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November 10, 2013 11:40 am

John Kerry’s Special Brand of Public Diplomacy

avatar by Arik Elman

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, and Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat. Photo: State Department.

Here’s a new tactic to get your apprehensive and sometimes paranoid ally to support your outreach to his mortal enemy: bully him and his people on national television in their country! That’s what U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry did during his recent trip to Israel to shore up the “promising” peace talks.

The tactic chosen by Kerry was quite in line with the general behavior of the administration he represents. Not quite having made peace with the fact that Binyamin Netanyahu is an Israeli leader chosen by its people, Obama and his cohorts have tried time and again to upstage him. During his historic visit to Israel in March, Obama first  pressured Netanyahu to make an unwarranted apology to Obama’s true pal in the region – Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan – and then tried to incite a hand-picked audience at the Jerusalem Convention Center to rebel against their government and demand “peace” – as if Netanyahu has hidden it in the drawer of his desk and is refusing to share.

But up until this point, Obama’s efforts to undermine Netanyahu have failed. Netanyahu has managed to compel both Obama and the Palestinians to return to negotiations on Israeli terms – no building freeze beyond the “Green Line” and no mention of the “1967 borders.” The Israeli Prime Minister was so confident in his victory that he agreed to the painful gesture of freeing another batch of Palestinian war criminals so that Mahmoud Abbas could save face.

Since both sides recognize that there’s a better chance for a snowball to survive in Hell than for them to reach any accommodation on the core issues of the conflict, and since the Palestinians are the one party that can never be blamed for stalling the negotiations, Obama has created an artificial crisis. Obviously, the Palestinians knew that Israel was going to keep expanding settlements, and making an issue of this literally in the middle of a party honoring the “glorious fighters” who spent decades in jail for killing Jewish civilians is not just bad faith, but a breathtaking Chutzpah. Nevertheless, for a great diplomat like John Kerry, this was a golden opportunity to make his own mark on the psyche of the Israeli public.

And boy, what a mark he made. Using hostile body language and making grimaces that visibly astonished his Israeli interviewer, Udi Segal, Kerry took upon himself the mantle of a Palestinian spokesman, denouncing settlements and threatening Israel with violence and isolation. Kerry’s message went through loud and clear – unless Israel accepts all Palestinian territorial demands, it will be blamed by the United States for the failure of the negotiations, and the indiscriminate use of violence by Palestinians will be viewed by Washington as a completely legitimate response.

Kerry didn’t offer a word of censure against the glorification of terrorists by Palestinian officials from Abbas down, or the cult of anti-Semitism and “martyrdom” that is enshrined in the official Palestinian education system. Perhaps Kerry’s most astonishing comment came when he attacked the Israeli decision to build new homes in Jerusalem. “If you say you want peace in Palestine and all Palestine belongs to the people who live there, how can you build in a place that eventually will be Palestine? It sends a message that you aren’t serious,” proclaimed Kerry, blissfully unaware that he just stated several Palestinian positions as his own, namely: 1) there’s such a thing as “Palestine” and it belongs only to Arabs; 2) Jerusalem is part of this “Palestine;” and 3) Jews are not people.

If such an overbearing and hostile performance was intended, it proved beyond any doubt that Kerry has absolutely no idea what kind of audience he was trying to bully. Israelis want peace, like America, and distrust Netanyahu – that’s true – but they don’t care to be browbeaten by a representative of an Administration which supported Islamists in Egypt, Libya, and Turkey, that caved on Syria, and that is about to cave on Iran. Moreover – they know that they owe their security not to the Palestinian “non-violent” leadership, but to the efforts of Israeli army and intelligence officers, who continuously disrupt attempts to rebuild the infrastructure of Palestinian terrorism that was destroyed after 2002.

