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Has the Obama-Kerry charm offensive failed?
Published Saturday 15/06/2013 (updated) 17/06/2013 12:04
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John Kerry speaks during the American Jewish Community Global Forum
in Washington, DC, June 3. (Getty Images/AFP/Mark Wilson)

US President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State John Kerry say they are determined to solve the intractable Palestinian-Israeli conflict. They are using the carrot to do it, no stick.

It began with Obama's gushing visit and endless compliments of Israel, where he said all the right words, like "Jewish state", visited all the places, like Yad Vashem and the Iron Dome, and offered even more money to Israel than the record $3.1 billion annually.

This week, Congress approved a further half-a-billion dollars to Israel for missile research.

Kerry has also turned on the charm offensive, accepting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s approach to peace -- by promoting "economic peace" -- and refusing to make public any demands that Israel should carry out international commitments regarding illegal settlement activities.

Despite all this charm, the Israeli government has yet to discuss, let alone vote on, a simple question. Does Israel accept the two-state solution?

Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Danny Danon said that if it came to a vote, the majority of the ministers would vote against the internationally agreed concept of a two-state solution.

No one knows what solution the Israeli Cabinet would support to address the ongoing illegal occupation of Palestinian lands and the military control of the lives of millions of Palestinians.

When Kerry postponed his unprecedented fifth visit to the region in almost as many months, few were willing to say that the Obama-Kerry plan had failed. While the US leadership has clearly failed to produce the most basic of breakthroughs — getting the parties to agree on the reason for talks — the second Obama administration is still in its early days and one should not, at this stage, talk about his administration throwing in the towel.

But even if it is too early for Washington to declare its failure in helping restart peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, this should provide Kerry and his team sometime to reflect on the overall mechanism of reaching the goal of resolving the conflict.

Kerry seems to have a three-prong strategy. Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said that Kerry’s plan stands on three legs: security, economics and politics.

On security, the US dispatched a former officer from Afghanistan, General John Allen, to help address Israel's security needs. On the economic front, Kerry announced at the World Economic Forum a plan that will pump into the Palestinian areas some $4 billion in investment and economic aid.

And politically, Kerry and team have been working hard both on the Jewish-American front and with Netanyahu to produce a formula that will allow for the resumption of face-to-face talks.

Any observer of the tone and language the US is using with the Israelis will be left with the feeling that the Americans are basically begging the Israelis to agree to talks.

There is no hint, in the talks or body language, to the fact that Israel is the aggressor now and for the past 46 years, and that the consensus of the world community is that Israel must change its political course.

The Europeans, who are trying to help without appearing to be replacing the Americans, have focused on the need to invest in the Jordan Valley and other Area C lands. They are also pushing hard for a separate labeling process that will end the forgery of products made in settlements in occupied Palestine, claiming that they are made in Israel and thus getting a preferential treatment based on EU-Israel agreements.

Americans are refusing to apply any pressure on the Israelis. There are no carrots and sticks in Washington's plan. It is all carrots and the Israelis are enjoying every last penny of the "generosity" of the American taxpayer.

US interests in the region are not limited to Israel. A time will come when Americans will wake up to this simple fact. The sooner they do the better it will be for all concerned.

Daoud Kuttab is a Palestinian journalist and former professor of journalism at Princeton University.
1 ) Outlier / USA
15/06/2013 21:54
Perhaps. However, credit for the failure thus far goes - not to Kerry - but to Israel and the Palestinians; each vocal in its unwillingness to commit to anything but the status quo.

2 ) @ Outlier-1 / USA too
15/06/2013 22:26
Unquestionably, "the credit for the failure goes to Israel and Palestinians". However, the "credit issue is irrelevant, though with both sides clearly "committed to the status quo", international pressure and aid should be re-directed to other world causes, where progress is possible !!

