Secretary of State John Kerry is aggressively engaged in Middle East shuttle diplomacy, having visited Israeli and Palestinian leaders five times since taking office only five months ago. Despite the intense investment of his time and American prestige, Kerry has no tangible results to show for his efforts.
That’s prompted a flurry of criticism and has Israelis and others asking: With neighboring Egypt and Syria facing unprecedented bloodshed and tumult, why is the senior U.S. diplomat investing so much sweat equity in the Israelis and Palestinians?
In an analysis piece titled “Why a Little More Work Won’t Do it, Mr. Kerry,” Editor of the English language Times of Israel David Horovitz compares Kerry to an insane person.
Horovitz writes, “Insanity — according to a definition variously attributed to Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, Confucius, and most credibly to a 30-year-old book called ‘Narcotics Anonymous’ — is ‘doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.’” He writes [emphasis added]:
Five times John Kerry has been to our part of the Middle East since taking office in February. Five times, like some hapless gofer, he has shuttled back and forth between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, ferrying demands and proposals, and rejections. The estimate is that he spent 14 hours in the company of Netanyahu on this latest mission alone, and another seven with Abbas.
You’d think he’d have gotten the message by now. But no. In defiance of all his first-hand accumulated evidence of Israeli and Palestinian stubborn immobility, Kerry flew out of Ben Gurion Airport on Sunday afternoon proclaiming that a breakthrough was potentially “within reach.” Just “a little more work” and all that diplomatic failure could yet be translated into success.
Horovitz adds, “The point is that Kerry is investing immense personal energy and time, and the United States’ diplomatic prestige, in desperately chivying Netanyahu and Abbas merely to the starting point of a path that has already been walked many times before — a path that, the bitter experience running right through the Clinton and George W. Bush presidencies shows, leads only to a dead end.”
“That’s why the definition of insanity unfortunately resonates when considering the secretary’s indefatigable efforts. He is straining to persuade Netanyahu and Abbas to begin talking when we know that such negotiations can only lead to the same failure they have yielded in the past,” he concludes.
Jonathan Tobin, Senior Online Editor of Commentary Magazine, writes that Americans should be concerned Kerry is so focused reviving the Israel-Palestinian peacemaking track rather than the more burning crises in the Middle East such as Egypt and Syria. He writes [emphasis added]:
With all that on its plate, you’d think America’s foreign policy chief would be up to his neck dealing with these crises. But in case you hadn’t heard, Secretary of State John Kerry wasn’t paying much attention to any of that in the last few days. Instead, Kerry was shuttling back and forth between Jerusalem and Ramallah like a low-level functionary attempting to craft an agreement that would finally bring the Palestinians back to the Middle East peace talks they’ve been boycotting for four and a half years.[…]
That he is unabashed by the humiliating nature of the repeated failure of his efforts says a lot about his enormous self-esteem and cluelessness (something that played a not inconsiderable part of his 2004 presidential election defeat). But that he should be subjecting the country to such a spectacle at the same time that he is conspicuously ignoring other problems which are far more urgent says a lot about his stature in the administration as well as his judgment.
Tobin explains why this is also reflective of President Barack Obama’s handling of major foreign policy challenges. He writes, “Though President Obama came into office convinced that he would raise America’s prestige abroad, the sheer volume of foreign policy disasters going on at the same time while the secretary of state is immersed in a fool’s errand makes it appear that it has never been lower.”
“That the secretary of state would behave in such a manner at a moment in history when other regional crises require immediate attention graphically illustrates not only his incompetence but also that of the president,” Tobin concludes.