Out of touch

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks on the phone, before boarding a helicopter to Amman, at Mafraq air base after visiting the Zaatari refugee camp in Mafraq, Jordan, Thursday, July 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Mandel Ngan)

The United States secretary of state, John Kerry, is currently on his sixth visit to the Middle East, and perhaps some were under the impression that the sixth time might be the charm.

Over the last few days, some positive signals began to emerge, laying the groundwork for a bit of optimism that Kerry would manage to achieve something on this trip. At first, there was the news that the Israeli government would resume peace talks, based on the 1967 borders for a future Palestinian state.

But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, through a spokesman, swiftly denied the report.

Meanwhile, Kerry has been busy using the tried-and-failed American tactic of dangling economic incentives in front of the Palestinians, who stress that sovereignty remains the crux of the matter.

Kerry forged ahead and presented his latest plan to Palestinian officials, who have been less than lukewarm about the initiative.

While Israel claims that it is making compromises in the interest of peace, it usually turns out that the Israelis merely scale down by a tiny fraction the level of their illegal measures against the Palestinians, such as travel restrictions, while refusing to consider any change to their blatantly illegal settlements archipelago.

When the European Parliament, for example, mulls the idea of cutting off funding to projects inside Israeli-occupied territory, it is the turn of American officials, such as Kerry, to become involved in contacting the Europeans, as if he is one of those harmed by the step.

In the end, Kerry’s latest sojourn is another example of abject failure by U.S. foreign policy.

The secretary of state even went to the trouble of “arming himself” with the support of the Arab League, in this latest bid to move the moribund peace process forward. Kerry, and the U.S. foreign policy establishment, only demonstrates how out of touch he is with the region when he pursues peacemaking efforts by seeking out the support of the Arab League, which for more than 50 years has been one of the most potent symbols of disappointment and dysfunction, particularly when it comes to the Palestine issue.

Does anyone in Washington actually believe that the U.S. is actually perceived by an honest broker in the Arab-Israeli conflict? Kerry’s latest jaunt through the region has only reinforced the notion that the U.S. remains woefully out of touch with reality, as it supports Tel Aviv on everything of substance.

As a result, the Palestinians have had no qualms rebuffing Kerry and other U.S. diplomats as they recycle the same old, tired initiatives – confidence-building, instead of removing Israeli illegalities, or economic assistance, when the Palestinians suffer from an acute sovereignty deficit.

The Palestinians know that when it comes to the U.S. and Israel, they are dealing with the bad cop-worse cop scenario. This week, they have signaled their lack of interest in allowing Kerry to achieve victories that might help American politicians in Washington, but not Palestinians in their own land.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 19, 2013, on page 7.




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