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Guest Column

Secretary Kerry Reinventing the Middle East?
By Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger
Nov 28, 2015 - 2:48:18 AM

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Secretary of State John Kerry's November 24, 2015 visit to Jerusalem confirmed his determination to reinvent "the energetic, youthful and forward looking Middle East" in accordance with his own worldview, irrespective of Middle East reality.

Kerry recycled well-intentioned, but failed, assessments and tactics, further eroding the US posture of deterrence and US power projection among pro-US Arab countries.

On October 28, 2015, Secretary John Kerry presented his vision of US policy in the Middle East, convinced that peaceful-coexistence will surmount the inherently complex, unpredictable, violent and intolerant 14-century-old anti-US Islamic Middle East: "Just imagine a future where people from the Nile to Jordan and Euphrates are free to live and work and travel as they choose, where every boy and girl has access to quality education, where visitors are able to flock without fear."

Kerry's preference of a Middle East policy driven by the best-case-scenario, rather than reality-driven policy, was highlighted on December 7, 2013: "Imagine what a two-state solution will mean for Israel, Palestine, Jordan and the region. Imagine what it would mean for trade, tourism, technology and for Israeli and Palestinian children..."

Kerry's suspension of disbelief triggered a November 21, 2015 column by Amir Taheri, the most experienced columnist of the prestigious Saudi daily, Asharq al-Awsat, expressing the views of the House of Saud and the Arab world at- large: "What Kerry offers is mediocre poetry.... [Commissioning] marketing studies while the whole region is in flames.... A fireman trying to put out the flames, so far without success.... Failure on a grand scale.... Under the deal which Kerry was boasting, Iran retains full capacity to build a nuclear arsenal within one year...."

The reliability of Secretary John Kerry's policy assessments and recommendations should be evaluated against the backdrop of his own track record.

In 1993, unlike Senator Daniel Inouye, the late Chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee, who defined the Oslo Accord as "a potential funeral of the Jewish State," then Senator John Kerry embraced Arafat as a messenger of peace, in defiance of the reality: Arafat's 40 year old trail of terrorism against Jews and (mostly) Arabs. Moreover, in his 1997 book, The New War, Kerry hailed "Arafat's transformation from outlaw to statesman," ignoring Arafat's real transformation -- as early as the 1970s - from regional terrorism to a role model of anti-US international terrorism.

In 2015, Secretary Kerry embraces Mahmoud Abbas as a messenger of peace, in defiance of the reality: Mahmoud Abbas' 70 year old trail of terrorism against Jews and (mostly) Arabs, exacerbated by the establishment in 1993 of the anti-Israel, anti-US and anti-Semitic Palestinian hate education -- in kindergartens, schools, mosques and media - which has evolved into the most effective production line of terrorists.

On October 16, 2014, Kerry reiterated his conviction that the Palestinian issue is, supposedly, the crown jewel of Arab policy-makers, the core cause of Middle East turbulence -- including Islamic terrorism - and the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict: "As I went around [the Middle East], in the course of our discussions about the anti-ISIL coalition, there wasn't a leader who did not raise with me, spontaneously, the need to try to get peace between Israel and Palestinians, because it was a cause of recruitment and of street anger and agitation that they felt -- and I see a lot of [Department of State personnel] nodding -- they had to respond to. And people need to understand the connection of that. And it has something to do with humiliation and denial and absence of dignity."

Thus, Kerry, and those who nod their heads at Foggy Bottom, ignore the unbridgeable gap between the Arab talk and the Arab walk on the Palestinian issue, evidenced by Arabs showering Palestinians with rhetoric, but not resources. Contrary to Secretary Kerry and other "Palestine Firsters," the Palestinian issue has always been a sideshow in the Middle East, as highlighted by the non-Palestinian-related Arab Tsunami. Furthermore, Arabs have never launched a war on behalf of Palestinians. In fact, Arabs have launched military operations against Palestinians, whom they have considered a source of subversion and terrorism.

Until 2011, Senator Kerry was one of the very few US legislators who considered Hafiz, and then Bashar, Assad constructive, reliable, generous, peace-driven leaders, pressuring Israel to concede the Golan Heights.

In 2011, once again, Kerry sacrificed Middle East reality on the altar of his own benevolent worldview, welcoming the Arab Tsunami -- which has yet to reach its brutal climax - as an Arab Spring, youth revolution, Facebook revolution and an ostensible transition towards democracy, bringing an end to ruthless dictatorships and sharing with Arabs the blessings of civil liberties and peaceful coexistence. Kerry supported the successful effort to topple Gaddafi (who transferred his nuclear infrastructure to the US in 2003), which transformed post-Gaddafi Libya into the largest, lawless platform of Islamic terrorism in the Middle East, spreading terror offshoots into Africa, Europe and the rest of the world.

In 2015, Kerry is determined to ignore Middle East reality and recycle past US initiatives which failed to advance the cause of Israel-Arab peace, by highlighting mediation rather than direct negotiation. Kerry overlooks the fact that the only two viable peace accords (Israel-Egypt and Israel-Jordan) were initiated and negotiated directly between the parties. Thus, unintentionally, Kerry's involvement - featuring the immoral, "moral equivalence" - radicalizes Palestinian positions and actions. It legitimizes and rewards Mahmoud Abbas' hate-education and incitement - which must be uprooted as a prerequisite to real, durable peace -- and therefore indirectly fuels Palestinian terrorism.

Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger
The Ettinger Report
"Second Thought: A US-Israel Initiative"
First published in "Israel Hayom" newsletter, November 27, 2015

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