Kerry and the Mideast

kerry-netanyahu-355Secretary of State John Kerry is a man on a mission — to achieve President Obama’s goal, which has been the goal of American presidents of both political parties, to begin a new era of peace and security for the Middle East.

If Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can walk in the footsteps of previous Israeli prime ministers from the left and right, who seized opportunities when progress for peace became possible, and if Palestinian leaders reciprocate with flexibility and skill to advance the self-interest of their people, and if leaders of Iran are willing to forsake nuclear weapons in agreements that would immeasurably lift the lives of their people, great things are possible.

I am not optimistic. There are hard and brutal forces at work against the agreements being discussed. Netanyahu will have to show a vision and flexibility that he has never demonstrated. Iranian leaders will have to prove by actions as well as words that their motives — which are far from clear — are to put prosperity for their people ahead of developing nuclear weapons of death.

Netanyahu in the past has suggested the possibility of creating a broad national unity government in Israel. At such a momentous time in the Middle East, it would be profoundly helpful for Israel to establish a true national unity government that would include the full spectrum of liberal, centrist and conservative parties.

Kerry has advanced significant new economic aid to Palestinians. This is an excellent move. It could be expanded to a Mideast Marshall Plan that would create a substantial multiyear peace dividend for nations that ratify political solutions, like Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and a democratic post-Assad Syria.

To provide incentives for agreements, a donors conference could bring together the U.S., Europe and regional states, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and other nations.

Kerry provides the X-factor that makes many things possible. He has skillfully brought retired Marine Corps Gen. James Allen into the center of negotiations to devise security guarantees for Israel and Palestinians.

Kerry has shown heroism in war, toughness in diplomacy and perseverance in negotiations. His personal contacts around the world are vast and extensive. He has turned his admiration for John Kennedy and Nelson Mandela into game plans for action.

To those who oppose the diplomacy of Obama and Kerry, I ask: What is your alternative? What happens if your policies are followed?

The alternative to a negotiated solution between the Israelis and the Palestinians is endless occupation by Israel that one former director of the Israeli security agency Shin Bet warned could become a kind of apartheid. This would explode a demographic time bomb and lead to another generation of Palestinian impoverishment and anguish that would bring mutually assured destruction to Israelis and Palestinians alike.

The alternative to a nuclear agreement with Iran is war. Do Israelis, Americans or Iranians want more war in the Mideast? Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was elected on a campaign pledge to Iranians to improve relations with the world, in order to improve their economic lives.

Iran should be tested, not trusted, as former President Reagan did with the Soviets. Increasing sanctions now would be a self-destructive mistake. If Iran does not negotiate in good faith, Obama and Kerry will lead the charge for stronger options.

Brent-Budowsky-175In the movie “The Gatekeepers,” six former directors of Shin Bet make a powerful case for political solutions with the Palestinians. They warn against permanent occupation. They are not naive peaceniks. They are aggressive protectors of Israel’s security. Like many former Israeli military and intelligence leaders, they fervently advocate political solutions.

Kerry is a statesman who understands the commonality of aspirations and interests of countless young people, women, workers and people of diverse faiths across the Mideast. He is waging a single-minded battle to avert disaster with appeals to common interests and common sense.

Brent Budowsky
The Hill


  1. JoeWeinstein says

    This is a long answer but I will directly answer Budowsky’s questions below by spelling out examples of ALTERNATIVE policies.

    But first I must note that Brent errs by charitably equating the Obama-Kerry (O-K) actions to genuine ‘diplomacy’. What O-K are doing is a ‘diplomacy’ which is aimed mainly at and is achieving (for the home folks) at best a show of diplomacy for its own sake – or for the actual but disguised sake of throwing in the towel – of giveaways for the sake of getting enemy smiles. .

