Kerry’s Cowardice

Secretary of State John Kerry crossed a red line Tuesday this week at the hearing of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations at which he placed the blame for the collapse of the peace talks on Israel:

Unfortunately, the prisoners weren’t released on the Saturday they were supposed to be released.  And so [a] 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 settlements units were announced in Jerusalem, and poof, that was sort of the moment.  So we find ourselves where we are.”

Kerry was of course referring to the fourth and final release of Palestinian prisoners (26 in number), many if not most with blood on their hands, which Israel had agreed to as a condition for the Palestinian Authority agreeing to participate in the present negotiations scheduled to end on April 29.

Kerry’s above quoted statement is uncalled for and outrageous on many levels.  First, the reason Israel decided not to release the fourth batch of prisoners on March 29 is that the Palestinians had not agreed to extend the talks beyond April.  In essence, Israel was going to release murderers to keep the talks alive for a whopping additional month during which the Palestinian Authority showed no indication whatsoever they would back down from their maximalist demands.

In fact, Israel was engaged in an effort to make sure the talks would continue beyond April, in exchange for which they were prepared to not only release the 26 aforementioned prisoners, but release an additional 400 prisoners (without blood on their hands) and agree to a building freeze outside the main settlement blocks.  There is a reason Israel originally agreed to release terrorists in four stages and not at once — in order to make sure there was continued Palestinian cooperation during the length of the talks.  Once it became apparent that the Palestinians were unwilling to extend the negotiations beyond the nine month period, all reasonable incentive to release murderers was gone.

Secretary Kerry, how dare you publicly place blame on the party overtly seeking to continue the negotiations over the party overtly seeking to end them?!?

After highlighting Israel’s failure to release the fourth prisoner batch, Kerry pointed to the announcement of plans to build an additional 700 units in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo as the event that broke the camel’s back — the “poof” moment.  What Kerry fails to mention is that under any realistic peace agreement, Gilo would remain a part of Israel – there is no question about this.  Additionally, a building freeze in East Jerusalem was never a condition agreed to for carrying out negotiations.  Therefore, another bureaucratic phase confirming previously announced building plans (there was no surprise here), provides no justification for ending the talks.

Officially, all of the West Bank is disputed territory, including Ramallah and including the Western Wall.  Yet any reasonable person is aware that in any two-state solution Ramallah would remain Palestinian and the Western Wall under Jewish control.  The same applies to Gilo.  Would it be reasonable for Israel to end negotiations due to Palestinian construction in Ramallah?  Walking out of negotiations due to construction plans in Gilo is ridiculous, yet the Obama administration gives moral support to this nonsense.

The chutzpa of the Secretary of State placing blame on Israel when he knows better than anyone that it is the Palestinian Authority which has torpedoed the negotiations by applying for admission into 15 U.N. treaties and conventions in direct contradiction to all agreements signed with Israel since the Oslo process began, is astonishing.  Mahmoud Abbas took this unilateral step only hours before he was scheduled to meet with Kerry to discuss the extension of the negotiations deadline which would have led to the release of the 26 terrorists plus an additional 400 prisoners.

So why did Kerry make Israel the fall guy?  I am no longer willing to accept the view that Kerry is a well-intentioned middle man lacking in understanding of the ways of the Middle East.

I believe Kerry acted like a coward afraid to take any personal responsibility for the failure of the talks and too afraid to confront Arab intransigence and place the blame where it belongs.  After all, it was Kerry who insisted he could bring together these parties to an agreement where everyone else has failed, including prior Israeli governments whose commitment to compromise and peace cannot be questioned.  So instead of standing before congress and testifying that maybe he was wrong in his assumptions about the possibility of success, he took the easy route — blame the Israelis.

Kerry, in line with the Obama administration, also lacked the courage to confront the Palestinians and call a spade a spade.  This is fully consistent with the Obama administration’s modus operandi of treating Palestinian duplicitousness and corruption with silk gloves.

At a personal level, Kerry’s latest statement has put an end to any inclination I may have had to give him the benefit of the doubt concerning our ability to trust in his willingness to protect Israel’s fundamental interests, security or otherwise. This equally applies to the Obama Administration and the President’s constant insistence that he has Israel’s back (hint — Iran).

Following Kerry’s assertions, the State Department issued statements claiming there was no intention to single out Israel as the guilty party in a “blame game”.  Kerry has reportedly claimed the same in a personal meeting with Avigdor Lieberman.

But whatever dubious retractions or clarifications are made by the Obama administration, the world media has widely reported that Kerry has placed the blame for the collapsed peace talks on Israel.  With just a few words over the course of only a few seconds, stated almost nonchalantly as if to coyly downplay awareness of their significance, Kerry threw Israel to the dogs by giving American imprimatur to the false assertion that Israel is the recalcitrant party, that Israel is against peace.

About the Author
Ran Zev Schijanovich was born in Israel in 1970 to an Argentinian father and American mother, lived in Argentina through age 11, and then moved to New York. He made aliyah in 2005 and served as a combat soldier in Golani from the ages of 36 to 38. Ran is graduate of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.