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Secretary Kerry: Nice Try

Secretary of State John Kerry's effort to bring the Israeli-Palestinian stand-off to another level is clearly failing, if it has not already failed. So what's next? Some weary but knowledgable observers offer their thoughts. I read them to say in general: time for the United States to sign off.

Tom Friedman at the NYTimes: "The truth is Kerry’s mission is less an act of strategy and more an act of deep friendship. It is America trying to save Israel from trends that will inevitably undermine it as a Jewish and democratic state. But Kerry is the last of an old guard. Those in the Obama administration who think he is on a suicide mission reflect the new U.S. attitude toward the region. And those in Israel who denounce him as a nuisance reflect the new Israel."

Henry Siegman at Haaretz:  America has been seen by the entire international community as “owning” the peace process, not because its statesmen are believed to be wiser than all others, but because it enjoys leverage with Israel that uniquely enables it to influence the Jewish state’s policies.....[I]t is the consequence of the many decades of unprecedented U.S. generosity towards the Jewish state in the form of virtually unlimited military and economic assistance.... It has long been assumed that a point would surely come when Washington would use its long-accumulated leverage to inform Israel’s government that it could no longer fend off international criticism of Israel’s occupation without incurring serious damage to its own credibility and national interests. It was believed that when the U.S. reaches that point, Israel would have no choice but to withdraw from the West Bank to the pre-1967 lines, subject to minor mutual border swaps and appropriate security guarantees....But that moment of truth never came, and no one believes any longer it ever will.

Paul Pillar at National Interest: Reviews "What to Do After Peace Process Failure."

About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.



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Ms. Steinfels - this is sad, IMO.   Unlike many commentators, think that Kerry was really trying for a breakthrough.

Would agree with Friedman's assessment - but would also say that as long as the Israeli PAC has such a strong hold on the US Congress, not sure that any administration can have free enough rein to apply the correct pressure and leverage. 

Wonder if this now continues to move toward a South African historical repeat - UN pressure and international sanctions and treade embargoes?  By 2020 Israelis will be a minority in their own country.

At the same time, Gaza and Hamas continue to be a problem - that also will take time to resolve.

Barring some breakthrough on an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, why won't the Palestinians go to the International Court of Justice and the International Court of Human Rights? The Netanyahu government seems to genuinely fear this, and they should. Would that be the point where the United States steps back from protecting Israel at the UN and lets matters take their course?

Margaret, if I understand your latest comment, I fully agre with you. Why should the United States continue to oppose Palestinian efforts to gain the support of international organizations in their efforts to establish a state of their own? Even if the U. S. did not formally support those efforts, it could, and I think should, abstain from obstructing them. Besides fostering a efforts to institute a two-state solution in the Middle East, such an approach by the U. S. would serve to reduce a toxic issue in our own domestic politics.

Yes, abstaining, rather than supporting the Palestinians, would probably be the most plausible move. Would the Obama Administration be capable of that? If the Palestinians move ahead on that front, we'll see.

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