There’s a long, long article in TNR that purports to be “The Explosive, Inside Story of How John Kerry Built an Israel-Palestine Peace Plan—and Watched It Crumble.” It’s worth reading, but maybe not for the reasons the author intended it to be (full disclosure: I’ve only read about half of it so far, although I plan to finish it later today).
The problem with the article and so many other treatments of the subject is that its premise is that there’s a peace plan that can be built and that can crumble. And that someone like John Kerry has the smarts to do it, if it were possible to do it.
None is the case; the whole thing is a chimera.
At its conclusion the piece contains a more realistic appraisal of the situation, from Avi Dichter, former head of Israel’s Shin Bet:
The American effort will always be multiplied by the amount of trust between the two leaders. So if Kerry’s pressure represents the number five, and then Obama’s help brings the number to ten, it really doesn’t matter. You’re still multiplying it by zero. The final result will always be zero.
The amount of trust—or distrust—between the two leaders reflects the amount of distrust between the two countries and their peoples. Peace plans sometimes have been entered into by these two groups (or Israel and other Palestinian groups) for temporary tactical reasons, but that’s it. The Palestinian government does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and Hamas is a terrorist group dedicated to its destruction. But for various reasons both have become the darlings of Europe and the Left, and that helps tie Israel’s hands to a certain extent. But “partners for peace” they ain’t.
As for Kerry, I have loathed the man for well-nigh these forty-odd years, and that opinion began back when I was a liberal Democrat. Long before I thought Obama was a narcissistic leftist and a self-serving liar (long before I’d even heard of Obama, actually), I felt pretty much the same way about Kerry.
Here’s a great quote from the article that tells you a lot about Kerry:
[Netanyahu] opened the meeting by playing Kerry a video on one of his favorite topics: Palestinian incitement. It showed Palestinian children in Gaza being taught to glorify martyrdom and seek Israel’s destruction. “This is the true obstacle to peace,” Netanyahu told Kerry.
“It’s a major issue,” Kerry replied. “And nothing justifies incitement. I hate it. I’ve read Abbas the riot act about it. You know I have. But it is worthwhile to try to understand what life looks like from the Palestinian point of view.”
“This has nothing to do with the occupation and the settlements,” said Netanyahu.
Kerry pressed on: “When I fought in Vietnam, I used to look at the faces of the local population and the looks they gave us. I’ll never forget it. It gave me clarity that we saw the situation in completely different ways.”
Kerry went on to add that the situation in Israel “can’t be solved if you can’t see it how they see it.”
This is beyond inane on Kerry’s part. Who cares whether Kerry “hates” incitement, or whether he’s “read Abbas the riot act” about it? Certainly not Abbas. But that’s the way a narcissist like Kerry talks.
What’s more, understanding the Palestinians won’t help or change a single thing, and it’s a travesty that Kerry is saying that it will. I wonder whether he says that to the Palestinians, too; but even if he were to say it, it would be an equally useless statement. Understanding what the Palestinians want, and what they might stand to gain and lose from negotiating or failing to do so, and then what pressure can be brought to bear on them, is much more to the point.
Kerry was in Vietnam for barely four months over forty years ago and went home early, and his time there was spent on a Swift Boat. How many South Vietnamese did he get to encounter, and under what circumstances? And how could he possibly have a clue what they were really thinking when they looked at him (except for the ones he was shooting at), or why, or whether they “saw the situation in completely different ways” from him? How about the ones who fled the country after we left, or those who were killed or re-educated; how did they “see the situation”?
Kerry has long been fond of making sweeping pronouncements on what the South Vietnamese people wanted and didn’t want, and how they “saw the situation.” I guess he was a mind reader then, just as he’s a mind reader now. According to his 1971 Senate testimony on the subject, here’s what they thought:
We found most people didn’t even know the difference between communism and democracy. They only wanted to work in rice paddies without helicopters strafing them and bombs with napalm burning their villages and tearing their country apart…
So that when we in fact state, let us say, that we will have a ceasefire or have a coalition government, most of the 2 million men you often hear quoted under arms, most of whom are regional popular reconnaissance forces, which is to say militia, and a very poor militia at that, will simply lay down their arms, if they haven’t done so already, and not fight. And I think you will find they will respond to whatever government evolves which answers their needs, and those needs quite simply are to be fed, to bury their dead in plots where their ancestors lived, to be allowed to extend their culture, to try and exist as human beings. And I think that is what will happen…
I think that politically, historically, the one thing that people try to do, that society is structured on as a whole, is an attempt to satisfy their felt needs, and you can satisfy those needs with almost any kind of political structure, giving it one name or the other. In this name it is democratic; in others it is communism; in others it is benevolent dictatorship. As long as those needs are satisfied, that structure will exist.
It’s extraordinary to think that this man is our Secretary of State.