    In Israel-Palestine, the talks are show-talks, held to please O-K, and with no hope of substantive agreement. The Israelis have learned from 20 years of Palestinian autonomy, including several spurned offers of recognized Palestinian statehood in almost all the West Bank and Gaza, that the Palestine leadership still adheres to their Charter of 50 years ago and their nearly century-old policies of what passes for mainstream ‘Palestinian nationalism’. Its main aim is not a state and not a peace agreement but rather – with or without a state – to expel Jews and any Jewish sovereignty from all lands west of the Jordan.

    Contrary to Budowsky, Israelis perceive that the so-called ‘endless occupation’ – which for twenty years pursuant to the Oslo accords has been, for over 90% of Palestinians, autonomy, not occupation – is a far less bad solution than any so-called ‘peace agreement’ of a kind which in effect promotes insecurity and then extinction of Israel, at once or in stages.

    ALTERNATIVE: A viable alternative USA policy would be to simply recognize that the two sides’ aims are incompatible, no matter how much money the USA wants to throw at either of them. Israel’s continued viable and secure existence is not compatible with what the Palestinian leadership deems to be its central national aim.

    In the case of Iran (like Afghanistan) the talks are really for the sake of make-nice pictures for the home folks while meanwhile papering over a US surrender and exit.

    Not only surrender (in stages) on Iran nuke weapons but indeed on the entire decades-old US and UN policy of promoting global non-proliferation.

    Some folks carp that Israel’s presumed last-ditch nuke deterrent already violates that policy. However (and interestingly) forty years of this alleged violation has not provoked Turkey or Arab states to get nukes, but a nuke-armed Iran will directly provoke at least Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt to get nukes too.

    And, judging from how the O-K make-nice-to-Iran alleged ‘deal’ was arrived at – including allowing Iran free rein to prop up Syria’s Assad for these past two and a half years – it’s clear that O-K seek not only a US exit from the Mideast, but moreover in a manner which dumps long-standing USA allies – Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia – in favor of handing over the keys of regional hegemony to the professed enemy of them all and of the USA – to the ayatollarchy of the Islamic Republic of Iran which daily proclaims loudly ‘death to America’.

    Like Neville Chamberlain in 1938, only even more so, O-K would prefer an inevitable far longer and bloodier mass war down the road – when they are out of office – to a quick and very manageable one-sided air war now.

    The O-K ‘agreement’ with Iran is in fact not a legal treaty, and isn’t even
    reliably specific. It’s at best an agreement to agree -maybe. One
    after another, each of the supposedly specific key commitments from Iran
    are getting denied – without any rebuttal from O-K – every time Iran’s
    Foreign Minister makes a speech. O-K justify the ‘agreement’ not for
    what it does in itself but for what it allegedly will lead to in six
    months. But even the supposedly clear parts of the agreement give Iran
    after six months less – not more – reason to sign a final agreement
    that actually deals with the real issue: preventing nuke weapons in the
    hands of the world’s prime sponsor of external terror and a major
    violator at home of religious tolerance and human rights.

    Budowsky implies that an alternative policy on Iran is too hard to envision, and anyhow would mean war rather than peace. No, it is not and would not .

    ALTERNATIVE Khamenei cares about one thing more than his nukes: his regime. Khamenei will listen to any sincerely conveyed and to-be-enforced threat on his regime. Very simply, Khamenei can be told to dismantle all the potentially military aspects of his nuke program (e.g. at Fordow, Natanz, Arak and Parchin), and verifiably – with daily IAEA inspections – as of Jan. 1, 2014. The alternative – to be clearly spelled out to Khamenei and company, and to be executed by Feb. 1 – would be the destruction of these facilities – preceded (for precautionary purposes of saving USA and allied lives) by destruction of all Iranian air and naval bases, including and especially those of the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps. .

    Contrary to Budowsky’s implication, such alternative action on Iran will long-term be far less bloody for all actors – including the Iranians – than the alternative which will result by tolerating more stage-by-stage Iran nuke-making and nuke-based proliferation and warfare in the Mideast – and beyond.

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