It's come to this: Even the New York Times criticizes Kerry's focus on Israel and 'Palestinians'criticizing US Secretary of State John Kerry for ignoring much higher priorities in our region and focusing only on Israel and the 'Palestinians.'
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, once a stark symbol and source of grievance in the Arab world, is now almost a sideshow in a Middle East consumed by sectarian strife, economic misery and, in Egypt, a democratically elected leader fighting for legitimacy with many of his people.
“The moment for this kind of diplomacy has passed,” said Robert Blecher, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa Program of the International Crisis Group. “He’s working with actors who have acted in this movie before, and the script is built around the same elements. But the theater is new; the region is a completely different place today.”
Administration officials no longer argue, as they did early in President Obama’s first term, that ending the Israeli occupation and creating a Palestinian state is the key to improving the standing of the United States in the Middle East. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is now just one headache among a multitude.
Even if there were any hope of reaching a deal between Israel and the 'Palestinians' the focus would be misplaced. But there is no hope for even more reasons than ever. First, there is the usual, the most that Israel can offer is far less than the 'Palestinians' will accept. Second, there is another usual issue, which is the fact that Abu Mazen has now been in power for longer as an unelected leader than he was as an elected leader. The third issue is also an old one: the fact that the 'Palestinian Authority' speaks only for the Arabs in Judea and Samaria (the 'West Bank') and not for the population of Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas.And yet Mr. Kerry, backed by Mr. Obama, still believes that tackling the problem is worth the effort: five visits to the region in the last three months. The most recent trip involved nearly 20 hours of talks, stretching almost until dawn, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority.
To this one must add that Abu Mazen cannot count on support from Egypt, and probably cannot count on support from Jordan or Saudi Arabia due to the upheavals in the region. Meanwhile, Israel is thanking God every day that the Assad's said no to a deal 15 years ago, and wonders what the future of 'Palestine' might be if we were ever to cut a deal with Abu Mazen.
Kerry's efforts are a sideshow to what's going on in Egypt and Syria (among others). He's avoiding the real issues in the region in favor of an issue where he thinks he can push one side (Israel) enough to force 'progress.' But even if he were to succeed (God forbid), the odds are that the conflict would resume within a short time. And he's not gaining any prestige for the United States in the region. He's making the US into a laughing stock. He's even being ignored in Israel.
A day after Mr. Kerry concluded 13 hours of talks with Mr. Netanyahu, Israeli newspapers were dominated by images of the vast protests in Egypt. Five of the six five major daily papers did not even carry front-page reports on Mr. Kerry’s diplomacy.
Read the whole thing.