The Conversation

Why Does John Kerry Keep Opening His Mouth?

You have to wonder at the latest John Kerry stuff-up. He's once again offended--and worried--the Israelis by referring to terrible things that might happen to them if they don't cooperate with his peace deal. Last time, it was terrorism. This time, it's boycotts. The State Department clarified that Kerry was just "warning" Israel, not threatening it that the United States would actually support such boycotts. Israeli leaders were not impressed.

They were irritated, and rightfully so, because the fact that Kerry keeps making public speeches and statements about his vision for peace in the Middle East is calculated to pressure Israel, even if his specific "warnings" are not. Furthermore, they see an administration talking out of both sides of its mouth--and meaning neither: the president promising "a Jewish state" as part of a deal, for example, which is not much reflected in his policy.

The conclusion must be partly that the Obama administration really does want to pressure Israel severely, and that at the same time Kerry is "going rogue"--issuing statements off-the-cuff that flatter his own sense of self-importance rather than furthering anyone's foreign policy goals. Recall that the Syrian agreement on chemical weapons was the result of a Kerry gaffe at a press conference. How's that going lately? "Smart power," indeed.


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