Not every international diplomat has both flown an Israeli Air Force jet, and can do a credible impression of the Israeli accent. Speaking to the American Jewish Congress on Monday, John Kerry employed the latter as he related the former: “Senator!” he said, recalling the Israeli co-pilot with whom he had flown, “You’re about to go over Egypt! Turn!”
Furthermore, not every international diplomat would overtly link Golda Meir’s philosophy of nationalism to the very people whose existence she denied. After quoting Meir (“We only want that which is given naturally to all peoples of the world: to be masters of our own fate, not of others”), Kerry said “the best way to truly ensure Israel’s security today… [is]by reaching a negotiated resolution that results in two states for two peoples, each able to fulfill their legitimate national aspirations.”
And finally, not every international diplomat would say flat-out that Israel’s propensity for unilateralism is actually a problem:
Some are wary because of Israel’s experience following the withdrawal of Gaza and Lebanon. You have no idea how many times I hear people say, “We withdrew from Lebanon, we withdrew from Gaza, and what did we get? We got rockets.” Well, folks, it’s worth remembering—these withdrawals were unilateral. They were not part of a negotiated peace treaty that included strong guarantees for Israel’s security. [emphasis Kerry’s]
All in all, the event was a classic Obama Administration affair: Kerry spent the first third of his speech making his audience happy (“I’m so pro-Israel, they gave me the keys to one of the planes!”); the second spoon-feeding them what they already knew (“Palestinians deserve a state too, c’mon”); and the final third telling them what they didn’t want to hear (“unilateralism is terrible”).
Much as they might not have wanted to hear it, though, the entire back-end of Kerry’s AJC speech was something of an ode to the hopelessness of unilateralism: the Secretary went on to note that Israel’s bilateral agreements with Jordan and Egypt have served it well, and that even under the new regime, Egypt is working to maintain the Israel-Gaza ceasefire. Regarding Israel’s unilateral establishment of a border on the West Bank, Kerry said:
The people who think somehow because there is a fence and because there’s been greater security and fewer people hurt are lulling themselves into a delusion that that somehow can be sustained. It cannot be.
And as he approached the finish line, he also said this:
We will always stand up for Israel’s security. But wouldn’t we both be stronger if we had some more company?
It was, honestly, a terrific speech, not least because Kerry was honest about things that folks in the trenches have been begging the U.S. to be honest about for years—but terrific speeches can only do so much. And only if the stakeholders are actually interested.
I don’t know how Obama and Kerry look at the current Israeli government and think there’s any hope of any movement toward even the most basic requirements of any peace deal any time soon, much less in the next couple of weeks. It’s a government controlled by the settler agenda, with several ministries in the hands of actual settlers, and all that “Lead Peace Negotiator”/Justice Minister Tzipi Livni can do is what she’s already doing: be a fig leaf.
But surely Obama and Kerry know this. Neither man is a dim bulb, and neither is unfamiliar with the players. Are they hoping to provoke a governmental crisis? Trying to nudge Israelis (69 percent of whom have said they would support Netanyahu should he change his spots and pursue the Arab Peace Initiative, but who recently voted overwhelmingly for parties that didn’t in any way address the need for a two-state peace) into demanding action? Does the Administration know something we don’t (always a possibility)?
The status quo cannot be sustained. The one-state solution, while it may soon be reality, isn’t so much a solution as a disaster-in-waiting. As Kerry said, “the absence of peace is perpetual conflict.”
I’ve tried and failed to lose all hope for Israel/Palestine more times than I can count. I’ve been in two-state game since the first intifada, and probably should have moved on to Celtic Studies by now. Part of me genuinely thinks that Kerry’s efforts are doomed—but another part isn’t ready to let go.
It was a terrific speech. I’m going to hold out a sliver of hope that a man who knows Israelis well enough to nail the accent might also know them well enough to move the dial.
Because honestly: There’s no way to unilaterally achieve peace.