U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sounds frustrated and exhausted. No wonder. He has shuttled time and again to the Middle East to meet a self-imposed late April deadline for a “framework” that could lead to an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
But the talks are on the verge of collapse. Let them.
“There are limits to the amount of time and effort that the United States can spend if the parties themselves are unwilling to take constructive steps in order to be able to move forward,” Kerry told reporters last week. We’re at those limits.
Kerry’s warning came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu balked at releasing Palestinian prisoners because, he said, the Palestinians hadn’t agreed to extend the negotiation deadline past the end of this month.
And after the Palestinians moved to join 15 international conventions and agreements, defying Israel and the United States.
And after the United States foolishly floated the possibility of releasing convicted spy Jonathan Pollard in a transparently desperate bid to keep the Israelis at the table.
Last week, Kerry said the peace process needs a “reality check.” We’d say it also needs the United States to substitute tough love for denial of the obvious. What would happen if Kerry told the Israelis and Palestinians, Call us when you’re ready to make the serious compromises necessary for a deal. Otherwise, we have pressing issues elsewhere in the world.
Secretary Kerry, let’s say exactly that.
Everyone knows the broad outlines of a deal — the necessary land swaps and security arrangements. And everyone knows the formidable obstacles. The Palestinians have failed to unite behind a single political banner, with Fatah and Hamas jockeying for advantage. Hamas terrorists rule Gaza and could veto a peace deal with violence.
The United States may find a way to hold the parties at the table beyond the latest deadline. But that just means another deadline will arise ... likely to be broken. The United States can’t broker a peace deal absent strong motivation from both sides to surmount formidable, historic hurdles.
The United States has devoted enough energy to trying, at least for now. Whether it’s a quest for peace in the region, or for history’s warm smile, or for ultimate credibility as diplomats, American presidents and secretaries of state have been mesmerized, and ultimately disappointed, reaching for this elusive goal. Time to step back.