The rift between the Obama and Netanyahu administrations is no secret. According to the article, “American officials speak of Netanyahu as myopic, entitled, untrustworthy, routinely disrespectful toward the President, and focused solely on short-term political tactics to keep his right-wing constituency in line.”
According to State Department aides, the “sources of Kerry’s exasperation with Netanyahu range from the injustice of settlement building in the West Bank to the way he employs Yitzhak Molcho, his lawyer and confidant, to stifle even the most inconsequential negotiation.”
In the eyes of Obama’s staff, “Netanyahu seems not to care if he insults the Administration.” The article cites several examples of Israeli officials’ “insulting” behavior, including the controversial speech against the Iran nuclear deal which Netanyahu gave to Congress without the White House’s permission.
Kerry brokered the deal, which Israelis viewed as a dangerously misguided concession that will increase the likelihood of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons.
The article describes Kerry’s failed 2014 attempt at pushing Israeli-Palestinian peace as “nine months of fruitless, chaotic, and, arguably, corrosive negotiations” that “almost no one, not even the President, believed would lead to a breakthrough.”
The experience left the Secretary of State “badly disillusioned” that a solution could be reached, at least under Netanyahu’s brand of government.
Now, Kerry fears that Israel is on the path to becoming a “unitary state that is an impossible entity to manage.” He is also afraid that “the Palestinian Authority could collapse; that, in the event, the P.A.’s thirty thousand security officers would scatter; and that chaos and increasingly violent clashes with Israel would follow.”
He believes that making a peace agreement with the PA (ostensibly agreeing to a two-state solution, though this is not specified in the article) would solve all of the region’s problems, making vague promises that “it would be good for Israel; it’d be great for the Palestinians; it’d be great for the region. People would make so much money. There’d be so many jobs created.”
The alternative, which is what he sees as currently happening in Israel, is that “you sit there and things just get worse.”
Kerry predicted, “There will be more Hezbollah. There will be more rockets. And they’ll all be pointed in one direction. And there will be more people on the border. And what happens then?”
He continued, “You’re going to be one big fortress? I mean, that’s not a way to live.”
The real problem, he said, is that the Israeli government doesn’t have a clear vision of what kind of state it wants to be, lacking “a theory of how you are going to preserve the Jewish state and be a democracy and a beacon to the world that everybody envisioned when Israel was created.”
Kerry expressed doubts that Israel would be able to maintain its character in the future, asking, “Will it be a democracy? Will it be a Jewish state? Or will it be a unitary state with two systems, or some draconian treatment of Palestinians, because to let them vote would be to dilute the Jewish state? I don’t know. I have no answer to that. But the problem is, neither do they.”
The secretary believes that Israel is “pretending” that its current policies will be effective, saying, “It is not an answer to simply continue to build in the West Bank and to destroy the homes of the other folks you’re trying to make peace with and pretend that that’s a solution.”
He also revealed for the first time that in 2010, Obama send Kerry to meet with Bashar Assad in hopes of making peace between Syria and Israel. Assad’s condition for peace was the return of the Golan Heights to Syria. In exchange, Kerry demanded that Syria would halt the transit of arms through its borders to terror groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.
Kerry claimed to have a signed letter from Assad “proposing a structure by which he was willing to recognize Israel, have an embassy there, make peace, deal with the Golan, et cetera.”
He blamed Netanyahu for refusing to consider the deal, saying that when the Israeli leader was told of the discussion, “one of the first things out of his mouth in the Oval Office was ‘I can’t do this. I’m not going to—I just can’t.’ ”
This may not be surprising to Israelis, for most of whom a return of the Golan Heights, which has been a part of Israel since 1967, is unthinkable, but for the Obama administration, it was yet another example of Netanyahu’s bullheadedness.
The article also touched on many other of Kerry’s achievements and failures during his tenure as Secretary of State, which has seen enormous upheaval in the Middle East region. Certainly, his work with Israel will not make it onto his list of successes.