Oy. He’s logged thousands of hours flying back and forth, meeting with leaders from Israel, the Palestinian Authority and surrounding Arab nations. Sleepless nights, endless days, Middle Eastern food and where has it all led?
Back to Square One by anyone’s estimation – and very likely in the eyes of President Barack Obama at the White House.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reports today (Tuesday) to the president so both can decide what to do next about the persnickety tangle that just won’t untangle in the Holy Land.
The problem is, after the better part of a year, John Kerry may have almost nothing to show for all of his efforts and a massive bill to boot. It’s a credibility problem for him – did he read the situation wrong? Or was it simply a matter of the Western mind not understanding the typical Middle Eastern Arab mentality again? And again. And again. Ad nauseum.
Because we who live here have already seen this before in our neighborhood. There have been so many train wrecks down this gorge, we’ve lost count of the number of peace plans we’ve complied with here in the Land of Israel. Most were American.
And Mr. Kerry is another one lacking the basic understanding of Middle Eastern mentality, the Arab mind and how it works, and the way it goes in this region. Briefings on “Arab culture” don’t cut it when it comes to shuttle diplomacy here. It is just not enough when it gets to the nitty gritty.
The Europeans already know better. They make dry observations, back the Arabs (who they know they can rely on to pull out rather than comply) and then fade out before the sun sets in the West. Of course, ‘intel’ ties always continue with Israel; it would be silly to ignore the needs of national security, right?
But the U.S. has yet to learn that Arab leadership is not reliable. The Palestinian Authority talks one way in English and the other way in Arabic and its word is never its word. Peace is not a concept this entity can understand. The definition of ‘honor’ in this culture is not the same as that of the West – it is defined differently in the Middle East.
Think ASIA when you think of PA government “honor.” That is the closest analogy one can summon. It does not involve life, but death – truly. And age doesn’t count. Babies do qualify. Everyone is expendable.
John Kerry is a well-meaning guy. He really thought he could pull this off. And he did have a peace partner. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu braved his entire coalition to make this last attempt – and almost lost his government over it. In fact, he still might. Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and Labor leader Isaac Herzog are both taking a shot at widening the fractures so they can climb all over it when new elections come around – and they both hope it’s sooner rather than later.
The last thing Israel needed was to free dozens more terrorists, let alone open the roadblocks to create a new free entrance on to Highway 60 from the Arab side of Hevron. But that’s what Israel did at America’s insistence for the U.S. attempt at new talks with the PA, knowing it was likely to come to naught.
It would be a pity if President Obama were now to rake John Kerry over the coals for following his orders and extending his own personal good faith in the process.
Mr. Kerry is not a young man either, and the constant flights could not have been easy. The stress of struggling to deal with Arab leaders fighting your every effort to reach a compromise could not have been fun. And having to second-guess everyone’s thoughts, words, actions and decisions following each session – although that is the job for which he was trained – must have been the stuff of nightmares.
I do not envy Mr. Kerry. I cannot imagine why on earth he would want the job that he has. But since he does have it, I can only wish him luck when he sits down with Mr. Obama today.
I suspect he is going to need it, and I hope the discussion keeps both men busy enough for long enough that America will now leave well enough alone here in the Middle East — and especially here in Israel.
About the Author: Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.
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