John Kerry's Doomed Quest for Redemption
John Kerry's efforts to redeem himself on the world stage should not come in the form of an ill-conceived and illegitimate peace deal, writes Maysoon Zayid.
John Kerry is looking for redemption. The decorated Vietnam War veteran, former Massachusetts senator, and present day U.S. Secretary of State is desperate to change his image as America’s biggest loser. In 2004, Kerry decided to run for president of the United States against critically panned George W. Bush. He chose John Edwards as his running mate. Edwards is best known for cheating on his dying wife and denying his own child, until Maury Povich announced live on air that John was indeed the father. Kerry and his peach of a vice presidential pick lost to Bush/Cheney and they didn’t even have hanging chads or Al Gore to blame. Americans fearing they would die of boredom under Kerry’s leadership voted to reelect Bush 43 despite his 22 percent approval rating, his imaginary WMDs, and his Vader-esque VP. The only way John Kerry could ever possibly redeem himself was if he performed a miracle and solved the Israeli-Palestinian nightmare.
Over the past four months, Kerry has racked up thousands of frequent flyer miles shuttling back and forth between DC and Tel Aviv with pit stops in Amman, Jordan. Jordan is considered the Switzerland of the Middle East and is a popular destination for refugees fleeing massacres and Israeli-Palestinian peace talk pow-wows. Kerry is determined to revive these gatherings. As Secretary of State, he follows in the high-heels of heavy weights like Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice, and Hillary Clinton. Kerry is determined to prove that this job requires man pants and not a pantsuit. He is confident that he can finally break the cycle, even though James Baker, Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell, and several other forgettable men with road maps and accords all failed to broker a deal.
John Kerry brings a unique perspective to the push for peace. He witnessed first-hand the atrocities of war as a Naval officer and became a vocal proponent for ending the Vietnam War. But he also has a lot going against him. President Obama hasn’t worked to strengthen Israel and Palestine’s faith in his newly appointed Secretary of State. Palestinians have not forgotten that Obama called his cousin Veto at the U.N. to put a stop to a resolution reiterating the illegality of Israel’s religiously segregated settlements that occupy a huge chunk of the fabled future Palestinian state. The settlements are a major obstacle to the negotiations and the President’s support for them doesn’t make Kerry’s job any easier. The Israelis, meanwhile, have not forgotten that POTUS’s middle name is Hussein and that he jilted them, during his first term, by visiting Egypt but not Eilat. There are also those who felt Obama was a hater for merely uttering the words "settlement freeze," and for refusing to have Israel's back when Netanyahu wanted to kick off World War III by picking a fight with Iran.
What the President lacks in love from Israel, Kerry makes up for. His record while in Congress for voting pro all things Israel was second to none. He also made several visits, prior to the one required when politicians seek higher office. John Kerry has been a broken record about the need for the world to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. He loves Israel so much that he doesn't even feel the least bit icky advocating religious/ethnic superiority while representing a country that prides itself on being secular with liberty and justice for all except minorities. Netanyahu and company have shown their great respect for this lifelong friend of Israel by marking each of Kerry's visits with an announcement of new settlement construction in his honor.
The salt and pepper man with a plan does have some things working in his favor. He has been meeting with Palestinian officials during Ramadan, which means their blood sugar is low and they are not thinking clearly. This makes it easier for Kerry to get team Palestine to give up the right of return. Those fasting will agree to anything if everyone would just shut up and let them take a nap until sunset. He also has something to offer the Palestinian leadership, something it covets like Gollum does his precious ring: money. Kerry has talked about providing millions in U.S. funding to the leadership so they can buy new toys and build more villas. There is also buzz that if Abbas agrees to rendezvous, Netanyahu, as a thank you, will free 350 notorious Palestinian prisoners whom he will then round up, deport, or kill shortly after. Abbas is even less popular than George W. Bush was when Kerry lost to him and could really use a prisoner swap right about now to boost his non-existent street credibility.
Kerry’s plan almost fell apart last Thursday. The Palestinian Posse seemed adamant that they couldn’t possibly return to talks under present conditions. Kerry is a military man. Military men are trained to never give up, so Kerry is absolutely committed to kicking that dead horse, named Two-State Solution, until his legs fall off. In an effort to save his doomed mission, he hopped on a helicopter from Amman to Ramallah. Miraculously, by the time the sun set over Jerusalem on Friday, he was ready to make his big announcement.
