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Kerry returns from Mideast empty-handed

John Kerry
John Kerry
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Secretary of State John Kerry returned from his 10th trip to the Mideast since July 2013 when the White House began its latest search for peace. Hoping to get a blueprint of a final status agreement from Israel and Palestinians, Kerry found out the hard way how different Mideast peacemaking is today from the old days when former President Jimmy Carter coaxed his 1979 Camp David Accords, winning peace treaty with Egypt in return for the Sinai Peninsula. When former President Bill Clinton failed at last ditch peacemaking in Fall of 2000, no one could have imagined Sept. 11 and how it changed Mideast peacemaking under former President George W. Bush. Back in the day, the U.S. would deal with any unsavory character as long as it placated the right parties. Bush’s Doctrine prevented the U.S. government from dealing with terrorists, no matter their political agenda.

When Carter negotiated the Camp David Accords in 1978, Palestinians routinely engaged in terrorism, calling it legitimate resistance. Despite murdering innocent civilians to pressure Israel into concessions, the late Palestine Liberation chief Yasser Arafat would routinely order terrorist attacks as a bargaining chip with Israel. All that stopped when Bush refused to deal with Arafat, knowing his track record of terrorist tactics, including suicide bombings. Watching Palestinians dancing in the streets after Sept. 11 stamped in the importance of Israel as a loyal ally in the war on terror. Against liberal objections, Bush backed Israel strongly in the war on terror, using Israel as its key ally and military base in prosecuting terrorism. Gone were the days when the U.S. would threaten Israel’s foreign aid unless it acquiesced to U.S. demands to placate Palestinians, no matter how unrealistic.

Kerry’s problem pulling off a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians is that the same old formula based on 1972 U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 no longer works. Since Sept. 11, the U.S. cannot accept—or pressure Israel into accepting—the old Saudi Arabia formula of Israel returning all lands seized in the 1967 Six-Day War. Since Clinton’s peacemaking failed, Palestinians have waged two Intifadas or holy wars against Israel, sending waves of suicide bombers, snipers and rocket attacks. “There’s a lot of work that needs to happen., a lot of tough decisions that need to be made,” said an unnamed State Department officials up-in-the-air back to Washington. Kerry hasn’t admitted that the old formula won’t bring an independent Palestinian state. Palestine Authority’s 78-year-old President Mahmoud Abbas insists Israel must leave the Jordan Valley, a strategic buffer zone between the West Bank and Jordan.

After the 1967 Six-Day-War in which Egypt lost the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip, Syria lost the Golan Heights and Jordan lost the West Bank, peace efforts started in 1970 but got nowhere until Carter hosted the 1978 Camp David Accords. When the late Yasser Arafat died Nov. 11, 2004, it was the 40-year-anniversary of the PLO, the organization he founded May 28, 1964. Arafat hoped—and prayed—a carefully planned 1967 War would return Palestinians back to their homeland. When the war failed, fought by Egypt, Jordan Syrian and Iraq, after only six days, Israeli had grabbed Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip, Syria’s Golan Heights and Jordan’s West Bank, all claimed today by Palestinians. Before the 1967 War, Palestinians had no sovereign claim to any land in Egypt, Syria or Jordan. Now split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Palestinians are no longer one people.

U.S. officials continue to negotiate only with the Ramallah-based PLO. Seized in a violent coup by Hamas June 14, 2007, the Gaza Strip is no longer part of any Mideast peacemaking. There’s a good chance that if Abbas bypasses Hamas and cuts a deal with Netanyahu for an independent Palestinian state it could trigger a full-out civil war between the two factions. Kerry found out the hard way over the weekend what happens when Israel’s asked about Palestinians “right-of-return,” a complete non-starter in any peace negotiation, Wheat makes U.S. peacemaking different this time around is that the Obama seeks consensus with U.S. conservatives. Conservatives, like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), won’t support any peace deal that compromises Israel’s national security. Giving Palestinians East Jerusalem or the Jordan Valley won’t get it done.

Kerry must wake up to post-Sept. 11 realities in the Middle East. Nothing can be done to compromise Israeli national security, even where it promises to complete a Mideast peace deal. “The past is becoming clearer, the puzzle is becoming more defined, and it is becoming much more apparent to everybody what the remaining tough decisions are and what the options are with respect to those choices,” said Kerry, realizing that it’s a whole new ballgame. Gone are the days when you can push Israeli around to make dangerous compromises. If Kerry were really being honest, he’d admit that the right-of-return, East Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley are no longer on the table. Now divided between Hamas’ Gaza and Abbas' West Banak, Palestinians have only one viable option for an independent state: Accept the West Bank with Ramallah as its capital or go back to square one.

About the Author

John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.