It is no accident that John Kerry and two members of Congress visited Gaza today. Despite what Martin Indyk indicated when interviewed on NPR, Barack Obama, as they say in campaign ads, “approved this message.” Indyk tried to make a point of saying that Obama didn’t endorse the visit or initiate it. Maybe. Maybe not. But you can be damn sure if Obama didn’t want him to go he wouldn’t have gone.
And if you’re inclined, like Indyk, to dismiss the significance, consider that the U.S. government is officially boycotting Hamas and Kerry just walked into the Hamas lion’s den. Everyone in the U.S., Israeli and Hamas governments is mindful of what this means. Kerry and Obama are in effect laying down a marker with Israel and telling it that while we will be supportive of Israel, we will no longer be in lock step. That we will pursue our own interests even if Israel perceives them as diverging from its own. Reinforcing that fact, was the news that Hamas had passed on to Sen. Kerry a letter addressed to Pres. Obama.
Yes, we get the usual disclaimers:
Mr. Kerry said that his visit indicated no change in American policy toward Hamas, which is officially committed to the destruction of Israel and which the United States labels a terrorist group. He said he would not meet with any Hamas leaders.
But we all know different. We all know this was said for the benefit of Israel and the Israel lobby domestically (which must be apoplectic).
Strangely, the Haaretz English edition has no story about the Kerry visit. Admittedly, with the IDF refusing Israeli journalists the right to visit Gaza it’s hard to cover such a story. But to omit it entirely from the newspaper’s website seems a telling sign. Haaretz clearly is no fan of Hamas, but this is a big story for Israel and deserves coverage.
Indyk attempted to provide Bibi Netanyahu with a blueprint of how to do an end-run on Obama administration pressure to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He suggested that Bibi make negotiations with Syria a top priority in order to distract attention from the Israel-Palestine track. The only problem with this suggestion is that a rightist coalition will no more permit the new prime minister to return the Golan than it would allow him to return the Occupied Territories. Besides, his fellow rightist cabinet members would argue that a return to pre-67 borders with Syria will be an unwelcome precedent auguring a return to pre-67 borders with the Palestinians.
No, depending on who he chooses for his coalition partners there has to be an eventual showdown with the Obama administration. With the caveat that if he chooses a coalition with Kadima negotiations and territorial compromise are possible. But I’ll still have to believe it when I see it.