John Kerry tells it like it is
the United States finally had to admit that it didn’t have the horses to pull that wagon
Aaron David Miller, now a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, was once a career diplomat. Last June, he wrote a lengthy piece in the Outlook section of the Washington Post where he shared with his readers, recollections he had about his many years of service at the State Department. Let me in turn share a lengthy quote from that piece with mine.
“For much of my 24-year career as a State Department Middle East analyst, negotiator and adviser, I held out hope that a conflict-ending peace agreement was possible,” he wrote.
“I had faith in negotiations as a talking cure and thought the United States could arrange a comprehensive solution. I believed in the power of US diplomacy. But by the time I left government in 2003, I was a disillusioned diplomat and peace processor with serious doubts about what the United States could accomplish in the Middle East. I realize now that, like [John] Kerry, I was tilting at windmills. US-brokered peace in the Middle East is a quixotic quest, and the more we try and fail, the less credibility and leverage we have in the region.”
Call it negotiator-fatigue. Or call it old-fashioned frustration. Earnest enough though it may have been in its efforts to mediate a solution – but stymied by Israel’s incorrigible colonization project in Palestine – the United States finally had to admit that it didn’t have the horses to pull that wagon. And make no mistake about it, President Obama’s administration over the last eight years knew who stood in its way and sabotaged its efforts at every turn.
So that administration, in a parting shot at the culprit, finally lashed out, not only by allowing, late last week, a Security Council resolution to pass, that branded Israel’s colonization project in Palestine a “flagrant violation of international law,” but by giving Secretary of State John Kerry a lot of leeway to deliver a blistering attack on that project in a speech delivered at the State Department’s Dean Acheson Auditorium on Wednesday.
Of course the Secretary of State, as any diplomat shooting for “balance”, blasted Palestinian “incitement” and “violence,” but as for the pain these folks endure as an occupied people, he showed great compassionFawaz Turki
It was as if, to express his exasperation at having labored in vain all these years, Kerry was now ready to say, fine, we’ve had it up to here with you Netanyahu and Co. and now it's time to, well, tell it like it is. And did he tell like it is!
“The Israeli prime minister publicly supports a two-state solution,” he told the audience, “but his current coalition is the most right-wing in history, with an agenda driven by its most extreme elements. The result is that policies of this government – which the prime minister himself described as 'more committed to settlements than any other in Israel’s history’ – are leading in the opposite direction, towards one state: Greater Israel.”
A penitent apology
Wait, let’s rewind. Did we hear that right? Yes, we did. And the reference clearly was to an apartheid, settler-colonial state. As to why the US, five days earlier, had not vetoed that Security Council resolution critical of Israel’s colonization practices, Kerry offered, instead of a penitent apology, a blunt rebuke.
“My job, above all, is to defend the United States of America, to stand up for and defend our values and our interests in the world,” he thundered. “If we were to stand idly by and know that in doing so we are allowing a dangerous dynamic to take hold which promises greater conflict, where we have vital interests, we would derelict in our responsibilities.”
As for the outpost colonies, he had the issue pinned down pat. These colonies, he said: “are often located on private Palestinian land and strategically placed to make two states impossible – and there are one hundred of these outposts.”
Then he added: “Just recently the [Israeli] government approved a significant new settlement well east of the barrier, closer to Jordan than Israel. What does that say to Palestinians in particular – but also the US and the world – about Israel’s intentions?”
Of course the Secretary of State, as any diplomat shooting for “balance” in his speech, blasted Palestinian “incitement” and “violence,” but as for the pain these folks endure as an occupied people, he showed great compassion in his remarks.
“I have also visited the [Palestinian] West Bank communities, where I met Palestinians struggling for basic freedoms and dignity amidst occupation, pushed by the military checkpoints that can make the most routine daily trips to work or school an ordeal, and heard from business leaders who could not get the permits needed to get their products to market, and families who have struggled to secure permission to travel for needed medical care.”
Benjamin Netanyahu, predictably, fulminated, railed and ranted. After all, is not the US supposed to be – has it not in fact been all these years – at Israel’s beck and call? But no matter. Donald Trump, not quite three weeks from now, will be in the White House. He will set it back on track.
And for his part, the president-elect tweeted: “We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect. They used to have a real friend in the US, but not anymore. Stay strong Israel. January 20th is fast approaching.” It seems that whereas the outgoing secretary of state wanted to talk Israel off the ledge, the incoming president wants to urge it to jump. Someone bring a gurney, will you?
Fawaz Turki is a Palestinian-American journalist, lecturer and author based in Washington, DC.