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.
Rupa Shah says
Haaretz did have a story about Sen Kerry’s visit.
“Last update – 20:30 19/02/2009
U.S. Senator John Kerry makes rare visit to Hamas-ruled Gaza”
Crimson Ghost says
A split in AIPAC?
Ex AIPAC chief calls for detente with Syria.
Tom Dine writes, “Getting U.S.-Syria Relations Out of the Deep Freeze” for The MidEast Peace Pulse blog of Israel Policy Forum. He is former Executive Director of AIPAC, Advisor to IPF & Search for Common Ground, Posted February 17, 2009
…..To return to normal bilateral relations, early, mid-course, and long term steps need to be taken. I suggest three early and mid-term ones.
Reestablish trust. Positive moves are badly needed, including official contacts and exchanges, as well as continued gestures by top officials in both capitals. Syrian negativity should cease; the U.S. should make it very clear that it will not follow any of the previous Administration’s policies aimed at regime change. Both sides can join hands on the issue of 1.5 million Iraqi refugees now living in Syria, starting by acknowledging the hardships Syria is encountering and the fact that it is dealing with its new residents with compassion in the areas of housing, health care, and education.
Normalize the status of each nation’s embassies in each other’s capital city. A new American ambassador should be nominated, approved by the Senate, and sent to Damascus by June 30th.
Publicly support and join in mediating a conclusion, with guarantees of troops and early warning systems, to the long-delayed, long-awaited Syria-Israel treaty of peace. This international contract could dramatically change the dynamics of the region, recasting a new environment of peace and stability over the Levant, including with the Palestinians, if not further east. It would also alter the nature of Syria’s relationship with non-state actors such as Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad.
The most important long-term challenges:
Engage the two business communities, ending the Syria Accountability Act, helping Syria with its WTO application, and putting Syria on the road of economic growth, the same road that its neighbors Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan are on. Syria wants American trade and investments and foremost technology.
Engage Syria, engage Iran. A U.S.-Syria rapprochement would provide America with a credible partner in future contact with Tehran. Additionally, Iran’s regional influence could be greatly curtailed by depriving it of unhindered access to Syrian resources.
It is time for days of warmth in a normal U.S.-Syrian relationship.
Tom Dine lives in a fantasy world. The region will remain in conflict as long as Israel continues to occupy those lands that it invaded on 5 June 1967 and has belligerently occupied since, i.e. the Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem (including its illegally extended boundaries), the Palestinian Gaza Strip (still occupied under international law as Israel continues to control its entrances, exits, air space and sea access, imports and exports and reserves the right to invade at will – in short, the Gaza Strip is the world’s largest outdoor prison.) For reasons explained by Richard Silverstein, it is highly unlikely that Israel will withdraw from Syria’s Golan Heights and Lebanon’s Shebaa Farms as it will set a precedent (not that its withdrawal from Egypt’s Sinai did not.) The time is rapidly approaching when the US, understanding fully that Israel is its number one geopolitical liability, will act in its own best interests and sever its “special relationship” with Israel. The zionist enterprise in historic Palestine can no longer be supported by America. There is no return, only ongoing and worsening negative blowback. In 15 years there will be 2.5 billion Muslims in the world, 600-650 million Arabs, including 12-15 million Palestinians between the Jordan River and the Med. These are are the real “facts on the ground” that will determine America’s ME policy. Meanwhile, Jewish Israeli emigration is soaring and predicted to increase greatly, while Jewish immigration is less than a trickle. The handwriting is on the wall.