Will Middle East Crisis Push Kerry Reset Button?
JERUSALEM, Israel -- After Secretary of State John Kerry replaced Hillary Clinton at Foggy Bottom in February 2013, his government jet whisked him off to the Middle East no less than a dozen times in his first 13 months as secretary.
He was bound and determined to get Israelis and the Palestinian Authority talking again to jump start the moribund peace process, an achievement he believed would lead to a resolution of the wider conflicts in the region.
But in his time in office he has been party to the collapse of those peace negotiations as well as the Palestinian Authority's formation of a unity government with Hamas; the Obama administration's bluster and retreat in the face of Syria's chemical weapons use, and Iran's defiance of Western demands during nuclear talks as it spins centrifuges to build its coveted nuclear weapons.
Now he has reached a new nadir. He's calling for Israel to employ an immediate unconditional ceasefire with Hamas, a group whose charter explicitly calls for Israel's destruction, a group that has built an elaborate network of tunnels into Israel to transport sophisticated weapons and commit terror attacks.
It bears mentioning that nine of the 10 Israeli soldiers killed by Hamas here in just 24 hours this week were killed on Israeli soil.
As the messenger of White House policies, Kerry has worn out his welcome among a wide cross-section of Israelis, including some on the Israeli left. He also angered Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for undermining an Egyptian ceasefire plan he had supported.
Zvi Mazel, Israel's former ambassador to Egypt, called the current American policy in the Middle East "a disaster" and told CBN News this week that Israel is now the only country in the region in which the U.S. has influence.
Here are just a few headlines from The Jerusalem Post during the Kerry tenure:
- July 17, 2013 "Kerry Pushes Israel to Consider Arab League Peace Plan"
- November 6, 2013 "Kerry: US Considers Israeli Settlements to be 'Illegitimate'"
- November 7, 2013 "Kerry Warns of Third Intifada, Israel's Isolation, if Peace Talks Break Down"
- November 19, 2013 "Kerry: Iran Talks in Geneva Will Not Put Israel at Risk"
- January 14, 2014 "(Israeli Defense Minister) Ya'alon Criticized for Calling Kerry Obsessive Messianic"
- February 5, 2014 "'Kerry Has Declared a War on God,' Write Hard-Line Rabbis in Letter"
- April 9, 2014 "Kerry Hints Israel to Blame for Deadlocked Peace Process"
- April 28, 2014 "Kerry Warns if Peace Talks Fail, Israel May Become Apartheid State"
- July 28, 2014 "Livni Tells Kerry his Cease-Fire Proposal 'Completely Unacceptable'"
Kerry serves a president whose primary foreign policy goal appears to be to prevent Israel from gaining a military victory over two enemies: Hamas and Iran -- both sworn to its destruction.
It is difficult to construct a scenario in which the secretary's credibility (or the president's, for that matter) can be rehabilitated in the eyes of America's closest Middle East ally, despite ongoing U.S. aid and creative diplomatic speech from beleaguered Israeli leaders masking years of frustration with an administration that seems to place Israel on the same moral plane as a terror group which took over the Gaza Strip by armed force.
If the region continues to unravel in the weeks ahead, the decline of U.S. influence in a dangerous part of the world may rise in the ranks of hot-button issues for American voters in the first week of November.
Despite the administration's bravado in the face of criticism, the team of Obama advisers might at least consider pushing the re-set button on the current secretary of state.