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John Kerry’s idee fixe

Israel’s Defense Minister, Moshe Yaalon, described John Kerry’s peace process involvement as being motivated by “incomprehensible obsession and messianic feeling”. This is, of necessity a very abbreviated effort to give a context to Kerry’s present mission and to explain my misgivings about it.

If you look at it objectively, Israel’s goals and those of the Palestinian Authority are two parallel lines that never meet, no matter how hard you try to bend them. Israel will not accept a new division of Jerusalem and a “right of return” for Palestinian refugees. The Palestinians, despite wanting to be recognized as a state, refuse to accept Israel as a “Jewish State”. So we have two obstinate men, Netanyahu and Abbas to which we can now add a third obstinate man, Kerry.

The whole concept of a Jewish Home in the land of its ancestors was flawed from the very beginning. At the 1897 Zionist Congress a fact finding delegation traveled to the region to assess the possibilities. It reported that the bride was beautiful but already married to another man. Still Theodore Herzl, the founder of Zionism continued to believe that coexistence was possible. In 1948 the United Nations passed a resolution to establish two states side by side. In response the surrounding Arab countries invaded the newly born state of Israel and tried in several successive wars to annihilate it.

Since then Israel’s determination to stay alive led to a hardening of policies toward the territories it had conquered in 1967. Even Bill Clinton who could charm the fish out of the ocean had to acknowledge defeat. He came so close to a settlement when Ehud Barak offered Yasser Arafat almost all he had asked for. Arafat turned down a very good deal because he relished his sense of victimhood over any kind of settlement. This allowed Ariel Sharon to be elected. Under his hawkish rule, the policy of establishing settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip began. He believed that only the sword could decide the bitter conflict.

In 2005 Sharon, in an about face, unilaterally withdrew from Gaza. Instead of easing tensions, this ushered in the rule of Hamas (an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood) and the start of rockets launched into Israel. We do not know whether Sharon was softening his position and planned a retreat from the West Bank before he suffered a stroke. Under Netanyahu, settlement building escalated leading to the present impasse.

During Sharon’s funeral the Iron Dome anti-missile system was very much in evidence because it was feared that an attack might be launched.

Despite having achieved zero results in his self-imposed task, Kerry continues to shuttle back and forth and to issue optimistic statements. Is he really after a Nobel Peace Prize? Is he trying to cement President Obama’s legacy with a success in the Middle East?

Your comments and thoughts are encouraged and appreciated.

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6 comments

  1. Simone, many thanks for posting an abbreviated history, that I can follow and understand. I’ve read your post many times.

  2. Your last blog inspired me to go back to a book I’ve had for a long time — Righteous Victims: a History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-20001, by Benny Morris. I’ve never read the book cover to cover, but have used parts of it as a reference from time to time. Will now try to read some of the earlier chapters. I’ve always felt that knowing some of the earliest history is essential, or at least helpful, in understanding what is going on presently.

    My computer was out of commission for the past couple of days. In a way, it’s a mixed blessing. I, of course, missed not having access to it, but was amazed at how much extra time I seemed to have.

  3. Heard Jimmy Carter speak yesterday, and he was asked what is one goal that he would still like to reach. He stated that he would like to bring peace to Israel. He added that it was the #1 unrealized goal in his life. He thought that if he had had a second term, he might have been able to do more as he is the one that started the process of reconciliation with Egypt. Who knows? I thought this indicated both the importance and the difficulty of this issue.

  4. While Hamas may or may not be an “offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood,” it is widely understood to have been formed in Gaza with the aid (or by the instigation) of Israeli intelligence bodies as a counter-weight to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Another example of “blowback,” similar to the Taliban’s creation under U.S. auspices to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan.

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