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Kerry Led Bankrupt, Failed Peace Talks; Now He Wants Bankrupt, Failed Ceasefire

I have nothing against John Kerry, really I don’t.  He served bravely in the anti-war movement in his youth.  He seems like an honorable man.  But for someone of his presumed intelligence, to become engaged in the Israel-Palestine conflict and do such a bad job at it, is shocking.

Last month, he ended an ill-fated year-long attempt to broker a peace deal between Israel and Palestine.  He and his chief aide, Martin Indyk, largely blamed Israel for the failure.  Now, Kerry has set his sights on negotiating a ceasefire in Gaza.  While the general goal is admirable, the way he’s going about doing it is ass-backwards.  Meaning it too must fail.

kerry ceasefire

John Kerry’s statement on landing in Egypt for ceasefire discussions with UN’s Ban Ki Moon and others.

Here are the problems: Kerry wants to stop the killing so things can go back to the status quo.  He’s basically trying to sweep up the mess Israel has made so that it doesn’t jeopardize Israel’s standing any more than necessary in the world community (an outcome Israel itself seems to care little about).  This is a quick fix.  In and out.  Israel stops bombing, Hamas stops rockets.  Kerry goes home looking good and gets back to solving problems that ‘really matter,’ whether that might be Ukraine or saving the U.S. relationship with Germany from being destroyed by the CIA and NSA.

But let’s say a quick fix wasn’t the worst outcome.  Let’s say it was a reasonable goal.  Even if you concede that, Kerry is pursuing it like a boxer with one hand tied behind his back.  How do you negotiate a ceasefire between two parties when you’ve refused to talk to one party?  Not just refused, but you’ve assigned a substitute (Mahmoud Abbas) who doesn’t have the trust of the party (Hamas) he’s supposed to represent.  This is a recipe for embarrassment and failure.

If you look at Kerry’s statement in the accompanying image you can see a man who’s either a robot and one of the Walking Dead.  How can you be “deeply concerned” by someone engaging in “appropriate and legitimate” behavior?  And as for “no country can stand by when rockets are attacking it,” can we say the same for Gaza?  Why should Hamas stand by while Israel is reducing it to a heap of smoking rubble?

The first stab at a ceasefire was a comedy of errors.  Anyone who doesn’t read this blog doesn’t know the half of it.  Not only did Egypt make a ceasefire proposal that had been written by Israel, it essentially said “to hell with Hamas” in every way it could.  What’s ludicrous is that the U.S. is still viewing Egypt as an interlocutor representing some vague Arab interest in the ceasefire process.  Egypt is useless, discredited.  It’s military junta doesn’t even represent Egyptians, let alone Palestinians.

Returning to that quick fix approach: it’s also destined to failure because every previous Gaza war has ended with a short-term ceasefire that’s led to war within a year or two following.  What’s the point of a ceasefire that temporarily ends fighting only to see it resume in even greater fury shortly afterward?

While I have no great affection for Hamas, Khaled Meshal, its political leader, has a valid point.  He’s said: “Enough with the quick fixes.”  Negotiate with us about the issues that really bother us.  End the siege.  End open season targeted killing of Gazans by the IDF.  Do that and we can talk about everything else.

Just as Israel’s ultra-nationalist leaders added a demand to recognize Israel as a Jewish state to the peace talks (which helped sink them), now Israel is adding a new demand to the ceasefire negotiations.  It wants to “demilitarize” Gaza.  That’s all well and good.  I’m for demilitarization too.  Let’s demilitarize Gaza…after we demilitarize Israel.

I’m not even talking about demilitarizing Israel as a whole, which obviously would be foolish.  Let’s just demilitarize the border between Gaza and Israel.  Let’s forbid Gaza militants and IDF soldiers from being anywhere near the border.  I don’t care how you do it.  Put international observers there.  Put sophisticated listening posts and surveillance gear financed by the U.S.

But talking about demilitarizing one side while leaving the other fully locked and loaded and hunting for bear–that’s a failure waiting to happen.

Finally, as long as the U.S. continues along this path, it will fail.  Even if there is a ceasefire in the coming days, as long as it ignores the points I’ve raised above, it’s doomed in the short-or medium-term.  War will resume.  People will die (again).  In greater numbers than the time before.  And each time they do, Israel will sink a little lower in international standing.  It’s ability to determine its own future will become incrementally weaker.  The end won’t be pretty.  If that’s the way the parties choose to go.

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{ 19 comments… add one }
  • Yair July 23, 2014, 11:25 PM

    [comment deleted: Advocating the overthrow of Hamas shouldn’t theoretically be grounds for deleting a comment, but considering you seem about the 10th or 20th hasbara commenter to try it and it’s such a stupid, odious idea–I’ve just reached my maximum load for hasbara.]

    • Yair July 24, 2014, 9:11 AM

      [Comment deleted: If your world view presented anything of the remotest interest, I’d be happy to entertain it. But as long as you simply regurgitate Hasbara talking points, I’ve got better things to do.]

  • Blue Moon July 24, 2014, 12:13 AM

    [comment deleted–it’s the anti-Hamas hasbara brigade again. Trying to score points offering little more than personal opinion.]

  • walter benjamin July 24, 2014, 2:02 AM

    so,ostensibly, you are pro-Hamas?

    • __/ July 24, 2014, 2:44 AM

      to walter benjamin,

      “All efforts to make politics aesthetic culminate in one thing, war.”

