Kerry’s No Alien or Schlemiel. Israel Is the Side That Must Adjust

Our army knows what it’s doing; let’s hope our leaders do too and relaunch peace talks when the Gaza fighting ends.

Yoel Marcus
Yoel Marcus
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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, July 23, 2014.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, July 23, 2014.Credit: Reuters
Yoel Marcus
Yoel Marcus

Obama: I insist that Israel agree to an immediate unilateral cease-fire and halt all offensive operations — particularly air strikes. Netanyahu: What will Israel get in return? Obama: I believe that Hamas will stop firing rockets — quiet will be met with quiet. Netanyahu: Hamas has violated all five cease-fires. It’s a terror group committed to our destruction.

Obama: I repeat, I expect Israel to unilaterally stop all military operations. The pictures of destruction in Gaza place a gap between the world and Israel’s position. Netanyahu: Kerry’s proposal was completely unrealistic and gives Hamas the military and diplomatic advantage. Obama: The ball is in Israel’s court — it is obligated to end all military operations.

This exchange, which allegedly took place over the phone Sunday between U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was first reported by Channel 1. Both sides, in an identical response, said this version of events bore no resemblance to reality.

But whether the exchange occurred or not, and even if not every word is accurate, it’s the tone that makes the music. The ugly atmosphere that has developed between the two leaders is one of Hamas’ strategic achievements. The intrigues sowed by Netanyahu when he incited Congress against Obama’s reelection in 2012 have sprouted, resulting in the president’s current attitude.

Presidents are people, too, and their egos forget nothing. Veterans of the Camp David Accords will recall that during one of the toughest moments of those talks, when Prime Minister Menachem Begin threatened to bolt and go home, Jimmy Carter warned him that if he broke up the negotiations, Carter would blame him, “And you won’t have Dimona, either.”

Israel in these trying times is living with zero diplomacy, a right-wing, unrestrained foreign minister, and a government with a radical tone that doesn’t display a speck of creativity as far as pursuing a peace agreement is concerned. From this political environment sprang Israel’s movement to neutralize John Kerry, for fear the U.S. secretary of state might succeed in his peace mission.

He doesn’t understand military things, they said about him; he never served in the military. This is a total blood libel. Not only did Kerry serve in the U.S. Navy, he was discharged with a host of medals.

The noble Kerry was offended and skipped town. But he’s loyal to his president and his president’s interests, so he has returned. He’s not a wizard like Henry Kissinger was, but he’s not an alien or a schlemiel, as some people portray him. He understands why we’ve pounced on Hamas, but he also understands that the United States can’t stand idly by in the face of the heavy suffering of Gaza’s civilians.

On the other hand, he wants to exploit these events to try to strengthen President Mahmoud Abbas as the leader of all Palestinians. Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi offered to mediate, and we merrily began humming the tune “Sissi v’simhu,” like in that Simhat Torah song.

It behooves us to remember that Obama in office has consistently worried about Israel’s security. Financial support for Israel has increased. The Americans are funding the Iron Dome, Magic Wand and Arrow missile defense systems, and all this on top of the weapons stores the United States maintains in Israel, which has permission to access them if necessary. Under Obama there hasn’t been a single condemnation of Israel by the United Nations. But that doesn’t mean we have a blank check.

Did Israel err in going to war? No. Did it expect the current results? Not for certain. Global support for Israel is eroding. The British are accusing us of war crimes, and even the Germans have had enough.

It’s hard to ignore the images of the destruction in Gaza – of collapsed houses and whole families, including children and the elderly, wandering among the ruins. The adults among us remember the first Lebanon war, which Begin declared “among the most justified of Israel’s wars.” Well, it took years to recover from that blow.

A wonderful generation has sprung up here; we have young people who understand what they’re fighting for and an army that knows what it’s doing. It’s vital that our leaders also know what they’re doing, where they’re headed and whether after Gaza they’ll be partners in restarting the peace talks. Above all, it’s very important to restore the intimacy to our relationship with America.

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