Cliff May

Blessed are the peace makers. But don’t confuse peace makers with peace processors. The latter think they can persuade the lion to lie down with the lamb. The former are realistic enough to grasp how perilous that is unless the lion has just had a big dinner and a couple of stiff drinks.

Sad to say, Secretary of State John Kerry has proven to be a peace processor, one loath to acknowledge that the latest round of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks have come to a very dead end. Actually, they never moved off the starting blocks.

Let’s stipulate that Kerry is a good man who believed he had the diplomatic chops to succeed where his predecessors failed. Still, at a time when thousands of men, women and children are being slaughtered in Syria, al Qaeda is resurging in Iraq (and elsewhere), Egypt is in turmoil, and negotiations with Iran are at a critical juncture, his decision to invest so much time and energy in this effort – a dozen trips to the region – has to be seen as ill-advised.

Even if the region was not in turmoil formidable obstacles to a Palestinian-Israeli settlement remain. Among them: Mahmoud Abbas was elected to a four-year term as president of the Palestinian Authority in 2005. He has continued to occupy that office ever since, avoiding the inconvenience of elections. Suppose he signed a treaty: What would his signature mean?

Though Abbas remains the boss on the West Bank, Gaza is ruled by Hamas which openly rejects his authority and is unambiguously committed to Israel’s extermination. Hamas would not be bound by any compromises Abbas offered Israel.

Not that Abbas has offered compromises. All he has done is to send an envoy to sit at the table so long as Israelis, in exchange, release dozens of Palestinian terrorists from prison. Imagine the distress of victims’ families as they watch the murderers of their loved ones returned to the West Bank where Abbas celebrates and financially rewards them. Imagine how difficult this is for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who understands – as Kerry apparently does not -- that for a thousand years the spilling of Jewish blood was an inexpensive proposition, a condition Israel was created to rectify.

But here’s the real stunner: Abbas still refuses to acknowledge Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people -- a people with a history, culture, language and religion dating back three millennia in this corner of the Middle East. That can only imply one thing: Abbas rejects the principle of “two states for two peoples” – the only basis on which to a two-state solution could possibly be achieved.


Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.