Kerry had gotten the Palestinians and Israelis to agree to talk about maybe talking to each other again. Maybe. According to Kerry, “The agreement is still in the process of being formalized so we are absolutely not going to talk about any of the elements now.” He demanded the secrecy because he knows a wish said out loud won’t come true. Kerry also channeled his inner Kanye by declaring nobody is allowed to talk but him. Only the U.S. Secretary of State will be allowed to release any statements from any future meeting. The white savior had stepped in to save the Semites from each other and he didn't want to hear any noise from either of them. The Israelis and Palestinians are apparently not paying attention. Each party has leaked just enough information to make it look like they got the pre-conditions they supposedly were no longer demanding before agreeing to the three-way meeting in D.C.
Kerry hinted that the meeting of the mortal enemies would take place within the next week on U.S. soil. Just like all good jokes, the meeting will have a Christian, a Muslim, and a Jew in it—but sadly no bar. Representing Palestine is chief negotiator Saeb Erekat. Erekat is known as the negotiator who cried “I resign.” He has quit more times than Charlie Sheen has been arrested for domestic violence, yet here he is still assuming the position. Israel is going with Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who has a lot in common with John Kerry, as she too lost a presidential election. This pairing works in Kerry’s favor because according to the Palestine Papers, which are the Wikileaks of Ramallah, Erekat once told Tzipi during previous negotiations that she smelled like snow and he would like her to have Jerusalem as a little gift to remember him by.
Palestinians reacted to word of Kerry's big breakthrough by first asking what happened to Bill Clinton’s wife and then going on with their day. They had been through it all before in Madrid, Oslo, Camp David, Taba, Annapolis, and blah, blah, blah. With each round of talks, the Israeli settlements grew bigger and the Palestinians' cage got smaller.
Even if Kerry gets Netanyahu and Abbas to the table and gets them to sign on the dotted line, in blood, it is still far from a done deal. Netanyahu made it perfectly clear that any agreement would be put to a national referendum before being honored. No mention has been made of letting the Palestinian people vote on any agreement, but it is unlikely they would quietly accept anything that didn't include East Jerusalem as their future state's capital. Netanyahu has made no effort to hide the fact he believes Jerusalem must remain undivided and therefore cannot be the capital of the future Palestinian nation.
Abbas, who will decide the fate of the Palestinians if Kerry and the USA have their way, has been a lame duck for the past four years. His term is up, as is Hamas's (and they continue to run hog wild in Gaza, which Abu Mazen won't dare enter). Abbas has less support than pantyhose with shot elastic and Israel releasing a couple of hundred prisoners, while continuing to jail 5000 others including children, isn't enough to change that. Simply put, he is no Yassir Arafat. Unless this agreement on a two-state solution includes a Palestine with the '67 borders, East Jerusalem as its capital, and addresses water rights as well as the right of return, it will not fly with the average Palestinian on the street or in the camps.
As Kerry drags Israel and Palestine back to the negotiating table kicking and screaming, the Palestinian people have little faith that anything on the ground will change for the better. It is hard to take Israel’s commitment to peace seriously when they just announced a proposal for 1,034 new settlement units built on the land that is supposedly going to be the future Palestinian state. Israel is also in the process of implementing the Prawer Plan, which calls for the mass expulsion of 30,000-70,000 Bedouins from the Negev to wherever Israel deems fit. It’s hard for the average Omar witnessing this to take Israel's desire for a just solution seriously. The Israeli side also insists that it is game over if the PLO doesn’t recognize Israel as a “Jewish state,” because somehow that matters, even though once the hypothetical two states are declared, Israel can define herself any way she pleases. Netanyahu is adamant, and the U.S. seems to agree, that peace is impossible if the Palestinian leadership doesn’t shout out Israel's Jewishness. Bibi wants to make sure that the PLO has made it absolutely clear to the Palestinians who remain in Israel once borders are declared that they are others and that they need to stop birthing babies.
John Kerry is determined to redeem himself and deliver peace in the Holy Land to his commander in chief, whether the Palestinians and Israelis like it or not. Barack Obama burst onto the world stage when he upstaged then-presidential nominee John Kerry at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. As an apology and a thank you, Obama appointed John Kerry as Secretary of State during his second term as president. It is a White House tradition to tackle the question of Palestine once getting re-elected is no longer an issue, and, like King Solomon before him, POTUS has declared that it’s time to split the baby and make one state into two. Kerry has been handed the ax and a shot at redemption, but like the Secretaries of State who roamed the globe before him, it is highly likely he will fail miserably at getting the Israelis and Palestinians to play nice. That’s if he can even get them to show up to his boring, redundant party.
Against all odds, Kerry is on a quest to go down in history as the man who single-handedly solved the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, instead of going down in history as the man who lost to a president who sat and read “My Pet Goat” while America was under attack. He may have little to no support from Washington, the Israelis, or the Palestinians, but John Kerry still has hope that this is one battle he won’t lose.