continue to pursue Israel’s destruction.
Kerry repeated warnings commonly heard over the past four years that if a two-state solution is not achieved, Israel will be untenable as a Jewish and democratic state. He asks rhetorically, “How do you have a one state that is Jewish and democratic and also has provisions in place for Israel’s security?” Furthermore, he asks, “What’s your vision of a unitary state?” If Palestinians are [a] majority, will there be a Palestinian prime minister of Israel?”
The questions he should be asking are: Why won’t the Palestinians negotiate? Why didn’t they accept the compromises Israel made in 1937, 1948, 1979, 1993, 2000 and 2008? What evidence does he have that the Palestinians have abandoned their desire to destroy Israel? What will prevent a Palestinian state from becoming another Hamastan? What will guarantee Israel’s security once its troops leave the West Bank? The status quo has lasted since 1967, why can’t it continue for another 50 years? The Palestinians never had a state in recorded history, neither Jordan nor Egypt permitted them to establish one when they controlled the West Bank and Gaza, so on what basis are they entitled to demand statehood in the land of Israel?
Having gotten drunk on the Arabist Kool Aid, Kerry resorts to the time-honored tradition of blaming the Jews for the ills of the Middle East. He couldn’t get Abbas to negotiate, let alone agree to anything. Was that Netanyahu’s fault or evidence of Kerry’s incompetence as a diplomat and inability to learn anything about the region from history or contemporary events?
One can only hope that Donald Trump will find someone to take Kerry’s place who is knowledgeable about Middle East history, understands the religious war taking place there (and beyond), recognizes Israel’s role as an ally and ensures it remains secure with unified Jerusalem as its capital, and is capable of distinguishing between America’s friends and enemies.
Dr. Mitchell Bard is the author/editor of 24 books including The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews and the novel After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.