John Kerry drawing concern for focus on peace process, rather than Middle East upheaval

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Click photo to download. Caption: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at a press conference following their meeting in Ramallah on June 30, 2013. Credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90.

By Alex Traiman/JNS.org

Click photo to download. Caption: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at a press conference following their meeting in Ramallah on June 30, 2013. Credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90.

With his attention focused on a situation that is stable, relative to its
immediate surroundings, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has left many in
Israel wondering if the U.S. has its foreign policy priorities
straight—particularly in the Middle East.

Kerry has visited Israel and the Palestinian territories five times since
he started his new post in February (with the sixth, scheduled for July 11, expected
to be canceled because of his wife’s health) in an effort to restart peace
negotiations.

The recent push comes at a time of tremendous regional instability, with the
ongoing civil war in Syria, anti-Islamist protests in Turkey, and a new
president in Iran, as well as deadly rioting in Egypt following the deposing of
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi—a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

“The fact that the
administration, represented by the Secretary of State, has chosen to be
preoccupied with the Palestinian issue proves that they have ignored a
fundamental principle. If you are smothered by lethal sandstorms, don’t be
pre-occupied with the tumbleweeds,” Amb. Yoram Ettinger, former Minister of
Congressional Affairs in Israel’s Embassy to the U.S., told JNS.org.

“I don’t think this
initiative will yield any positive results,” Ettinger said.

According to Ettinger, the
latest peace push demonstrates that Kerry mistakenly assumes that the
Palestinian issue is a core cause of Middle East turbulence.

“The recent developments on
the Arab Street are totally independent of the Palestinian issue, which has
never been a Middle East pace-setter,” Ettinger said.

“Being pre-occupied with the
Palestinian issue diverts valuable resources and attention away from much more
critical threats to vital American economic and defense interests,” he said.

A new study by the Israel
Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University indicates that Ettinger’s voice is
not alone.

Ading to the poll, 71 percent of
Jewish Israelis and 72 percent of Arab Israelis believe that Kerry’s initiative
has a low chance of succeeding in restarting negotiations.

Furthermore, only 29 percent of
Israeli Jews and 47 percent of Israeli Arabs believe that negotiations between
Israel and the Palestinian Authority will lead to peace in the coming years.

According to Ettinger, the existing
peace agreements that Israel has signed with its neighbors—including

the
Israel-Egypt peace agreement of 1977 and the Israel-Jordan peace agreement of
1994— have been Israeli initiatives, with the U.S. participating only after the
processes had been started.

“Since 1949 there have been
a litany of American initiatives and none of them have produced peace,”
Ettinger said. “All of them have radicalized Arab expectations, and increased
terrorism, because every time the U.S. proposes something, the Arabs have to
outflank them from the hawkish side, because the Arabs cannot be seen as less
hawkish than the Americans.”

“We are talking about a very
negative impact on the peace process, not a positive one,” he said.

According to a report in London’s
Al-Hayat newspaper, renewed negotiations would be given a
six-to-nine month window to produce results. As part of the call to
negotiations, Israel would be required to release …read more
Source: JNS.org

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