The Israeli media reported Sunday that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will be pried free from his yacht to return to the Middle East this week to try, yet again, to convince Israel and the Palestinians to negotiate. In practice, that means trying to convince the Israelis to offer dangerous concessions, since the Palestinians have been concluded since Obama took office in 2009 that they are under no real pressure to come to the table.
The Daily Caller reports that experts find Kerry’s focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “baffling” at a time when Egypt is in the throes of a military coup, Syria is mired in civil war, Turkey is facing massive protests and Iran is moving rapidly toward becoming a nuclear power. But they are asking the wrong question. Kerry serves Obama’s agenda, and so the real question must be why the president is expending so much energy on the issue.
Obama’s trip to Israel in March may have reassured Israelis, and pro-Israel Americans, that he does not hate the Jewish state–once an open question given his radical past, his record in office, and his appointment of critics of Israel such as Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. Yet Obama’s outreach did not mean that the issue became any less important to him, even after he failed, in his first administration, to push the sides any closer together.
Indeed, Hagel’s appointment was only the first of several that indicated Obama intends to keep the pressure on Israel, regardless of circumstances. Hagel was long a proponent of “linkage”–the idea that the Israel-Palestinian conflict is the root of U.S. difficulties in the Middle East. His confirmation was followed by the nomination of Samantha Power, an advocate of outside intervention in the conflict, as UN Ambassador.
The president made clear in March that he sees the issue as one of fairness. It is not “fair” that Palestinians do not have a state, he told Israeli students–never mind that both sides had an equal opportunity to establish and build their countries, and that Palestinians and the Arab world generally chose to destroy Israel rather than to help Palestine. Evidently Obama wishes to redistribute Israel’s success–hence skipper Kerry’s intense efforts.
More than a mistake, Kerry’s mission represents Obama’s strategic choice to diminish the U.S. as a world power. As Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick observed: “The image of Kerry extolling his success in ‘narrowing the gaps’ between Israel and the Palestinians before he boarded his airplane at Ben-Gurion Airport, as millions assembled to bring down the government of Egypt, is the image of a small, irrelevant America.”