By Moshe Phillips
President Obama’s decision to nominate Senator John Kerry as his next Secretary of State will prove to be a disaster for Israel.
The choice of the American Jewish establishment to vehemently protest the expected nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel while granting Kerry a free pass for his anti-Israel behavior follows their longtime pattern. Hagel is a Republican who has a history of marking foolish remarks regarding Israel and has long been seen as an independent thinker on Middle East policy with a non-interventionist outlook.
Kerry, however, is the much bigger problem for Israel.
Hagel as SecDef will be tasked with handling military issues. Kerry will be in a position to effect policy as it impacts Israel, set an overall tone for US in the Middle East and be a key player in future negotations.
When it comes to criticizing Democrats who are hostile to Israel the Jewish elites have a history of weakness. From Jesse Jackson to Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama Democrats are treated with kid gloves and given the benefit of the doubt while pro-Israel Republicans are never given their due praise.
When Kerry ran for president he was vetted by the so-called pro-Israel community in the U.S. and little was made of his attitudes toward Israel because he had, for the most part, steered clear of controversy.
Kerry’s record since his presidential campaign tells a different tale. It was clear Kerry would not run for president again and his policy shift on Israel was ignored. What’s worse is Kerry’s attitudes on Israel are still being ignored by the pro-Israel community.
Even Kerry’s failure to sign the December 20, 2012 letter in support of continuing sanctions against Iran has not been a matter of concern for pro-Israel activists. [See http://www.adl.org/PresRele/Mise_00/6462_00.htm] And this even though 73 of Kerry’s fellow senators signed the letter. [See http://www.jta.org/news/article/2012/12/21/3115146/73-senators-sign-aipac-backed-letter-urging-continued-iran-restrictions]
Kerry’s Israel problem goes back much farther than his troubling attitude towards Iranian sanctions.
When Kerry decided to take over for former President Jimmy Carter as the front man for Democratic criticism of Israel he enlisted the U.S.’s first Muslim member of Congress for help.
Kerry was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when he stated on March 04, 2009 at a Brookings Institute address:
“nothing will do more to make clear our seriousness about turning the page than demonstrating – with actions rather than words – that we are serious about Israel freezing settlement activity in the West Bank For decades American presidents, Democrat and Republican alike, have opposed new settlement activity and recognized that the settlements are an obstacle to peace.. ” [See http://www.brookings.edu/events/2009/0304_leadership.aspx]
It should be apparent that when it comes to pressuring Israel on Israeli settlements John Kerry plans to pick up at Foggy Bottom where James Baker left off.
Kerry’s idea that the settlements are the main problem echoes the rhetoric of Yasser Arafat’s successors Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad. In his March 2009 remarks Kerry even adopted the Arab view that Jerusalem is one of “the big three issues.” Jerusalem is no issue – it is Israel’s capital.
The view that Israel and the Palestinian Arabs equally share blame for the continuation of a decades old conflict is just another part of Kerry’s troubling perspective.
While Kerry was on his February 2009 junket to the Middle East it was no mere coincidence that Rep. Keith Ellison was in Gaza at the same time. This was a coordinated effort by senior Democrats to demonstrate to Israel’s government that the pro-Israel attitude of the Bush Cheney years were over.
The Forward reported on April 10, 2009 that “…he (Ellison) presented the findings of his February 19 trip to Gaza at a Capitol Hill event sponsored by the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee.
The second-term congressman did not mince words when describing the hardship that Gaza residents are facing in the aftermath of the Israeli attack, or in addressing Israel directly on what actions ought to be taken to ease the suffering. “I come here with one message only,” he told the audience: “Open up the crossings, open up the crossings, open up the crossings.” Later in his speech, Ellison once again chose the triple-repetition technique when calling on Israel to “stop, stop, stop the settlement expansion.”
Kerry provided Ellison with the cover he needed for his verbal onslaught against Israeli settlements.
At the Democratic Convention in 2012 Kerry ignored the decision of his party leadership to remove Jerusalem from their platform and instead opened his podium speech by attacking Romney for his “neo-con advisors” and then proceeded to quote Benjamin Netanyahu out of context. [See http://www.politifact.com/florida/statements/2012/sep/13/john-kerry/john-kerry-says-netanyahu-praised-us-israel-relati/ and for the full speech see http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/video/john-kerry-full-speech-dnc-17178260.
We all know what Kerry meant when he said “neo-cons” – it is code speak for pro-Zionists. Kerry’s words show that he will be hostile to the very existence of Israeli towns in the suburbs of Jerusalem. Democrats consider these “settlements” to be part of the “Occupied West Bank” and he will label them as such.
John Kerry’s leadership at State will be the beginning of a new effort by the Obama Administration to pressure Israel to surrender territory to the Palestinian Authority, deny Israel’s sovereignty in Jerusalem, negotiate with Hamas and accept a hostile Palestinian State along its vulnerable borders.
Israel and its American supporters are in for a very tough time with Kerry and they seem to have no idea.
Moshe Phillips is the president of the Philadelphia Chapter of Americans For a Safe Israel / AFSI.