Commentary Magazine


Kerry v. Israel: Why It Gets Personal

The Obama administration is fuming about the anger in Israel about Secretary of State John Kerry’s bumbling efforts to negotiate a cease-fire in Gaza. But while senior U.S. officials are claiming the attacks on Kerry from Israelis across the political spectrum puts the relationship between the two countries in jeopardy, the change in tune today from Kerry in his statements about the goals of negotiations illustrated just how deep is the hole that he has dug for himself and the United States in the current crisis.

After delivering demands to Israel that amounted to an American surrender to Hamas, in a speech delivered this morning Kerry said that “demilitarization” of Gaza was a necessary element of hopes for peace. He’s right about that, but after seeking to hamstring Israeli efforts to halt Hamas rocket fire and to eliminate the tunnel network they use to store their arsenal and to launch cross-border attacks on Israeli targets, the umbrage that administration figures are expressing about the reaction to the secretary’s behavior is unjustified.

The fact that it has become personal between Kerry and Israel does neither country any good and that is why even though the anger in the Jewish state at the secretary was universal, Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., rightly sought to disassociate his government from any personal attacks on Kerry today. But as with previous tiffs in which the administration expressed anger about criticism of the secretary, the focus on defending Kerry’s honor or good intentions is beside the point. Though he continues to pose as the tireless worker for peace that is being unfairly targeted for his even-handed approach, it’s time to realize that Kerry actually deserves a not inconsiderable share of the blame for the situation.

Even if we are to credit Kerry, as Dermer suggests, for his good intentions, the secretary deserves every bit of the opprobrium that has been leveled at him by Israelis from the right to the left.

Kerry’s disastrous intervention in the current fighting demonstrated the utter and complete incoherence of the position that he has carved out for the United States. On the one hand, Kerry has prioritized the effort to create a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But by seeking to save Hamas by granting it concessions in the form of open borders rather than forcing the demilitarization that he belatedly endorsed, Kerry is making such a peace deal impossible.

The depth of the contradictions here are hard to comprehend. On the one hand, following President Obama’s lead, Kerry has praised Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas endlessly as a true partner for peace even though the PA chief has repeatedly turned down chances to negotiate seriously. But by seeking to place constraints on Israeli military actions directed at degrading Hamas’s capability to launch terror attacks, Kerry is actually undermining Abbas. His cease-fire proposal wasn’t so much an insult to Israel as it was to the PA. Though publicly condemning Israeli actions, it’s no secret that Abbas is hoping that the Jewish state will remove his on-again-off-again rival/partner in the Palestinian government from the scene. By endorsing the proposal for a cease-fire that came from Hamas allies Qatar and Turkey, Kerry stabbed Abbas in the back.

But the incompetence didn’t begin with one ill-considered piece of diplomatic ineptitude. It must be understood that nothing that is going on today—including the grievous casualty toll inside Gaza—would have happened had not Kerry single-handedly forced both Abbas and the Israelis into a negotiation that both knew would only lead to disaster. Throughout the nine months during which the secretary orchestrated a new round of peace talks between Israel and the PA, the administration was warned that the problem wasn’t just that the effort couldn’t succeed so long as the Palestinians were divided between Abbas’s Fatah and Hamas. It was that once the failure occurred, it would provide a justification for a new round of violence in the same manner that past such efforts had done. Kerry not only ignored those warnings but raised the stakes by personally speaking about a third intifada happening if the two sides didn’t do as he bid. Those who pointed out that this was a self-fulfilling prophecy were denounced as insufficiently supportive of peace. But the reality is that Kerry not only set the stage for this new outbreak, he more or less gave Hamas a green light to go ahead and start shooting.

The only common threads in Kerry’s diplomatic endeavors have been his enormous self-regard and a clear animus for the Netanyahu government. Either of these foibles would be forgivable if Kerry were focused on actions that would advance a two-state solution. But by pushing for a settlement when Abbas was unable to comply and then disingenuously blaming his failure on Israel, Kerry hurt the PA and set back any chance for peace. Once Hamas escalated the current fighting, he again took his eye off the ball and focused entirely on pushing for a cease-fire that would enhance the Islamists’ prestige and marginalize the Palestinians that he had championed.

