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Opinion: Columnists

John Kerry obsessed with the bright shiny object of US foreign policy

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James Jay Carafano,Columnists,President,John Kerry,Israel,Analysis,State Department,Middle East

Our Secretary of State was all smiles and handshakes. We had reached a "very important point" — an opportunity to bring Israelis and Palestinians into final status talks. All the tough issues would be worked out. Finally, there would be peace. Exactly the opposite happened.

It was June 28, 2000. After Secretary Madeleine Albright's sit-down with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, President Clinton decided to roll the dice. He called for high-level negotiations at Camp David. Expectations were sky high, and White House cheerleading pushed them even higher.

Then the talks collapsed. The Second Intifada and the blood-letting began.

Arafat launched "military operations" against Israel, sending Hamas, Fatah and the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades into the streets. The violence continued for years. The death toll included 1,000 Israelis and 3,000 Palestinians.

Flash forward to July 19 this year. Following a meeting in Amman, Jordan, Secretary of State John Kerry stepped before the cameras to announce an agreement that "establishes a basis for resuming direct final status negotiations between" Palestinians and Israel. Uh-oh.

While it is always wise to press for peace, Kerry should remember that bad diplomacy can bring very bad outcomes.

Only the Israelis and Palestinians can decide when the time is right for settling their differences, and so far neither side has signaled that time is at hand. Rather, they've grudgingly agreed — under severe pressure from Kerry — to resume talking.

It's June 2000 all over again. And one can't help but wonder why the U.S. would want to roll the dice again right now.

If a Palestinian state became a reality today, Hamas would be a major player. Hamas is thoroughly corrupt, an enemy of Israel and a sponsor of terrorism. These attributes precisely define the Assad regime now struggling to hold on in Damascus. Weirdly, we have the White House advocating to establish a Syria wannabe even as it calls Assad to disappear.

The notion that peace in Palestine will turn the Middle East into a land of milk and honey is just a myth.

Independent of "the Palestinian question," much of the region is melting down. Syria's prospect appears to be endless war. Iraq is threatening to turn into Syria. Egypt's future is uncertain. Turkey is still in turmoil. Jordan has a half-million unhappy new refugees. And Iran's new president is getting ready to launch a diplomatic breakout.

Meanwhile, al Qaeda's shenanigans in North Africa are making the Middle East look like a comparitively happy place. That's more than enough to keep a Secretary of State busy.

Yet, Kerry has made the peace process job one. Ignoring vital U.S. interests might not be so bad if the consequences of failing to deliver Israeli-Palestinian peace were so terrible.

Having raised expectations for peace, failure could trigger frustrations that lead to another bout of anger and violence. And the consequences of a Third Intifada could be worse. When the Second Intifada broke out, the Middle East was relatively calm. Now, instability spans from the northernmost stretches of the Caucuses to the southernmost portion of North Africa.

Since his days in the Senate, Kerry has long dreamed of brokering a Middle East peace. Now he has a great encourager in President Obama, a man so risk-averse that he would rather talk peace where there is little chance of success than stick his nose into the real trouble spots.

Unfortunately, this foreign policy partnership may make the Albright-Clinton Camp David disaster look like the height of responsible diplomacy.

JAMES JAY CARAFANO, a Washington Examiner columnist, is vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Heritage Foundation.

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