Kerry responded, sighing, that everything looks failed when it is half done. The Israeli-Palestinian talks, he said, were thrown into crisis because of Israel’s refusal to release a last batch of Palestinian prisoners, prompting President Abbas to apply for membership in fifteen United Nations agencies and conventions, to which Israeli Housing Minister Uri Ariel responded by announcing seven hundred and eight new apartment units in East Jerusalem—at which point, poof, negotiations collapsed. Neither party had been constructive, yet both continued to ask for intercession. Kerry told McCain, “You declare it dead but the Israelis and the Palestinians don’t declare it dead.” McCain had his opening: “It’s stopped. It is stopped. Recognize reality.”
McCain knows that, whether or not the talks actually end, there is never a political penalty for claiming that an international crisis is the result of Democrats not showing sufficient strength—a proposition that can never be falsified. Still, you have to wonder if McCain is right to ask if Kerry and his President have the will to follow through, by which I mean in the only way that can succeed: by offering an American plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace and rallying the world to it, while challenging, or even shattering, Netanyahu’s fragile coalition.
Kerry has “gone as far as he can as mediator,” a senior American official said last week. Precisely. The question is whether he’ll move the parties to something like binding arbitration, stop speaking about psychological breakthrough, and start implementing American policy—more Dr. Kissinger, less Dr. Phil.
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