Berlin — Secretary of State John Kerry arrived Thursday in Jerusalem to push Israeli and Palestinian leaders to make “difficult decisions” as part of an overall peace agreement. It is Kerry’s tenth visit to Israel since March. To his credit, he is dogged — and remains optimistic — about solving the nearly 70-year-old conflict.
But there’s reason to doubt anything will come of Kerry’s efforts. There are big question marks, for one, over whether Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas can deliver security guarantees to prevent terror attacks on Israel from the West Bank.
Abbas’s euphoric welcome of released Palestinian murderers as part of a negotiating confidence-building measures certainly suggests an uphill battle for Kerry. Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked: “How can he say that he stands against terrorism when he embraces the perpetrators of terrorism and glorifies them as heroes?”
Moreover, Abbas has repeatedly threatened to go back to the anti-Israel U.N. General Assembly to bypass direct negotiations with Israel. This is not the conduct of a stable negotiating partner.
U.S. indifference to the ongoing Syrian civil war (over 130,000 dead) — and the growth of Shiite regional aims, via Hezbollah — has contributed to lowering the chances of Israel–Palestinian peace. The Sunni Arab League distrusts the Obama administration because of the Syria fiasco, so it’s probably unwilling to twist the arms of the Palestinians to make compromises.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration’s nuclear agreement with the anti-Western Islamic Republic of Iran sent shock waves through Israel because of the deal’s gaping loopholes. Key U.S. allies (Israel, Jordan, and the many of the Gulf monarchies) see the Iran nuclear pact as a pathway to a nuclear weapons device for the Iranian regime.
To reach a solid and enduring agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians, a more sensible start for Kerry would be aggressively countering the Iranian-Hezbollah-Assad threat in the Middle East.
— Benjamin Weinthal is a Berlin-based fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow Benjamin on Twitter @BenWeinthal.