Monday July 28, 2014
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28.07.2014
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Ruthie Blum

Kerry's pointless frequent flier miles

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Israel for his third trip to the region since he took office on Feb. 1, and for the second time in the span of two weeks. The impetus for these visits is the urgency he feels in the face of the "clock ticking" toward a point of no return.

Too bad the deadline he has set for himself has nothing to do with the Iranian nuclear program. No, on that score, he is confident that his boss, President Barack Obama, has everything under control.

"All options are on the table," Kerry reiterated on Monday, following his participation in the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day ceremony at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. But diplomacy, he stressed, is still the preferred route.

He's right about one thing: Diplomacy is certainly Iran's preference, particularly in light of North Korea's military muscle-flexing, which is testing the waters for a buoyed Tehran.

In fact, the reason for Kerry's country-hopping is to reignite peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. To this end, first he flew to Istanbul on Sunday, where he made an appeal to the Turkish government to "play a role" in pushing the process forward.

To say that this is delusional would be to diminish the depth of its derangement. Turkey has been making overtures to Hamas in Gaza and remains hostile to Israel, in spite of Obama's brokering a restoration of ties between the two countries during his own visit to Jerusalem last month. And though a group of Israeli diplomats is scheduled to go to Ankara in the near future, the purpose of the delegation is to discuss the multi-millions of dollars in compensation to be paid to the families of the Turkish radicals who were killed during the "Free Gaza" flotilla raid in 2010.

Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu made it clear to Kerry that Israel would have to meet a stringent set of preconditions before Turkey would agree to kiss and make up. These include lifting the naval blockade of Gaza.

Even Israeli Justice Minister and negotiation coordinator Tzipi Livni, known for her almost religious faith in the ability to achieve a peace deal with the Palestinians, did not think that Turkish mediation was a good idea.

In any case, Kerry's first stop after arriving from Turkey on Sunday evening was Ramallah. There he met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The contents of that meeting were not released to the media, but Palestinian officials who wished to remain nameless leaked (or lied about) two interesting items. One was the assertion that the Obama administration is softening its position with regard to reconciliation between Abbas' Fatah faction and Hamas. Another was that the Palestinian Authority had no intention of canceling efforts to sue Israel in the International Criminal Court – though "we are [temporarily] freezing them."

The next morning, Kerry held talks with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, but at the American consulate in Jerusalem, not in Ramallah. This is because Fayyad is about to be fired by Abbas, and the expression "bad blood" in the Middle East has a more literal meaning than it does in the West. Still, Kerry can't help Fayyad; nor does Fayyad have the authority to discuss deals of any kind with anyone.

Another pointless get-together was that which Kerry had with Israeli President Shimon Peres. Peres may be a favorite on Capitol Hill, but he is only a figurehead in Jerusalem. So his chat with Kerry was undoubtedly a repetition of the usual mantras. This was indicated by the remarks Kerry made to the press when the two peace partners (Kerry and Peres, that is) were done with their pow-wow.

"I have no illusions about difficulties," Kerry said. "But you have to believe in the possibilities in order to get there, and you and I believe in them and I am convinced there is a road ahead." He did not mention that this was the road to hell.

This proves what we already know about Kerry: He is not going to let facts get in the way of his foreign policy. He is a man on a mission, and nothing is going to stop him, not even rockets from Gaza that sent Holocaust mourners in southern Israel running for bomb shelters in mid-ceremony.

But a negotiated "two-state solution" is what Kerry was hired to execute, after all — well, that, and making the world safe from climate change. That, too, is a futile endeavor, but at least the weather is neutral. The Palestinians, on the other hand, have a political-religious agenda in which Israel is not even penciled in.

Ruthie Blum is the author of "To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the 'Arab Spring.'"

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