To judge by their reactions on Facebook, most Israelis, regardless of their political preferences, went to bed on Thursday wishing to slap John Kerry in the face. Prime Minister Netanyahu saw the same interview and gauged the reactions of his voters. Friday morning, he responded by rejecting Kerry and Obama’s pending deal with Iran. Netanyahu threw the gauntlet in Kerry’s face, and did it with the full approval of his people, still smarting from Thursday’s bullying session.

In addition, since Kerry took special care to imply that Netanyahu is a liar for stating that Palestinians agreed to be quiet on settlements in exchange for the release of terrorists, the Secretary of State has completely lost trust with the Israeli Prime Minister. This should do wonders for American-Israeli cooperation on those two issues that President Obama cherishes so much – Iranian nukes and a Palestinian state. Stay tuned.

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  • Fred

    I always thought that USA Administration of to day would not hesitate to betray Israel. Last world war proved that the promises of “friendly “countries of firm friendship was no barrier to betrayal.

  • Mel

    While not necessarily subscribing to them, it is likely Ben Nitay (Bibi’s U.S. identity in his student days) was exposed in some form to Kantian Ethics. It is unlikely Hillary Clinton, Chuck Hagel, John Kerry, John McCain, Barack Obama, Harry Reid and many of their fellow Washington lawmakers ever advanced beyond Kuntian Ethics.

  • Can we all agree that our war of choice against Iraq was
    a disaster predicated on a deception.
    Can we also accept that those most responsible for that disaster were our own Senators Joe Lieberman and Chuck Schumer and many other our congressmen that were Likud/
    AIPAC champions. Of course there were the many neocons inside and outside the Bush administration such as Paul Wolfowitz, Lewis Libbey, Doug Feith. Bill Kristol, Eliott Abrams, Richard Perle, and John Bolton, to give credit where credit is due. There was no need for Israel to make a strong outward display of their support of the war, especially after the lie of the “smoking gun” and that the war was going so badly.

    Now, unbelievably, the same neocons and our congressional Likud boosters are working desperately to push us into a war with Iran that could easily bring on World War III.

    • Michael Garfinkel

      Thanks, MARTY, for illustrating my point.

  • liberti

    American-Jewish voters came out in huge numbers to elect BHO and before that, voted for Kerry (now Secretary of State) in ’04. They knew the foreign policy positions of these men and voted for them anyway. Why? Because Party comes before principle. Now, hit with this jolt of reality in the shameful performance of the U.S. Secr of State (reflecting the president’s position) they find it’s a bitter pill to swallow. Israelis should direct their ire against their brethren in the U.S. who came out in huge numbers to support those who are now trying to destroy Israel.

    • E benAbuya

      “Party comes before principle”
      It’s actually a bit more tangled than that. American Jewish commitment to the Democratic Party is based on its commitment to the the principles of Social Justice so deeply ingrained in our culture.
      It becomes impossible to vote Republican based on their stances regarding equal rights and opportunity, access to affordable health care, an employer’s veto over health options available to women, the deliberate attempts to disenfranchise large swaths of the population through restrictive voter ID laws and outright gerrymandering as well as their union busting, in an attempt to keep working men and women on their knees.
      All that said, their malign ignorance regarding the Arab/Israeli conflict (there is no such thing as Palestine – or as it’s mangled in Arabic “Filastin” – no velar plosive in Arabic – that’s how you know it’s a golem)is beyond outrageous.
      Sadly, this mirrors the trend among Progressives world-wide. The only state in the ME that manifests Progressive values is Israel. And yet they leap into bed with theocrats and fascists and strive to outdo one another to demonize the one place in the ME where those values exist. It defies reason.
      Or perhaps, we are re-learning the ugly truth that antisemitism trumps principle.

    • It is quite true that many U.S. Jews, myself included, voted in 2008 for Obama. It is also true that Netanyahu’s most powerful supporter, I’m talking big money, is Sheldon Adelson who spent much time in Israel with Romney to get U.S. Jews to support Romney. Should this endear Obama to Netanyahu? I shouldn’t think so.

