Bye-bye, Lame Ducks

Someone should remind the Obama administration that the Democrats lost the election. At the Saban forum, you’d think they just won reelection and are fine tuning their acceptance speeches. Reality check: Lame-duck-Secretary Kerry’s Middle East policies don’t matter much anymore, at least not according to the American people who voted him out of power last month.

Here in Israel our leaders have tiptoed around the US election results, wisely preferring quiet stability and waiting it out til January. Meanwhile, it seems that Kerry used his recent platform for a plea to show what a good friend he has been to Israel, and how his policies are to ensure our ‘security and stability’.

Is this true? Take a look at these excerpts from his (long) remarks, and see for yourself. One thing is for sure, we are in for a different tune from whomever holds the title of Secretary of State in the next Administration.

Secretary’s Remarks: Remarks at the Saban Forum
John Kerry, Secretary of State
The Willard Hotel, Washington, DC
December 4, 2016

Moderator: “Let me pivot to the main subject of this forum, which is the future possibilities for peace in the Middle East. In May of 2013 at the outset of the most recent process, you said that the two-state solution had about 18 to 24 months; if you couldn’t achieve the two-state solution in 18 to 24 months it would be too late. We’re now three and a half years out from that date. Is it too late for the two-state solution? Do you agree with your statement from 2013?”

Secretary Kerry: “Well, that’s a really – that’s a great question, and it’s one that’s going to beg a little bit more lengthy an answer than I might have anticipated starting out with here.”

After a self-described ‘passionate’ review of Zionist history, Secretary Kerry followed with a personal accounting of all the time spent talking with his good friend Bibi. He then shares a treatise ostensibly based on his ‘concern for the safety and security of the state of Israel’, which swings back to the ‘fundamental choice’ raised by the idea of two-states’. 

“So there is a fundamental choice that comes to this question of two states. By the way, just let me ask a question. Raise your hands. I mean, I know some of you may not want to acknowledge, but how many of you believe in a two-state solution, believe two states is critical? Okay, it’s the vast majority of people here. How many of you don’t, are willing to say so? 

kerry-sabanAll right. So the question for all of us is not the road we’ve traveled for the last 100 years. The question is what are the next 100 years going to look like. Where are we going? And let me tell you – let me tell you a few things that I’ve learned for sure in the last few years. There will be no separate peace between Israel and the Arab world. I want to make that very clear to all of you. I’ve heard several prominent politicians in Israel sometimes saying, well, the Arab world is in a different place now, we just have to reach out to them and we can work some things with the Arab world and we’ll deal with the Palestinians. No, no, no, and no.”

Actually, Mr. lame-duck-Secretary, your observation is correct; it’s your conclusion that lacks insight. You are correct when it comes to the triumverate of Israel, the Palestinian Arabs and the Arab world, as you said: “There will be no separate peace” one without the other. You just skewed the order out of some need to emphasize a palestinian state that no one in the Arab world is actually championing. Why? Because it is an invention of the modern western world, one not rooted in Middle Eastern history nor in Arab nation-states.

Secretary Kerry makes two important points in his speech, neither of which are analyzed in its press coverage. His first self-described ‘proposition’ is that “the Palestinians have major responsibilities to contribute to the process, some of which they have not fulfilled – on incitement, on capacity. We can run the list.”

The second supposition is actually surprisingly overlooked by pundits today, who may want to reread the transcript. It deals with ‘settlements’, which the Secretary makes sure to mention and to reiterate:

Now, leaders again in Israel, certain leaders, are fond of saying, well, the settlements aren’t the reason and the cause for the crisis. No, they’re not. I’m not pretending they are. I’m not here to tell you that the settlements are the reason for the conflict. No, they’re not. No, they’re not.”

Again, where we Israelis may differ with the Honorable Secretary is in his flippant argument that the people who do not oppose the idea of Jews living in their land “openly supports it because they don’t want peace”.

Wow – thank you Mr. Secretary. So, we send our husbands and sons to war, but we don’t want peace? I am hard pressed to find another example where ideological opponents so flippantly call their colleagues war-mongers. peace-symbol Tell all those mothers who mix pride with fear when they launder their son’s army uniform and pack up cookies to send him back to the base each week, trying to ignore the very real threats he will face. No one needs to give us a lesson in peace, left or right.

Now for the politics. Mr. Kerry is right – he and his comrades have a ‘predicament’: “More than 50 percent of the ministers in the current government have publicly stated they are opposed to a Palestinian state and there will be no Palestinian state.”

Admittedly, says Kerry, the Israeli government policy rejects the simplistic, failed mantra of ‘two-states’ as a solution to conflict here in the Middle East. And it gets better – when asked about real, tangible peace, Kerry admits that the tens of thousands of Israeli ‘settler’ residents of Judea or Samaria “don’t all have to move necessarily – depending on what the solution is, depending on what you choose to have as your outcome. Listen to this:

So the question is: How do you resolve with the Palestinians their aspirations? How do you get the Arab world to make this peace? How do you actually make people secure for the scissor attacks and car drive-by killings? How do you do that? I’m just trying to be really practical, folks. I think you have to do that by negotiating, ultimately – by reaching an accommodation that meets the needs of the parties.

Now, I think that’s a function of leadership.”

Yes, Mr. Kerry, and all members of the Obama Administration. You have served your country, and your purposes, and now it’s your turn to go home. Let’s see what the Trump team will offer, first with their choice of Secretary and Ambassador, next with acts such as recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by not signing the Jerusalem Embassy Act waiver.

Finally, some new friends in the White House. It actually is a function of leadership.america-israel-standing-together-pin

About the Author
Ruth Lieberman is an Israeli-based political consultant and licensed tour guide, combining her love of Israel with political acumen to better Israel's standing both at home and in the eyes of the world. She has consulted for political leaders in Jerusalem and in Washington, from work on election campaigns to public advocacy and events. Her tours in Israel connect Biblical history to modern realities, to highlight Israel's achievements and promote its policies.