3 ) Johnny benson / USA
15/06/2013 23:09
Obama knows that a hard line would only backfire....he really does not expect peace between the party's.....the help he is giving Israel is to try to get Israel to accept irans nukes.....that also won't happen...Iran either finds a face saving out.....or there will an attack on irans nuke sites by Israel....if Iran sics hezbaoallah and Syria on Israel along with her in a war....look out...Israel would have to release all its got....it's not going to be pretty.....not good for anybody

4 ) Oliveland / Palestine
16/06/2013 00:24
The US have not been able to get the Israelis to commit to anything substantial and therefore the US cannot give guarrantees to the Palestinians to back down on what the Israelis call preconditions and the world call commitments. Obama should use the guttless EU as the stick .

5 ) Mel / USA
16/06/2013 02:27
That's assuming it was EVER meant to succeed?Global consensus is TOO aware,after 60yrs of unconditional USG patronage of Israel's occupation,colonies & political deference to Zionist money/votes,bias toward Israel's pol.orgs(cells)like AIPAC,JINSA,WINEP,ZOA,CUFI etc. The"plan"was orchestrated,to "fail",so a Zionist holocaust of non-Jews,segregation of ARABS(blocking unity)would be completed,in Palestine.

6 ) ian / australia
16/06/2013 08:51
"They are using the carrot to do it, no stick." To be persnickety, the stick in the carrot on a stick analogy isn't meant for hitting the donkey, it's for suspending the carrot just out of reach so the poor shlemiel trudges endlessly "towards" it, getting nowhere, and certainly not the carrot. Familiar? Having said that, of course the "charm offensive" failed. Why would charm possibly work on gangsters like the Israeli leadership, hunkered down for the long haul, dug in to brazenly stare down

7 ) ian / australia
16/06/2013 08:52
(contd.) the passing parade of POTUSs, SoSs, Secretary-Generals, EU Presidents, self-hating law professors and universal approbrium? SoS Kerry, someone you'd associate less with charm being hard to think of, outside of Israeli politics, doesn't intend to beat or threaten anyone with his stick; it's strictly for dangling "peace" or $4B of investments or some other "incentive" from the end of it, just out of reach, to addle and distract Palestinians while Israel continues the Zionist agenda

8 ) ian / australia
16/06/2013 08:53
(contd.) of stealing their country and obliterating their memory in the background. Of course it failed. Who expected otherwise?

9 ) Colin Wright / USA
16/06/2013 20:04
Kind of a pathetic 'offensive,' really. It's a measure of our remaining ability to act independently of the will of our Zionist master. Actual defiance of our Lords would, of course, be out of the question.

10 ) Hambovice / USA
19/06/2013 21:06
To Outlier/USA I feel to focus blame on the Israeli and Palestinians is like a parent claiming it's the children that are to blame for fighting/yelling/screaming while the parent (USA) sits watching TV yet still giving both children super sugary candy (Money)! Maybe if the two, especially the one that gets candy whenever they ask (Israel), were cut off from the candy they might calm down and settle some differences.

11 ) Tibi / Tubas
20/06/2013 23:11
There's No Point in pushing Peace Talks that can only fail, and There's No use in pretending that the world can force Israel to accept it's own destruction (insecure borders & refugees), where even if the two sides talk while the "window's open", eventually it will be clear that they can not agree on anything: -a- Not Jerusalem or Borders, -b- Not REFUGEE RETURN, -c- Not a Jewish State, and -d- Not a Demilitarized Palestine.

12 ) Yehuda Solomon / Israel
21/06/2013 17:21
To give an honest and direct answer to this essay's title: Yes, and not only that but such "charm offensive" will fail forever more. Regardless of the individual messages, all of the above comments--whether "pro-" or "anti-" Israel--are very well said. So all I can add at this point is: RIP to the efforts of (drum roll and roll call here, please ...): Philip Habib; George Mitchell; David Hale; Hilliary Clinton; ... and, the latest (but apparently not the last), John Kerry.

13 ) JoeFattal / USA
22/06/2013 00:19
I'll let Obama eat the carrot and give a stick to every Palestinians and let them using them on the Israeli Army.
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