By Marino de Medici
There is an old saying that applies to beleaguered Secretary of State John Kerry: no good deed goes unpunished. To listen to his most rabid critics, the majority of them in Israel but quite a few in the U.S. as well, the head of American diplomacy committed the unpardonable sin of trying to arrange a cease fire by asking for the cooperation of the emir of Qatar and the Turkish government.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was described as "livid" for the alleged mishandling of the cease fire negotiations by Kerry. Even the leftist commentators in Israel opened up against Kerry, calling him "an alien who just disembarked his spaceship in the Mideast."
The insults were barely tempered by the marginal observation that Kerry is "friend of Israel. There were ample precedents to the Israeli harsh condemnation of the secretary of state. The defense minister had called him "obsessive and messianic." In this case, the casus belli was a phrase pronounced off the record by Kerr in an international conference to the effect that if there is no two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict soon, "Israel risks becoming an apartheid state."
This is a loaded definition in the realm of American Jews and one that the U.S. government has never used. The great majority of nations in the world, of course, know better about the conditions in which the Palestinians live in the West Bank, not to mention the ravaged inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, now under a deluge of Israeli bombs unleashed by the implacable hatred and self destructive folly of Hamas.
Now we understand better why Kerry failed, for reasons that in part can be attributed to the changed dynamics of the Middle East where the United States is the only country that for better or worse pursues the objective of a negotiated peace or at least a sustainable suspension of hostilities.
As President Barack Obama reminded the world, no other country, and for that matter not even the United Nations, tries to intervene in the Middle Eastern battlefield.
Kerry has spent a lot of time in Israel, Egypt, the West Bank and France trying to mediate a cease fire and in so doing he asked Qatar and Turkey to lend a helping hand owing to their relationship with Hamas. Israel, however, said that it could not trust Hamas. Subsequently, it accepted Kerry's proposal but when the truce was violated it unleashed its fury upon Kerry and Qatar, among others.
Following the reported abduction of the Israeli officer, Netanyahu lambasted Kerry again and by implication the United States for having treated the terrorist group as a legitimate actor. After Obama then went public with a condemnation of Hamas as violator of the truce, Kerry had no choice but to fall in line and denounce the Hamas attack and the abduction of the Israeli officer as "outrageous." In fact, the officer had been killed in action.
No matter what, Netanyahu reportedly warned the U.S. administration "not to ever second guess me again." This outburst came just hours after the Pentagon had opened up its weapon stocks in Israel to its armed forces and the Senate had approved unanimously an additional $225 million for the Iron Dome missile defense system in Israel. Obviously, for Israeli Americans generosity is something considered their due. On the other hand, Kerry's far ranging activism is undue.
The sequence of events leads some observers to suggest that Israel has achieved two main results: the return to the status quo ante, which allows it to maintain the blockade of Gaza after damaging to a large extent the ability of Hamas to launch offensive operations; and second, the split between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority that has been shunted aside and humiliated by the failure of Kerry to make it a principal participant in the diplomatic efforts to bring out a cease fire.
The real outcome is the success achieved by Netanyahu in setting aside for a long time any talk of negotiations for a Palestinian state. Netanyahu does not intend to yield an inch of the West Bank. By castigating Kerry and telling the White House not to force a truce, the Israeli leader adds another notch to implementing such strategy.
There will be, however, an international fallout that will damage even further the image of Israel. No democracy should countenance a strategy that causes the death of hundreds of children.
Finally, beside Kerry, one of the losers is the moderate majority of Palestinians who should be, in the last analysis, the best chance for peace in Israel.
Marino de Medici is a Winchester resident and formerly the dean of foreign correspondents in the United States.