JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - MAY 23: (ISRAEL OUT) US Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of their meeting on May 23, 2013 in Jerusalem, Israel. This is Kerry's fourth visit to the country in the past two months and British Foreign Secretary William Hague is due to meet him to renew peace talks between Israel and Palestine. (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)
Updated: June 29, 2013 6:09AM
Only a few months in his new job, Secretary of State John Kerry has visited Israel more times than his predecessor, Hillary Clinton, did in four years. Kerry, who was in the Holy Land for the fourth time last week, is determined to try to move the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to serious negotiations. As usual, hopes for success depend not on Israel, ever open to any actual chance of peace, but on the Palestinians and their allies, who never seem to want to turn the page on the Arab and Muslim world’s war against the Jewish state.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took the opportunity of Kerry’s visit to declare that “above all, what we want to do is restart peace talks with the Palestinians.” The secretary of state commended Netanyahu for his “seriousness” in the pursuit of negotiations.
Nothing new here. The record is clear, Israel has always been serious about peace. In 2000 with President Bill Clinton serving as an honest broker, Israel offered the most generous terms for peace only to have Yasser Arafat reject them in favor of a terror war against Israelis. In 2008, similar if not better terms were on the table, but Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas left them there.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said last week that “we are exerting every possible effort in order to see that Mr. Kerry succeeds.” He could have simply said yes to returning to direct talks. A few days earlier, the PA’s official TV rebroadcast a video rejecting “truces” and “compromise,” reports Palestinian Media Watch. And Erekat continues to slander Israel as an “apartheid” state despite the fact that Palestinians who are citizens of Israel vote and serve in its parliament and supreme court.
Further complicating the issue is that chances of success have always depended on support from the wider Arab and Muslim world. Despite happy talk about an evanescent Saudi peace plan laying in a desk in some royal palace in Riyadh, nothing in the way of actual, concrete, meaningful backing for resolving the conflict has ever surfaced in the region.
The many dictators there have been happy to exploit hatred of Israel as a way to try to deflect their populations from the miserable economic and social conditions in their countries. The uprisings that have swept through the Arab nations have elevated to power the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists implacable in their hostility to the Jewish state.
The civil war in Syria is metastasizing into a Sunni-Shia sectarian conflict that could spread beyond that country’s borders with who-knows-what consequences. Much worry is expressed about the potential for upheaval to reach the one Arab country that passes for moderate in the region: Jordan.
Another nation that once was a voice of reason, caution and moderation is moving ever more recklessly into the anti-Israel orbit — Turkey and its government of Islamist Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. Netanyahu got nothing for, at the behest of President Barack Obama, apologizing for Turkish casualties that occurred when Israeli forces were attacked by militants on a Turkish vessel that was trying to breach Israel’s legal blockade of the Gaza Strip in 2010.
For his good deed for Turkey, Obama got an insult in return when Erdogan, at a joint news conference at the White House, declared he intended to visit Gaza despite U.S. pleas not to. Gaza, of course, is ruled by the terrorist organization Hamas. An Erdogan visit will only inflame passions against Israel.
Kerry and Netanyahu face long odds to restart meaningful peace talks. But they deserve credit for trying.