Kerry: I Was for a Jewish State Before I Was Against it
As President Obama prepared to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, much of the weekend chatter centred on US Secretary of State John Kerry's sudden U-turn regarding Israel’s insistence that Palestinian leaders publicly recognise that Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people as part of any peace deal.
Before he told a House committee that Israel would be making ‘a mistake’ by ‘holding up progress on peace’ by not giving up its demand that it be recognised as a Jewish state, both Kerry and President Obama had sided with Israel.
Until last Thursday, requiring that Palestinians accept Israel as a Jewish state was not just Israel’s position, it was official US policy. But with just weeks to go until the Palestinian imposed nine-month limit on negotiations expire, Kerry saw that for the talks to ‘succeed’, one side would have to ‘concede’. Since the Palestinians never budge from their positions, and the Israelis never seem to stick to theirs, figuring out which side Kerry should pressure required no figuring at all.
Maybe the reason President Obama and Secretary Kerry always seem ready to concede to Palestinian pressure while rarely conceding to ‘Israeli pressure’ is because there never is any Israeli pressure to concede to? No matter what either man says or does, they are never made to pay the slightest political or social price for actions that weaken Israel or embolden her enemies. American Jews remain among President Obama’s most zealous and ardent supporters. Even after threatening Israel with diplomatic isolation and economic boycotts if it did not sign onto to a deal crafted by him, AIPAC delegates still warmly welcomed Secretary Kerry’s address with multiple standing ovations at its recent conference.
That Israel finds itself in the familiar spot of facing immense pressure to make last minute concessions or face blame for yet another round of ‘failed peace talks’ is surely due at least in part to its past concessions.
Nonetheless, demanding that Palestinians accept Israel as a Jewish state is not, as Kerry suddenly suggested last week, unnecessarily ‘going over old ground’. While the ground of the Middle East may be old, the attitudes of the people on it are very different than they were back in 1947, when the UN passed Resolution 181 that called for Palestine to be partitioned into a “Jewish state” of Israel and an Arab state of Palestine.
Kerry cited Resolution 181 as evidence that Israel has already been ‘internationally recognised’ as a Jewish state. But he ignored the fact that Resolution 181 was not just vehemently rejected by every Arab state but used as the very pretext for Arab world to seeks Israel’s destruction through war; a war that is about to enter its 68th year.
If Yasser Arafat did in fact recognise Israel as the Jewish state back in 1993, as Kerry now contends, then isn’t the steadfast refusal of his successors to do the same proof that it is not Israel’s position that needs to change, but the Palestinians’? And that this change itself constitutes a serious new obstacle to peace between Israel and the Palestinians?
Israel’s insistence that it be recognised as a Jewish state by its enemies is more urgent now than ever before because today’s strain of Islamist Jew-hatred is incalculably more virulent, violent and annihiliationist than it was 60, or even 20 years ago. Today’s Arab and Muslim world marinates in a rancid toxic stew of cultural and political Jew-hatred no less murderous than was the cultural stew of Nazi Germany.
Secretary Kerry is hardly alone in his eagerness to ignore the increasing dangers of this Jew hatred. He, like most members of polite Washington society, is devoted to, and an acolyte of the lavishly funded Middle East peace industry whose objective seems to be less “peace” per se, than making sure the “peace process” it feeds off can keep functioning. That can’t happen if new deals can’t be reached.
But to ask that Israel accept proclamations long since buried under an avalanche of anti-Jewish incitement is to ask Israel to ignore the militant Islamic fundamentalist revival that has transformed and destabilised the entire Arab and Muslim worlds. It is to ask Israel to ignore the rise and status of groups like Hamas, whose self-defined purpose is built upon its promise to annihilate the Jews as per Koranic command. It is to ask that Israel acquiesce in its own destruction.
To clear minds, the adamant Palestinian refusal to even consider recognising Israel as a Jewish state can only mean one thing. Palestinians demand their own state not as a means to end the conflict with Israel, but as means to continue that conflict to end Israel.
No matter how hard he tries, Secretary Kerry’s unwillingness to acknowledge the prime source of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not bring peace closer, it will only make it more elusive. Denying the painful reality that the Palestinian’s rejection of both the permanence and legitimacy of the Jewish state is more vehement today than it has ever been is more than just intellectually dishonest, it is counterproductive.
True peace can only come by encouraging the self criticism so critical to achieve the real and lasting changes required for a genuine and true peace.