Having failed in persuading Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate in calmer times, Secretary Kerry is making a big mistake by inserting himself in the current tragic Israeli Palestinian turmoil. He will fail again, as before, because Prime Minister Netanyahu and his right-wing government are not interested in what Kerry called a few days ago, “moving things forward.” Netanyahu opposes moving things forward; he wants the status quo, which is continued settlements and occupation. This has been the case in the previous failure to move things toward negotiation and nothing has changed for Netanyahu except the recent unrest that has been simmering all these years of occupation with no hope in sight.
PA President Abbas, a weak and unpopular leader, is not going to save the day either. While Netanyahu pretends that “there is no partner on the other side,” he is the major player and it is hard to imagine him becoming a partner to any peace agreement. Thus, Netanyahu does not see President Obama or Secretary Kerry as partners, a fact that was made very clear when the prime minister came to the American Congress at the Republicans’ invitation as they cheered his disrespect for their president.
What can Kerry do? Either he endorses Netanyahu’s version of events, or he doesn’t, and either way he will get the cold shoulder from either Israel or the PA. While the proximity of al-Aqsa and the Western Wall is certainly a ticking bomb, it is ticking because of the political strife in which the myth of united Jerusalem just exposes other myths, and inflames those who are ready to exploit it.
The Prime Minister’s Office once again uses the media to claim “that Kerry is the one who initiated the phone call with Netanyahu, which took place early Friday evening,” underscoring that it is the Americans who insert themselves into the event while they accept Netanyahu’s version. According to the Prime Minister’s Office Kerry told Netanyahu, “President Abbas must denounce the violence loudly and clearly.”
At the same time, The Jerusalem Post picks up the “bad cop” position of the government, “Israel’s political leaders have rightly expressed anger at the US State Department’s hostile characterizations of the Palestinian terrorist onslaught. Secretary of State John Kerry’s claims, parroted by his spokesmen, that Israel is either entirely to blame for Palestinian terrorism or shares the blame equally with the Palestinians, are baseless lies.” The paper, with insinuations of anti-semitism, claims that Netanyahu thinks that “Kerry like the administration he serves has an unpleasant, irrational obsession with the Jewish state, it’s hard to shake the conclusion that there is more going on here than simply opposition to Israel.”
It’s hard to see what Kerry is going to accomplish by going to Israel. One suspects he will, as if he was wearing a “kick me” sign, be attacked by both sides. The deep-seated problems that led to the current round of violence are far too profound to be adequately addressed in what are likely to be a series of inconclusive and perfunctory meetings.