There were those who thought the end of the debate on the Iran nuclear deal would lead to a rapprochement between the Obama administration and Israel. But the U.S. reaction to the current surge in Palestinian terrorism makes it clear that anyone who thought Washington wanted to put the bad feelings over Iran behind it was dreaming. Far from seeking to stand behind Israel at a time when murderers are stalking Jews on the streets of Jerusalem, the administration’s message is unmistakable. They’re not blaming the Palestinian leadership for inciting religiously inspired violence or spreading lies about the Temple Mount. But that doesn’t mean no one is to blame. When asked about the crisis, Secretary of State John Kerry didn’t hesitate yesterday to say that Israelis had it coming.
Speaking yesterday in Boston, Kerry said the reason for the Palestinian killing spree was “a massive increase in settlements” in the West Bank. A similar refusal to hold Palestinians accountable for their behavior was heard yesterday at the daily State Department press briefing. When asked why the U.S. continues to issue even-handed statements about Palestinian incitement and terrorism, spokesman Mark Toner refused to budge. As far as the U.S. was concerned, Toner said there was no need to single out the Palestinian leadership for their role in fomenting violence. Indeed, when asked what the Israelis should do more of, Toner said they should “uphold the status quo” on the Temple Mount.
This is curious. The administration knows the Netanyahu government has been doing just that. It has opposed any effort at changing the Mount and has even strictly enforced rules forbidding Jewish prayer at what is the most sacred spot in Judaism. It also knows that Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas has been inciting hate by spreading lies about Israeli intentions about the Temple Mount and praising terrorists, as well as condemning Israelis for shooting those attempting to kill their citizens. But as far as the U.S. is concerned, “both leaders” need to combat incitement in what Toner termed a “cycle of violence.” Nothing, not even Abbas’s startling rant about keeping “filthy Jewish feet” from desecrating holy sites, was enough to prod Kerry or the White House to condemn him.
Kerry and Toner clearly aren’t listening to what’s being written and said in the Palestinian media or even on social media. There the message is clear. The drive to kill Jews on the streets or wherever they can be found is rooted in a message of religious extremism in which the mosques on the Temple Mount are alleged to be in danger. The current intifada, which Palestinians are calling the “hibat al-Quds” or the “Jerusalem awakening” isn’t about settlements, borders, or a desire for a two-state solution. It’s about faith-based hate.
Why can’t Kerry and the State Department admit what is going on?
It’s obvious. If they were to call out Abbas for incitement and to specifically condemn Palestinian terror that would be an admission that the administration has been wrong all along about both Abbas and the reason why a two-state solution hasn’t happened.
Both President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry have praised Abbas as a courageous man of peace despite his long record of support terror. Moreover, the president came into office convinced that the best way to achieve peace was for the U.S. to distance itself from Israel. Putting pressure on the Israelis to freeze building in the West Bank as well as in Jerusalem was, they thought, the key to persuading both sides to end the conflict.
But it didn’t work. No matter how Obama, and first Hillary Clinton and then John Kerry when he succeeded her at the State Department, worked to tilt the diplomatic playing field in the direction of the Palestinians, they wouldn’t budge.
But that’s hardly surprising. Israel offered the Palestinians peace and a state that would encompass almost all of the West Bank, a share of Jerusalem and Gaza in 2000, 2001, and 2008, only to be turned down each time. Even the supposed hard-liner Netanyahu signaled his willingness to give up the West Bank in 2010 and agreed to a settlement freeze, but that didn’t entice Abbas to make peace either. No matter how many times the U.S. hammers Israel, neither Abbas nor his Hamas rivals have shown the slightest willingness to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders would be drawn.
Nor is the obsession with settlements a credible excuse for the failure of the talks. Though Kerry speaks as if new towns are being built on expropriated Palestinian land, the “massive increase” merely consists of new homes built in existing settlements. Moreover, almost all of the new housing is in places that even the administration understands would wind up inside Israel in the event of a peace deal. Building there won’t affect the outcome one bit.
But calling out the Palestinians for their lies about Jerusalem and intolerance would force the U.S. to come face to face with the real reason why Abbas has never found the will to sign a peace deal even when everything he supposedly wants was handed to him on a silver platter. What the new intifada shows us is the same thing that the last one indicated, if anyone in Washington was really listening. If the Palestinians wanted a two-state solution, they could have had one a long time ago since the Israelis have been ready to do such a deal for the last generation. Instead, they have stuck to their refusal because their identity is still inextricably tied to a century-long war on Zionism that refuses to accept Israel on any terms.
This intolerance is rooted in a belief that a war on Jewish infidels is a religious obligation. Any talk about settlements and borders is irrelevant to that cause.
Yet instead of facing reality, Obama and Kerry continue to prefer their fantasy world in which enough pressure on Israel is the real problem in the Middle East. Their hatred of Netanyahu is still greater than any revulsion over the spilling of Jewish blood. But what they don’t understand is that America’s non-judgmental attitude toward Palestinian terror is only encouraging Abbas to keep inciting it. Which means that, along with Abbas, a lot of the blame for the current bloodshed belongs to Obama and Kerry. The only cycle here is one of American denial of the truth. Until the world starts calling out the Palestinians for their atrocities and ceases blaming the Israeli victims, the pattern will continue.