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Kerry the Clueless

Like Carter and Clinton, he's a Democrat who offers Israel nothing but muddled ideas

October 17, 2004|Martin Peretz | Martin Peretz is editor in chief of the New Republic.

Like many American Jews, I was brought up to believe that if I pulled the Republican lever on the election machine my right hand would wither and, as the Psalmist says, my tongue would cleave to the roof of my mouth.

According to the Bible, of course, these are the feared consequences of forgetting Jerusalem. Now although there are many reasons one might want to vote for John F. Kerry, remembering Jerusalem -- remembering to stand up for the state of Israel -- is not among them.

It is true that Kerry's campaign pronouncements have been unexceptionable from the pro-Zionist point of view. Yes, he flip-flopped on the miles of trenches and fences Israel is building to defend itself from the plague of terrorism, first attacking the structure as "another barrier to peace," then accepting it as "a legitimate act of self-defense."

He has also floundered concerning what can be expected of Yasser Arafat. Just as Arafat was launching the second intifada in 2000, Kerry asserted optimistically that we must "look to Chairman Arafat to exert much greater leadership." Three days later, he portentously declared the obvious on CBS' "Face the Nation," calling the Israel-Palestinian conflict "an extraordinarily complicated, incredibly deep-rooted problem." What made this problem so extraordinary and incredible? "Arafat has forces around him, underneath him, close by him that don't want peace, that are working against what he is doing," Kerry said by way of exoneration. (And, to sustain the moral equivalence of the parties in his head, he added, "The same is true of Prime Minister [Ehud] Barak" -- which was nonsense, as there wasn't a single such person in Barak's circle.)

By now, to be sure, Kerry thinks that Arafat's "support" for terrorism has already rendered him unfit as a partner for peace. And his votes in the Senate (like all but a handful of senators) have been routinely friendly to Israel.

So why am I still exercised about John Kerry?

It's the ramifications of his foreign policy in general, especially his fixation on the United Nations as the arbiter of international legitimacy, proctor of that "global test."

Save for the U.S. veto in the Security Council, Israel loses every struggle at the U.N. against lopsided majorities. In the General Assembly and the Human Rights Commission, Muslim states trade their votes to protect aggressors and tyrannies from censure in exchange for libels against the Jewish state. The body's bloated and dishonest bureaucracies are no better, as evidenced most recently by the head of the U.N. Palestine refugee organization, who defended having Hamas militants on his staff.

I've searched to find one time when Kerry -- even candidate Kerry -- criticized a U.N. action or statement against Israel. I've come up empty. Nor has he defended Israel against the European Union's continuous hectoring. Another thing that bothers me about Kerry is the deus ex machina he has up his sleeve: the appointment of a presidential envoy. It's hard to count how many special emissaries have been dispatched from Washington to the Middle East to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict. What's easy to see is that none of them has gotten to "yes."

In recent years, both former CIA Director George Tenet and former Marine Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, once the chief of the U.S. Central Command, have served in this meaningless position. And who would Kerry designate? He first suggested the sanctimonious Jimmy Carter and James Baker, Bush 41's secretary of state.

Then he found out -- why he didn't know this is another matter -- that both Carter and Baker are deeply distrusted by the Israelis, and by American Jews. There was no mystery as to why. Carter (well, how does one say this?) is not exactly a friend to the Jewish nation and, besides, his favorite politician in the Middle East was the mass murderer Hafez Assad, the late president of Syria. A huge beneficiary of Saudi business, Baker was adept at pooh-poohing concerns about Israeli security. So we are left with Kerry's other putative designee, Bill Clinton, whose national security staff was so mesmerized by the mirage of a quickie Israel-Palestinian peace at the end of his term that, according to the Sept. 11 commission report, it couldn't be bothered take out Osama bin Laden after the attack on the U.S. destroyer Cole. Clinton succeeded in squeezing Israel into the extravagant Camp David and Taba formulas but failed to get Arafat to go along. At least for Israel, these proposals are now toast.

For his part, Kerry grabs at any showy idea to demonstrate his sense of urgency. As a response to militant Islam and to encourage moderate Muslims, the presidential aspirant proposed that "the great religious figures of the planet" -- he mentioned the pope, the archbishop of Canterbury and the Dalai Lama -- hold a summit.

To do exactly ... what?

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