      But there is no question that Netanyahu is willing to negotiate a two state solution, even if it should take another 36 years, while he continues to add housing in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. He knows that Obama has his back in the UN’s Security Council,and after all, what are friends for.

  • Esther Sarah Evans

    Now I’m going to get tough too. If there’s a third intifada, there will be a third Beis HaMikdosh (the third temple), and the whole world will get thumped. If there is no third intifada, it will take a little longer, but in the end the Muslims will also help it happen. Either way, in the end we’ll all pull together.
    HASHEM said it to us the same as those Siamese cats in Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp”, when they sang in far eastern melody, “We are two Siamese if you please; we are two Siamese if you don’t please.”
    If we don’t savvy that, even those of us who may not be Chareidim will learn to shake, rattle and roll…!

  • A concerned citizen

    John Kerry I a woos and loser (as presidential contender and as a person). This 2 faced former Vietnam Vet who later “saw the electric korol aid” light and became a demonstrator, married nicely into Heinz money – and along with the current US administration – has been involved in more treasonous and foolish acts that the make the circus look like Shakespeare.

    Voters – do not forget Benghazi and the Clinton machine – which was the beginning of the decline of the American Empire.

    Sophomoric and lacking any moral compass, these past years and players have done more than any complicit terrorist act.

    Maybe we should set all murderers free and jus hand Iran some of our own nuclear weapons to save them the time.

    Truth is stranger than fiction because fiction makes sense.

    Bye, bye, Miss American Pie. We have seen the enemy and it is us.

  • June Grant

    The Road Map for Peace may be a distant memory, but didn’t one of its first tenets contain the proposition that the Palestinians stop incitement, terrorism, and glorification of jihadism? Well how did that go?

    Obama and Kerry have not learned from the mistakes of history, so apparently are bound to repeat them. Bullying Netanyahu is easy, given that Obama views him as a pain in the ass, but trying to get some semblance of intent for a peaceful solution out of Abbas is an impossible task, given his refusal to recognise Israel in any shape or form, and the entire lack of censure of the PA on the part of the American duo.

  • jon kurowsky

    I can’t really blame Kerry, if you allow yourself to be bullied, it tends to happen more. What did we Jew’s think we’d get for releasing known, convicted murders of our own children? We’ve been pushed and pushed and spoken poorly by Mytsrim, I mean the US, for a while now. How long will we act like a woman in a bad relationship? It’s time to MAN UP and be a strong, united Jewish country, not state, COUNTRY, just like France and the US.

  • Michael Garfinkel

    What I find most disconcerting, as I have indicated in prior posts, is that which has always been implicit -Obama’s hostility and contempt for Israel – has not affected the enormous support he has received from the American Jewish community.

    That hostility has now, in a second term, become explicit, and has become increasingly dangerous.

    Will it make much difference to that community? I doubt it.

    So, the question remains – Never mind the enmity of the Muslim world and the Anti-Semites; can the Jews be saved from themselves?

    • Are those who feel betrayed by Obama are aware that in the first few months in office, Obama had secretly* supplied Israel with 100 bunker buster bombs?

      Is it not ironic that George W. Bush had continue to refuse Israel’s request for these bombs since 2004?

      Had the late Mayor Koch been aware of this he would
      have refrained from his teaching Obama a lesson by helping a Republican take the vacated Wiener’s congressional seat.

      * Disclosed in a cable released by Chelsea Manning.

  • Lef

    The article reflects exactly my feelings – as a Jew in the Diaspora.
    Kerry does and says exactly as he is told to do by his master obama. When will everyone finally understand that obama (and his wife!) have always been on the side of anything muslim and especially arab. obama’s middle name (Hussein) which he loves to use reminds him of who he truly is.
    Once you understand that, you understand all the rest.

    • Monty

      Totally agree with you. obama should not have been born, but now that he’s there, maybe the Mafia should be called in to take care of the situation.