Among the worst things that happened to Barack Obama in this Annus Horribilis in the Middle East was that Secretary of State John Kerry’s attempt to kickstart peace negoatiations between Israel and Palestine crashed and burned, ending in severe West Bank and Jerusalem tensions and a massive bombardment of the tiny Gaza Strip.
It was unwise for Obama to authorize the Kerry Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in the first place, given that the Likud-led government of Benjamin Netanyahu is deeply committed to continued annexation of Palestinian territory in the West Bank and deeply opposed (whatever it may say publicly) to the emergence of a Palestinian state. Netanyahu’s government seemed almost gleeful as it kept announcing new housing settlements on confiscated Palestinian land, even as the talks were proceeding, and on several occasions humiliated Secretary Kerry. The negotiations raised Palestinian hopes, and when those were dashed, it was foreseeable that severe tensions would break out in that tinderbox. The Israelis dismissed Kerry’s peacemaking as narcissistic and “Messianic,” which is utterly unfair. But it is true that he seems not to have realized that it is the sort of enterprise where failure comes with a cost.