Israelis who are forced to seek refuge in bomb shelters from Hamas missiles or await terror attacks from Gaza tunnels may be forgiven for losing patience with Kerry’s self-righteous lectures about casualties and human rights. But the attention given the anger he has generated there ought not to divert us from his record of failure. On Iran, Syria, and Russia, Kerry has done little to advance U.S. interests or to protect human rights. But with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he has done worse than that. Having set the region up for conflict, he is now doing everything possible to ensure that the violence will continue at some point in the future by allowing Hamas to survive and even claim victory. Seen from that perspective, his good intentions and the insults being thrown his way from Israelis are mere footnotes to a historic legacy of failure.

Join the discussion…

Are you a subscriber? Log in to comment »

Not a subscriber? Join the discussion today, subscribe to Commentary »

10 Responses to “Kerry v. Israel: Why It Gets Personal”


    I want to again thank to 80% of my co-religionist who voted for the @ss holes.


    Personel is policy . Once the Republic was served by the likes of Cordell Hull , George Marshall and Dean Acheson . Real professionals . Now we are ill served by arrogant dolts . Today Israel pays the price for this ‘feckless photo op foreign policy ‘ , I fear the day when the bill will be presented to this nation.

    • JONATHAN TAUB says:

      They were real professionals. But they were all vicious anti-Semites. That’s more a function of the culture of State from Hull all the way through Kerry. The only exceptions were Haig and Shultz.


    Ten years ago, Kerry learned that his paternal grandparents were Jewish, and his brother converted to Judaism. Since then Kerry seems to think he has a special understanding of Jews, denied most Christians, and expects a special dollop of affection from Jews for his cuddly Jewishness, which he thinks we all can sense.

    He’s never had any special abilities—he’s always fawned his way to the top, an attitude especially appealing to Obama. I don’t know if there is a grownup in this administration that Kerry and Obama will listen to. Carter had Kissinger. There may not be anyone to save us this time.

    And the Republicans don’t have a Reagan, unless someone is hiding his light under a specially opague bushel.


    As the Community Organizer in Chief knows, the basic principle of community organizing is to get the parties to take ownership of the problem.
    Kerry (and the EU) have broken this cardinal rule with their continual bailing out of Hamas every time they get into trouble whilst carrying out the bidding of their Teheran masters!


    There is a common thread running through Kerry’s conduct. During the Vietnam war, he did precisely the same thing, which was to negotiate with terrorists, undermining both the interests of U.S. allies and the U.S. itself. Kerry’s behavior is as revolting now as it was then, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.

    For more on this, I recommend:

  6. SOL GERSTMAN says:

    It is time to trash every attempt to assuage the “sensibilities” of the Arab/Muslim world and give up on faux Muslim “peace” and a two state solution. The Arab/Muslim umma still follows the Mufti’s 1929 Hebron intifada and on November 28, 1941 signing on to join Hitler’s (ym’s) program to exterminate Jews.


    Absolutely, Beatrice…and American idioms are marvelous and under-used. That’s “opaque bushel[basket]”;
    a bushel basket; hiding his light under a bushel basket. But I could care less; I take it for granite.


    The IDf was made to fight an irresolute war against Hezbollah and the pattern is being repeated. Hamas’s leaders, its subterranean city, its tunnels, its rockets and rocket launchers must be destroyed, and the Philadelphia corridor reoccupied by the IDF. This is Netanyahu’s opportunity, a horrible opportunity, but perhaps, his only opportunity, to put an end to Hamas and an end to Gaza as an Iranian client state. Once rid of Hamas, it’s in the interests of Israel,the Saudi’s, and other Arab states, to fund a Marshall Plan for Gaza. create a technocrat Gazan government, and avoid a political vacuum which could be filled by the ISIL. The Israeli government can then turn it full attention and resources to eliminating the existential threat that Iran poses, for if the Iranians are allowed to develop nuclear
    missiles, mutual assured destruction (MAD) comes into play, nullifying Israel’s weapon of last resort.
    It is doubtful that Israel could survive a consolidated, prolonged, Arab mass attack by air and ground–missiles and troops. The Obama regime is working very hard to make this happen.

  9. TIKI SHAPIRA says:

    When critic is due, critic is given!

    Can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!

    Israeli’s have freedom of speech to!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share This

Share this post with your friends!

Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
for full access to
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
Don't have a log in?
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.