By Dovid Efune
And now, let us honestly answer U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s question to American Jews last week.
“Ma nishtana (what is different) this time?” asked Kerry, referring to the Administration’s latest muddled foray into Israeli-Arab politics, and his efforts to defibrillate the much rejected ‘peace process.’ Of course, when Kerry says ‘peace process,’ he means ‘land for peace process.’
“We are running out of time and possibilities,” was Kerry’s answer to his rhetorical question as he encouraged his audience to press for peace talks. “No one has a stronger voice in this than the American Jewish community,” he claimed, at the annual American Jewish Committee global forum in Washington, adding “Leaders will take both steps only if their people push them to.”
Kerry’s question is a good one, and one that many a philosemite may ponder while considering their response to his request.
In truth, the first thing that has changed is that John Kerry is now Secretary of State. As the newly appointed bishop of what former State Department official Aaron David Miller called ‘The False Religion of Mideast Peace’ Kerry is eager to make his mark. Like all who preceded him, he wishes to cement his historic legacy by untying the Arab-Israeli Gordian Knot. How this plays to the interests of either party is anybody’s guess.
The second thing that has thankfully changed is that more Israelis than ever understand, as a result of a succession of unpleasant experiences, that giving away any more land is not likely to ever be a good idea. This does explain why Kerry thinks American Jews are so important to this process. Because Israeli Jews, who will actually bear the brunt of any decisions made, are not so interested in what he has to say.
The third thing that is different now is that anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiment is on the creeping rise. In Europe specifically, the Arab narrative holds increasing sway, as wasacknowledged by British Foreign Secretary William Hague during his recent trip to Israel. The Arab world, including states such as Turkey, Egypt and Lebanon, is falling under the growing influence of Islamist radicals who make no bones about their desire to do away with Israel.
I believe that this is what Kerry was referring to when he said that Israel was “running out of time.”
Israel “may not get another chance at peace” Kerry added, according to the Times of Israel, warning that the current Palestinian Authority leadership won’t be around forever, especially if the West Bank economy “implodes or if the Palestinian security force fails.”
“What would replace them?” he asked, presumably referring the real possibility that Hamas may oust the PA at any given moment. “The status quo is simply not sustainable. A stalemate today will not remain so tomorrow…Are we prepared to live with permanent conflict?”
“Quick,” Kerry appears to be saying, “give them what they want, lest they take it by force.”
Of course Kerry’s suggestion is ridiculous because the only thing worse than the Palestinian Authority being “replaced” now, is the Palestinian Authority being replaced after having wrangled more land from the Jews.
Surely the Secretary of State isn’t asking American Jews to encourage Israelis to agree to talking to the Palestinian Authority. Prime Minister Netanyahu has seized practically every opportunity in recent memory to profess his willingness to unconditionally engage in talks with the PA.
The bottle-necking is in the domain of PA President Abbas, who according to Israeli daily Israel Hayom told Kerry this week that “Israel must halt settlement construction and release Palestinian prisoners before peace negotiations can be renewed.”
Is Kerry asking American Jews to pressure their Israeli counterparts to respond positively to Abbas’s outrageous demands? The last time Israel wandered down that path, with the settlement freeze of 2009, the Jewish state was met with yet more recalcitrance from Abbas.
In truth the onus is on Abbas, and in that regard, to paraphrase, “No one has a weaker voice in this than the American Jewish community.”
The real question to be asked here is by American Jewry to John Kerry. Ma nishtana, why are you any different from all those who instinctively hold the Jews responsible for everything that is wrong in the Middle East.