Conventional wisdom holds that the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lies in a two-state solution and that the United States will always have Israel’s back through the peace process. In one speech last week, Secretary of State John Kerry turned that wisdom on its head.
On their face, Kerry’s remarks seemed to be nothing more than a recitation of timeworn policy positions: He condemned Palestinian violence and criticized Israel’s ongoing civilian and military presence in the so-called West Bank.
But coming just days after the United States withheld its powerful veto to allow passage of a one-sided resolution in the U.N. Security Council that declared Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria an affront to international law, Kerry’s speech should more properly be seen as the final parting shot (some would say betrayal) by an outgoing administration that up until this point — owing to the largest military aid package in the history of U.S.-Israel relations — was reasonably regarded as solidly on the side of the Jewish state.
Ever since the U.N. vote, we’ve wondered why the United States waited until now to act upon its condemnation of the Israeli settlement enterprise and to help orchestrate a Security Council declaration that Israelis living on the other side of the 1967 borders — including those living in a good portion of Jerusalem and the entire Old City — are outlaws.
If Kerry’s speech was intended to provide a good answer, it failed. “The Israeli prime minister publicly supports a two-state solution,” the secretary said in his Dec. 28 speech, “but his current coalition is the most right wing in Israeli history, with an agenda driven by the most extreme elements.” Translation: The Obama administration has been battling Benjamin Netanyahu for years, and now, weeks before the inauguration of Donald Trump, the White House feels the need to lay out its vision for the Middle East.
The bare-knuckled tactics chosen by Obama and Kerry are more fitting for a Chicago alderman race than for the implementation of foreign policy. But even more disconcerting, Kerry’s speech was also incredibly naïve. The Israelis predictably rejected it out of hand, but so did the Palestinians, who objected to the language criticizing terror attacks. Russia and the United Kingdom also joined the chorus of dissenters — an amazing development, given that just days earlier both nations voted for the anti-settlements resolution at the Security Council. U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May summed up her beef with Kerry’s speech by calling improper an attempt to impugn the government makeup of a democratic ally.
To May, we say, “Hear! Hear!” And for Kerry, we have one question: If the U.S. position is so sound and necessary, why did the U.S. abstain on the Security Council vote?
To us, Kerry’s explanation seems more in keeping with the new conventional wisdom: From Ukraine to Iran, to Syria and to Israel, foreign policy under the Obama/Kerry regime has been feckless, ineffectual and uninspiring.