Good Riddance to John Kerry’s Middle East Peace Talks

The U.S.-mediated peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians ended today after Mahmoud Abbas, the Fatah leader and Palestinian president, announced an alliance last week with Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Hamas is the Palestinian group which controls Gaza and has been designated a terrorist organization by Israel and the United States, and the European Union. Islamic Jihad is a terrorist organization backed by Iran.

Israel’s decision to end the talks was long overdue. Like several prior U.S. administrations, the Obama administration has tried to bring about a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. However, the peace process begun by Secretary of State John Kerry last year differs from past U.S. efforts due to an inexplicable anti-Israel bias.

The latest example of this was Kerry’s statement on Friday that Israel could become an apartheid nation if it did not reach a peace deal to create a separate Palestinian state.

On Fox News yesterday, Charles Krauthammer called Secretary of State John Kerry’s comment “pernicious, extremely harmful,” and a “resigning-type statement.”

This is not the first time Obama officials have made such statements. Just as troubling have been statements by President Obama and Secretary Kerry that boycotts of Israel by some Western groups and universities could increase if Israeli officials did not make compromises to prevent the peace process from collapsing. Israeli officials were rightly outraged over these comments and regarded them as threats. While Kerry later backtracked, these statements had the effect of convincing the Palestinian leadership to believe it had the advantage in the U.S.-mediated talks.

Obama officials have also dismissed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand that the Palestinian leadership recognize Israel as a Jewish state even though the late Yasser Arafat acknowledged this several times. For example, on March 10, Jen Psaki, an Obama insider who is the State Department’s lead spokeswoman, said there was no need for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state as part of a final peace agreement.

Center for Security Policy Adjunct Fellow Caroline Glick wrote in the Jerusalem Post on April 24 that the lopsided U.S. approach to the peace process emboldened Palestinian President Abbas to strike a unity deal with Hamas and Islamic Jihad – both of which she refers to as terrorist war criminals – “because he is utterly convinced that neither the U.S. nor the European Union will hold him accountable for his actions. He is completely certain that neither the Americans nor the Europeans are serious about their professed commitments to upholding international law.”

Simply put, Abbas believes he can ally with terrorist groups that refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist without suffering any consequences from the West. Glick agrees, noting that State Department spokeswoman Psaki tried to downplay this development by stating at a press conference last week, “I think the ball, at this point, is in the Palestinians’ court to answer questions to whether this reconciliation meets the US’s long-standing principles.”

Abbas’ decision to ally with Hamas and Islamic Jihad when peace talks were on the brink of collapse required a strong and principled condemnation from the United States, not this remark which Glick astutely described as idiotic.

More idiotic was Secretary Kerry’s anti-Israel apartheid remark in the wake of Abbas’ decision.

Negotiating a diplomatic settlement between Israel and the Palestinians is a difficult task that the best U.S. diplomats would find hard to achieve due to the increasing influence of radical Islam in the region, the weak Palestinian leadership, its refusal to negotiate in good faith and deep suspicion of a peace process with the Palestinians by many Israelis.

A future peace agreement will require Israel to make painful compromises. To make such compromises Israel will need to trust Palestinian leaders and the mediator. At this time, Israel cannot trust either party.

Like its incompetent foreign policy concerning Syria, Egypt, Iran, Russia, Ukraine, China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and other countries and regions, the Obama administration has bungled the Middle East peace talks with stunningly naïve policies that have undermined America’s credibility and benefited our adversaries. The Fatah-Hamas-Islamic Jihad unity agreement will put an end to the farce that was the Kerry peace talks and force the Obama administration to face up to the reality that getting a peace agreement will require strong pressure on Palestinian officials, carrying out consequences for their actions, and working with Israel as our close ally instead of publicly rebuking it as the primary obstacle to a settlement.

About Fred Fleitz

Fred Fleitz is President and CEO of the Center for Security Policy. He recently served as a Deputy Assistant to President Trump and Chief of Staff to National Security Adviser John Bolton. He previously worked in national security positions for 25 years with CIA, DIA, the Department of State and the House Intelligence Committee staff. Read his complete bio here. Follow Fleitz on Twitter @fredfleitz.