Secretary of State John Kerry was dispatched last week to begin a new round of shuttle diplomacy between Cairo, Ankara and Qatar endeavoring to find some leverage with Hamas to obtain a longer cease fire. His latest attempt as of this writing was rejected by Israel as the offer he put on the table simply reiterated Hamas’ previously rejected terms. Those terms proposed by Hamas were based on the November 2012 cease fire agreement. An agreement the Administration used to encourage Israel to relent to shipment of cement, steel and equipment for reconstruction of Gaza. This reconstruction was funded by $405 million from Qatar, a Hamas supporter. Israel’s fears about diversion of those resources were confirmed in the discovery of the elaborate fortifications and tunnel network during the current Operation Defensive Edge. Kerry returned to Washington this weekend via Paris, where he met with foreign ministers from Turkey, Qatar, France, the U.K. and the EU foreign relations commissioner, without the likelihood that further mediation between the warring parties could yield an agreement to return to calm.
Perhaps the lack of success in mediating a cease fire agreement may be that Kerry views the Gaza conflict with Hamas through the prism of his Vietnam War experience over 44 years ago. The WSJ Weekend Edition “Notable & Quotable” had this insightful exchange between Israeli PM Netanyahu and Secretary Kerry drawn from a July 20th New Republic article by Ben Birnbaum and Amir Tibon:
The prime minister opened the meeting by playing Kerry a video on one of his favorite topics: Palestinian incitement. It showed Palestinian children in Gaza being taught to glorify martyrdom and seek Israel’s destruction. “This is the true obstacle to peace,” Netanyahu told Kerry.
“It’s a major issue,” Kerry replied. “And nothing justifies incitement. I hate it. I’ve read Abbas the riot act about it. You know I have. But it is worthwhile to try to understand what life looks like from the Palestinian point of view.”
“This has nothing to do with the occupation and the settlements,” Netanyahu said.
Kerry pressed on: “When I fought in Vietnam, I used to look at the faces of the local population and the looks they gave us. I’ll never forget it. It gave me clarity that we saw the situation in completely different ways.”
“This isn’t Vietnam!” Netanyahu shouted. “No one understands Israel but Israel.”
Kerry tried explaining himself again: “No one is saying it’s Vietnam. But I’ve been coming here for thirty years, and I’m telling you, what’s building up in the Palestinians has only gotten worse. I’ve seen it. It doesn’t matter if it’s right or wrong; it just is. It can’t be solved if you can’t see it how they see it.”
To get some sense of what Kerry was talking about in this exchange with Netanyahu, I went back to his April 22, 1971 testimony on the so-called Winter Soldiers Study of Viet Nam anti-war veterans before the Senate Foreign Committee, chaired by the late Sen. J.W. Fulbright of Arkansas. Here is an excerpt from the opening stanza of his testimony:
We found that not only was it a civil war, an effort by a people who had for years been seeking their liberation from any colonial influence whatsoever, but also we found that the Vietnamese whom we had enthusiastically molded after our own image were hard put to take up the fight against the threat we were supposedly saving them from.
We found most people didn’t even know the difference between communism and democracy. They only wanted to work in rice paddies without helicopters strafing them and bombs with napalm burning their villages and tearing their country apart. They wanted everything to do with the war, particularly with this foreign presence of the United States of America, to leave them alone in peace, and they practiced the art of survival by siding with whichever military force was present at a particular time, be it Vietcong, North Vietnamese, or American.
We found also that all too often American men were dying in those rice paddies for want of support from their allies. We saw firsthand how money from American taxes was used for a corrupt dictatorial regime. We saw that many people in this country had a one-sided idea of who was kept free by our flag, as blacks provided the highest percentage of casualties. We saw Vietnam ravaged equally by American bombs as well as by search and destroy missions, as well as by Vietcong terrorism, and yet we listened while this country tried to blame all of the havoc on ‘the Vietcong.
Fast forward to July 2014 and Kerry’s exchange with Israeli PM Netanyahu quoted in the New Republic article. The contrast is that Netanyahu knows his people are besieged with rockets and mortar indiscriminately raining down on four fifths of the Jewish nation from terrorist groups Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad controlling Gaza. Further, that Hamas and its partner in the Palestinian unity government, PA President Mahmoud Abbas marinate young minds in hatred and violence seeking destruction of the Jewish dhimmi state that has shamed them. If you substitute Hamas for Viet Cong or North Vietnam, you suddenly realize where Kerry’s head is at when it comes to mediating cease fire between two unmovable adversaries. Israel is the only reliable democratic ally in the region combating Hamas, a foreign terrorist organization designated by our State Department.
According to a report in The Times of Israel sources in Jerusalem accused Kerry of “completely capitulated to Hamas” in the proposed cease fire rejected by Israel.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on the New English Review.