      “The distracted person, too, can form habits.”

      – Walter Benjamin

  • Blue Moon July 24, 2014, 2:38 AM

    [Comment deleted: Off topic]

  • Stretch July 24, 2014, 2:53 AM

    In a very real way, Hamas is the legitimate government in Gaza, if not the whole of the occupied territories. They won the last Palestinian general election in January 2006 – after the US had pressured Israel to allow Hamas to participate. I guess no one figured that Hamas could possibly win, but they did win in what was largely considered by international election observers to have been a fair process. Hamas won because the Palestinian population were sick of the inability of Fatah/PLO to defend them against Israel’s intensified campaign of murder and ethnic cleansing launched on September 28, 2000 with Arik’s frolic to the 3rd-holiest Muslim religious site.

    Later, Israel and the US conspired to have Hamas over thrown in Gaza, but Hamas routed the the Israel/US sponsored forces. Hamas has never ‘seized’ power in Gaza. They won power legitimately, through the ballot box. They only lost power in the West Bank/East Jerusalem after Israel locked up (kidnapped) many of their elected officials and the US, dutifully followed by the rest of the west, boycotted the elected Hamas government (so a boycott is OK when applied to the Palestinians).

    Israel claims, ad nauseum, to be the only democracy in the Middle East, but it refused to recognise the result of the Palestinian election. Israeli exceptionalism rules.

    • leeor July 24, 2014, 10:25 AM

      [Comment deleted–this must be Hasbara Central’s beat-up-on-Hamas week. I’m gonna start a contest for the most innovative, original attack. Yours is boring, old, heard- it-before. But I encourage you to keep trying. The winner actually gets to have his comment published here. But till you can come up with something interesting & worth reading, nah.]

  • Adriana July 24, 2014, 8:09 AM

    Silverstein, I saw yesterday in your tweet, a news about a buffer zone which will grab more palestians lands.
    Do you have in your blog any post about that or any link so i could read more about?
    I would very much appreciated, thanks a lot.
    By the way, I like very much your blog and your work

  • Daniel de França July 24, 2014, 10:49 AM

    Somewhat related, SodaStream fired workers earlier this month, very likely, in retaliation for the kidnapped teens:

    http://972mag.com/the-bread-of-adversity-and-the-water-of-affliction/94215/

    • David July 24, 2014, 8:23 PM

      Collective punishment. Israel has brought back the Middle Ages in a number of ways.

  • ben July 24, 2014, 11:18 AM

    So do something similar to what we have with egpyt or with Syria?

    With egpyt the entire Sinai was made practically into a DMZ without the israeli side being a DMZ in kind.

    Or make it akin to the golan where you have UN peacekeepers separating the two sides?

    Personally I think Gaza should be demilitarized with NATO being the international body enforcing it. Maybe have a 5 km buffer zone on the israeli side too that acts as a DMZ ?

  • Oui July 24, 2014, 12:39 PM
    • David July 24, 2014, 8:21 PM

      Thanks for the citations.

  • Donald July 24, 2014, 2:58 PM

    I enjoyed your comments to the deleted hasbara folk. A new and original piece of propaganda sounds like an interesting challenge.

    Anyway, on Kerry, yes he’s ridiculous but he probably knows it and acts this way because if the US ever tried to establish a fair and just peace between Hamas and Israel he’d be tarred and feathered. And that’s just by the Democrats in Congress.
    You can tell he has some knowledge of reality from his gaffe Sunday–you could hear it in his tone “hell of a pinpoint operation”. Nice to see there is a human being inside there. Normally he has to keep it covered up and of course he clumsily tried to go back to the talking points when Chris Wallace confronted him on it.

  • Piotr Berman July 24, 2014, 7:56 PM

    Guardian:

    Still, Kerry’s stubborn support for Egypt’s regime appears undiminished. Following his “wanding” experience, Kerry continued to praise the new Egyptian government, despite widespread criticism of its year-long crackdown on dissent. “I want to thank the people of Egypt for transitioning to democracy,” said Kerry.

    Is it possible to take Kerry seriously? He visits a fascist dictatorship on steroids, OK, not every alliance is savory. And diplomats are supposed to say some pleasant pablum (unless their first name is Avigdor). But is it really necessary to praise them for “transitioning to democracy”?

  • David July 24, 2014, 8:19 PM

    “…(D)eeply concerned about…legitimate…defend itself…etc. ” This is psychobabble, as you suggest, on a par with Netanyahu’s remarks about “telegenic” pictures of dead Palestinians absent any sensitivity to the fact that they are his victims. These people are plain nuts and should be institutionalized for the protection of all of us.

  • eric July 25, 2014, 10:04 AM

    The United States blindly supports anything Israel says or does. The reasons for that is that 1.2% of Americans identify as Jewish vs. only .8% identifying as Muslim. In other words, we have a lot of Jews, and they vote. There’s also the fact the the modern state of Israel was created because we needed someplace to send displaced Jews after WW2…unfortunately nobody thought to ask the people who already lived there. (Europe has a funny way of doing that)
    The truth is, if this conflict were to take place anywhere else, or if the roles were reversed, the US would condemn the Israeli actions as terrorism… which would be accurate.

    • Daniel de França July 25, 2014, 5:47 PM

      1.2% is not much. And not all Jews are zionists, I think it’s more an exception. The problem, in terms of election, is primarily the non-Jewish zionists. Don’t you think the Bible Belt renders Israel a lot of support?

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