Secretary of State John Kerry laid out his vision of a Middle East peace deal on Wednesday. Rather than achieve peace between Israel and Palestinians, however, Kerry will be remembered for catalyzing terrorism and setting back the cause of peace for decades, if not permanently. The problems are not only ego and pique, the twisted personal motivations of Kerry and President Obama, but also the false conventional wisdom upon which Kerry and his aides operate.
Here is what they get wrong:
Intransigence: Who is holding up peace? After long and careful negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority brokered by the United States and the broader international community, Israeli leaders offered their Palestinian counterparts peace deals in 2000 and 2008. Both the late Palestinian chairman Yasser Arafat and his successor Mahmoud Abbas rejected the offers and walked away, without offering a counter proposal. When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu froze settlement construction upon Obama's request, Abbas again refused for nine months to even talk to the Israelis.
Diplomacy: The Palestinian Authority was created as a result of the Oslo Accords. By walking away from that agreement, both in terms rejecting terrorism and acting unilaterally, the Palestinian Authority have done away with the foundational document which legalizes their existence. By acquiescing to unilateral Palestinian actions and revising the basis of Palestinian-Israeli peace, Kerry has shown that U.S. diplomacy and commitments can never be trusted.
Law: The West Bank and Jerusalem are technically disputed territories, rather than occupied Palestinian land. That is why the Oslo Accords called for bilateral negotiations. While Kerry talks about the "1967 lines," he means the 1949 Armistice lines. (When complaining about Israeli resorts on the Dead Sea, Kerry appears not to realize the 1949 Armistice lines make Israel littoral to the Dead Sea). This reflects ignorance among diplomats rising to the very top. Kerry is also confused about settlements. If it is illegal to build on disputed land, then all building, be it by Israelis or Palestinians, should be treated similarly. To suggest Jews cannot live in disputed land, as Kerry does, is akin to supporting religious apartheid. Kerry's notion of mutuality when it comes to "natural growth" is bizarre. Israel is a sovereign state. The Palestinians are not.
Demography: Underlying Kerry's argument is that peace is necessary to keep Israel Jewish and democratic. To support this argument, Kerry appears to be relying on a false understanding of Palestinian demography. The numbers he appear to rely on are false: The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics double-counts Arabs in Jerusalem, continues to count emigrants, and regularly adjusts its counts across censuses to confirm to the Palestinian Authority's arguments. Kerry also appears not to recognize that Israel does not occupy the Gaza Strip. And while Kerry is talking Gaza and its plight, remember how much better off it is than so many other places: Turkey, Bosnia, and Brazil, for example.
Context: Neither Obama nor Kerry are students of history. With last week's U.N. Security Council Resolution 2234, Obama and Kerry for the first time have denied Israel's rights to the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site. Kerry appears unaware that Jordan — which occupied the Old City of Jerusalem but whose possession was not internationally recognized — had blown up synagogues and religiously cleansed the city. What Obama and Kerry do is legitimize this.
Motivation for terrorism: Is terrorism caused by the Israel-Palestinian conflict? If so, why did the U.S. intelligence community identify Islamist ideology as motivating terrorism a year before the partition of Palestine and two years before Israel's independence?
U.S. credibility: Everyone can see what a final agreement looks like — both Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush helped negotiated it. Why can't we impose that and just offer guarantees? Here's the problem: It's hard to talk about the ability of any state in the region to trust American security guarantees or red lines given Obama and Kerry's reversal on the Syria chemical weapons red line.
It is deeply ironic that Kerry seeks to make peace between Israel and Arabs when ties have never been better between Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia and the Gulf Cooperation Council states despite the U.S. rather than because of it. What Obama and Kerry have achieved is manna for rejectionists and a huge setback for those who seek to build upon diplomatic precedent. Kerry's ban on settlements, if confirmed by the United Nations, will be the death blow to diplomacy and a guarantee that unilateral actions determine the future of the region. Kerry will have blood on his hands.
Michael Rubin is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Pentagon official.