From Cairo 2009 to 2014

Commentators are debating whether Kerry is a friend of Israel but there is no doubt about the failure of his judgment and perception of regional events.

According to Charles Crawford, a former British ambassador, it all started in June 2009, with the very much celebrated Cairo speech by the American President Barack Obama. In an article which he wrote a year ago (in July 2013) Ambassador Crawford claimed in the title that Obama’s speech has “set the stage for Egypt’s disaster”. The Cairo speech bears also the seeds and the infrastructure of today’s American decline in world affairs and its shift toward Qatar and Turkey which are backing the extremists of the Muslim Brothers and its affiliated terrorists groups.
The Cairo speech was an obvious attempt by Obama to distance himself from the policies of his predecessor, President George W. Bush, thus his call for “a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world.” The apologetic attitude was reflected in the fact that Obama didn’t even mention “terrorism” or “terror” in the speech but instead praised the scientific triumphs of an earlier Islam, more than one thousand years earlier. While addressing in a very ambiguous fashion the problems of contemporary Islam, Obama wanted to emphasize a more visionary, perhaps illusionary, point: “Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. America and Islam share common principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”
Obama had a strong feeling that he is more familiar with Islam than many experts and observers claiming that “I have known Islam on three continents” and his Cairo speech was for him the opportunity to deliver what can be regarded as the centerpiece of his foreign policy. Israelis and Jews were particularly alarmed by Obama’s equation of Palestinian Arabs “dislocation” with the persecution of the Jews which “culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust.” Again, no word on Arab terrorism but just a cynical statement of relativism on the Holocaust making it comparable with the “suffering” and “pain” of Palestinians “for more than 60 years.”

Even worst was Obama’s distortion of history when he claimed that “the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied,” adding that for “around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries.” There was no mention in his speech about the special bond of Zionism between Jews and their homeland and the unbroken and spiritual relationship to the land of Israel and to Jerusalem for thousands of years.
Since the Cairo speech events in the Middle East has shaken completely the notion of a “new beginning” or the vision of sharing “common principles of Justice and progress” with Islam. The misreading of the chaotic, corrupted and violent nature of contemporary Islam was coupled with similar failures of reason in many other areas of the world. Obama spoke on the movement toward complete abolition of nuclear weapons, on a “restart” relations with Russia’s Putin or on the new policy pivot to Asia but in effect there is a clear disengagement on all fronts. It is right to say, as the Washington Post editorial has claimed (March 2, 2013) that “President Obama’s foreign policy is based on fantasy” completely detached from the reality.”

During her term as Secretary of State, during the first term of Obama in office, Hillary Clinton had the ability of injecting more realism and sense of American leadership to the world. Under Secretary John F. Kerry the Cairo 2009 mindset is overtaking all other developments, upheavals and pressures which point otherwise. It seems that Kerry with his obsessive vision of the feasibility of a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians ignores everything else in the region: the massacres of thousands in Syria, the rise of the extreme Islam in Syria and Iraq and the growing opposition among America’s traditional allies in the Arab world to the Muslim Brothers. Kerry’s focus on the Israeli-Palestinian front; while the region was in flames and the Hamas committed to the destruction of Israel Kerry was sending the wrong message to all American allies in the Middle East and in the rest of the world.
Sticking to the Cairo speech of 2009 premises the U.S. Secretary of State ruined the all diplomatic process which Egypt was trying to lead in the current crisis. Instead of seizing the opportunity to collaborate with the new regime in Egypt and remove the suspicion and frustration with the American support to the previous Islamic government Kerry decided to appeal again to the “real forces of Islam”. Instead of following the determined cooperation which was expressed by Egypt and Israel, with the support of the most of the Arab world, Kerry went to seek another “new beginning” with the supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood: Qatar and Turkey which are willing to rearm and to strengthen the Hamas. Even the Palestinian Authority expressed deep disappointment over Secretary Kerry’s Paris cease-fire proposal, which was drafted with no consultation with Egypt or the PA.
Commentators are debating whether Kerry is a friend of Israel but there is no doubt about the failure of his judgment and perception of regional events. The drawing is already on the wall, everywhere, not just in the Middle East. Some speak on American disengagement others view it as disappearance from the management of the world order. This is very much evident again today when the editorial and the cover of the German Magazine Der Spiegel calls “Stopping Putin: The Time Has Come for Europe to Act.” It is amazing that in an editorial of almost 800 hundred words, which discusses the West reaction to the shooting down of the Malaysian plane with its 298 people aboard there is no mention of the word America! While Europeans are not necessarily standing behind Israel, they drew their lessons on the disengagement of America.

About the Author
Dr. Avi Beker teaches diplomacy and international law at Tel Aviv University and Ono Academic Center. He was the Secretary General of the World Jewish Congress and a Visiting Professor at Georgetown University.